Making a Beeline for Bricks!

Here’s some good news for solitary bees.

Feb 7, 2022
Making a Beeline for Bricks! | Here’s some good news for solitary bees.

Bees are super-important for the ecosystem as they pollinate our earth, supporting the growth of flowers, trees and other plants. The United Kingdom’s city of Brighton and Hove is therefore requiring all new buildings to include “bee bricks” — bricks with built-in tiny openings like those where solitary bees are known to nest  —  into their designs, according to architectural digital magazine Dezeen, to help save their bees. 

Why is saving bees so important? 
Bees play an essential role in the earth’s sustainability. As bees visit plants to seek food,  pollen adheres to their bodies, and is passed to neighboring flowers, resulting in plant fertilization.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), bees are responsible for pollinating 35% of agricultural production in the US. Many of the nutrient-rich foods people eat like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oils are all supported by these pollinators. Solitary bees are seen as “star pollinators” because they don’t have pollen baskets on their legs like social bees, so they lose much more pollen as they fly. 

Restoring the homes of solitary bees 
Solitary bees comprise almost 92% of all bee species in the UK. Due to habitat destruction over the last few decades, in some regions these bees are becoming extinct according to the FAO. These bees nest in hollow stalks and tubular openings in soil, clay, mortar or wood according to the Wildcare UK blog, but due to the precision of modern construction these crevices are almost nonexistent. 

This is why, Dezeen reports, the English city of Brighton and Hove is introducing a new planning law that will support the restoration of the nests of solitary bees around the city. 

Bee bricks can replace regular bricks
The bee bricks can be used in place of standard bricks but are constructed with integrated woven openings that are perfect for bee nesting. 

Green&Blue, the company that manufactures the bricks, worked closely with ecological experts to ensure their design really mimicked  the nests of these bees. Faye Clifton, CEO of Green&Blue,  tells Dezeen that their product is “putting a habitat into each building in the same way that has occurred naturally for hundreds of years." While solitary bees thrive in crumbling brickwork, she reiterates, “perfect” modern buildings lack these natural cavities the bees rely on.  If not for bee bricks, she warns, 100s of miles of land could lose its biodiversity.

Clifton emphasizes that “bee-friendly” planting needs to accompany the use of bee bricks as most solitary bees will only forage within 100 metres (109 yards) of their nesting spots.

Call to bring back biodiversity
The aim of the new law is to increase the opportunities for biodiversity in Brighton and Hove, Robert Nemeth, the councilor behind the initiative tells Dezeen. "Bee bricks are just one of quite a number of measures that really should be in place to address biodiversity concerns that have arisen through years of neglect of the natural environment."

Clifton is excited about the law's enactment and sees the initiative in the city of Brighton and Hove as a great opportunity to research the impact that bee bricks will have on biodiversity in the long term. Clifton tells Dezeen that  “It needs to be over five to 10 years…to map the impact across the country, by engaging people who incorporate our products." 

Clifton and others hope that with the right research, bee bricks will soon be standard in architectural design and construction for years to come! 

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Yael has a passion for research and discovery and devoted her studies to science. She is fascinated by anything technology related and how it can improve people’s lives. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, swimming and storytelling.