Bees: Teaching Us About Home and Community

We love our pollinators in the SFC Teaching Garden. To see them busy at work in the squash blossoms, on the sunflowers and buzzing all over the cilantro and oregano flowers is a practice in gratitude. They really are instrumental in feeding us, and we’re happy to help educate visitors on their role in agricultural and ecological systems.

Bees can help connect us to other social issues as well. Our neighbors at Creative Action work to inspire young minds through the arts. They offer after school programs at various elementary schools throughout Austin, and at their center - right next door to SFC.


With a grant from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, we were able to create an event that brought the kids outdoors into the garden to meet Tara the beekeeper, learn about pollinators, and watch Tara at work. As she suited up, she lit her smoker and opened a hive of honeybees for the kids to see what a community of honeybees looks like and how they work together.

We then explored the idea of ‘home’ and the difference between a honeybee colony and solitary bees. We learned from Tara that non-native honeybees get a lot of attention and credit for their role as pollinators, but native bees are extremely important in pollination too. Native bees are also called solitary bees because they do not live in a hive. The females establish nests on their own in small holes and cracks in nature or in the ground. Some examples of native Texas bees are mason bees and leafcutter bees.


Since the Creative Action kids were studying the idea of ‘home’ through visual arts during their afterschool program, we tied in the native bee lesson by constructing a native bee home using found objects. The kids filled ‘rooms’ with hollow bamboo canes, leaves and sticks, dried flower heads and other objects that create spaces for solitary bees to lay their eggs. We finished it with a green roof of planted sedum and a sprinkling of freshly picked wildflowers. The Native Bee Hotel will hang in the SFC Teaching Garden for visitors to view and read about these important pollinators. Learn more at the Native Plant Society of Texas.

Thank you to the Michael and Susan Dell Community Collaboration for Child Health grant for making this project possible!


Native bee hotel in the SFC Teaching Garden.