Bee condos, bat houses and an owl house will help wildlife populations thrive in local gardens and hopefully inspire community members to start their own gardens.
Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have built houses for local wildlife as part of their coursework.
During a two-week sculpting assignment in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Art and Art History, led by associate professor of sculpting Stacey Holloway, carpentry students crafted habitats wildlife for UAB gardens as an exercise to practice carving, carpentry and texture techniques. .
The habitats – two bee condos, two bat houses and an owl house – will help wildlife populations thrive in local gardens and hopefully inspire community members to start their own gardens, according to the staff. Pollinators are essential to plant life, including growing food for animals and humans.
The three students, Matthew Davis, Anne Kerr-Brown and Kylie Debardlebon, met with UAB Sustainability and got information about their needs. Each student designed their own habitat.
Bats play a key role in plant pollination. As Sustainability expressed a need for bats in UAB Gardens, Holloway and UAB Art Lab Supervisor and alumnus Jacob Phillips designed and built the bat houses, as they were more in-depth for the timeline of the bats. assignments, using new digital equipment.
For UAB Sustainability, this project is part of a larger effort to encourage wildlife habitat on campus, says director Bambi Ingram. The houses will be installed in the coming weeks.
“Since human activity has changed and eliminated habitat locally and globally, birds, butterflies and other wildlife are being pushed into shrinking wilderness areas,” Ingram said. “UAB Sustainability is working to remedy this by creating a healthy and complex ecosystem in our urban environment on campus.”
UAB is a Bee Campus USA, which recognizes, supports and promotes pollinator conservation in cities and counties across the country. Last spring, UAB installed two small beehives in UAB Gardens to increase pollination in the area, which helps support Alabama’s native ecosystem. The hives, located in a fenced area in front of the UAB solar house, joined an adjacent monarch butterfly habitat, which was built in the fall of 2020 to house milkweed plants and other nectar plants for the monarch butterflies. A second monarch habitat at 10th Avenue South and 14th Street near Honors Hall was installed as part of a collaboration between Sustainability and the UAB Honors College Science and Technology Honors Program.
UAB Gardens, on the south side of campus, offers faculty and staff the opportunity to rent small plots to grow vegetables and fruits, supported by a mural painted by UAB art students and faculty. The gardens provide a sanctuary for pollinators as well as other areas of Birmingham including:
- Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, a 1,038-acre urban nature reserve in Birmingham, the third largest in the United States.
- Avondale Habitat Garden, home to nearly 100 species of native wildflowers, vines, shrubs and prairie grasses, provides habitat for countless butterflies, bees, beetles and birds.
- Birmingham Eastside EcoGardens, a community garden with 100 different species of plants and grasses that attract pollinators, repair soil and benefit wildlife.
At the Ruffner Mountain Habitat Demonstration Gardens, visitors can stroll through the cultivated gardens around the main entrance as part of a project designed and executed by UAB alumnus John Woolley in 2016.
“This project was an educational initiative to promote the use of native plants and wildlife habitat in urban spaces, and it inspired us to do this as a service project in the contemporary woodworking classroom” , Holloway said.
The class’s research indicated that up to 50 percent of North America’s native bee species, most of which are solitary and stingless, have disappeared from their historic range in the past 100 years. Four of Alabama’s bumblebee species have declined by 96% over the past 20 years. Excessive use of harmful pesticides and ecological homogenization are driving the decline of insects. The solutions are to create habitat, grow native plants, and stop using pesticides.
Create your own wildlife habitats
One way to create a habitat is to use insect hotels. These structures are more like a permanent home for a lifespan of about 11 months, from egg to larvae, to dormant pupa, and then to adult. If the right habitat conditions are met, the average garden can contain over 2,000 different species of insects. Insect hotels are home to solitary bees, wasps, lacewings, ladybugs, dragonflies, amphibians and reptiles.
Solitary bee habitats should include sufficient protection from the elements, have a sturdy back structure, be about 8 inches deep, and have a variety of holes and crevices for nesting. Bees and wasps perceive dark colors as a threat, so a house should be painted white, beige, cream or gray. The size of the holes should be between 2 and 10 millimeters. The edges should be sanded, as splinters can damage the delicate fenders.
Bat houses should mimic the very narrow, tight space between bark and a tree trunk. Leave the rough interior like bark to climb. Paint the inside a dark color and caulk the sides to retain heat and provide warmth for babies. Size should be approximately 14 inches wide by 24 inches high; place it at least 15 feet off the ground.
Butterfly houses should have 3/8 inch wide by 3 inch slots, to keep predators out. A hinged door is convenient for cleaning and for adding bark or twigs inside. Painting butterflies houses native flower color, such as red, yellow, orange, pink, or purple. All paint must be a non-toxic, low VOC exterior paint, and all glue must be water-based and applied exterior.