My name is Candace Vanderhoff. As an environmental architect I have always loved building things and spending time in nature. A few years ago I made a native bee shelter and a female resin bee immediately moved in. Turns out all solitary bees need our help, so I created this project, so you can help, too.
Habitats are dying and native bees are in decline, our mission is to reverse this trend and give these gentle bees a safe home. For this campaign we created the Villa, a handmade shelter made with waste mahogany from Taylor Guitars! Our goal is to send 500 shelters out into the world, want to help us too?
These single bees are super-pollinators, more efficient than bats, butterflies or honey bees. We depend on these bees for fruit, berries, nuts and trees. Without them our ecosystem would collapse, and we are inching our way there now. It is a critical time for bees and all life on the planet, our bee shelter project is a powerful force for good, moving us toward stewardship and repair, so we all can thrive.
Yes, there are thousands of bee species and only a few species are black and yellow stripped honey bees. Solitary Native bees evolved from wasp, they are hairy vegetarians with colorful and fuzzy bodies, some as small as 1/8″ long. Found all over the world in nearly every ecosystem, these cavity nesting bees dig cavities into the ground, or look for an abandoned beetle hole in a dead tree. With habitat loss, pollution, chemical use, competition with invasive species and disease transferred from honey bees, these bees are struggling and they need our help. With climate change, drought and fires threatening the natural world, we need to start now.
Our Campaign goal is to engage 500 new SoloBeeKeepers to shelter 5,000 bees!
Perfect as a gift, or a gift to yourself, you can also donate one to a school, shelters work everywhere. We offer:
We use salvaged mahogany from Taylor Guitars for the nest block and salvaged redwood and cedar from local sources. We laser cut our logo from the mahogany and hand stamp the copper tag.
We spotlight SoloBeeKeepers, when you take action for the bees, we map it. Mapped by your first name, street and shelter number. We want to tell the world you’re a hero to the bees.
Solitary native bees and native plants evolved over the past 100 million years, so when an invasive species is introduced it can radically alter the ecosystem in place and cause some species to go extinct. Honey bees, originally from Europe, Africa and Australia, were imported to the US, in 1600, and have been displacing our native bee ever since. Honey bees compete for pollen resources, spread disease and displace our solitary native bees, so if we want to continue to have fruits, nuts and vegetables we need to take action, restore our wild lands and forest and make every open space a safe place for solo bees. Native bees pollinate 75% of the fruit, nuts and vegetables in the US. In China the orchards are hand pollinated by humans due to habitat loss, chemical use and bee decline, if we continue to spray harsh chemicals on plants, this will be us.
We created the SoloBeeKeepers Bundle to get you started. The Bundle includes; a tunnel cleaning tool for a clean and tidy nest; a bee drinking dish for water or mud, mud is for mason bees; a wooden, laser cut SoloBeeKeeper sign; and a PDF download of the Native Bees Poster.
To become a SoloBeeKeeper you simply set out a bee shelter, provide plants in a chemical free setting, offer a small dish of water with stepping stones, then wait for the bees to arrive. Once a bee discovers the shelter, she will fill the tunnel nest with a series of eggs over an eight week lifespan. The eggs inside will pupate into adult bees and when their designated time of the year arrives, often one full year later, they emerge and repeat the cycle. To keep the nesting tunnel from harboring disease, it is critical to clean the nest with your cleaning tool, preparing it for the next generation of bees. Once cleaned a new female bee will lay her eggs and the cycle will repeat generation after generation.
Because, unlike honey bees, you cannot put them in a box, load them on a truck and lease them to farmers. Solo bees are loner bees and do as they please. Even though you haven’t heard of them, if you have eaten squash, tomatoes or blueberries, you have been the recipient of food pollinated by solitary native bees, not honey bees.
Founded in San Diego in 2015, after learning about the challenges to native bees, primarily habitat loss and pesticide use. I made my first shelter based on a shelter a friend gave me. I am an architect, and love my garden, but rarely was interested in bugs. But, once my first bee shelter was occupied and new bees emerged, I felt an affinity and connection to these tiny little creatures that were so desperate for a home. Wanting to share this desire to help bees I created a beautiful bee shelter and began sharing it with friends from my Prius hatchback. There was a fascination and attraction that this is a way to help nature. We sold a few shelters and as I expanded my reach, I hired a carpenter, but eventually needed to control quality. We we awarded a job training grant that allowed us to purchase a second-hand CNC machine, a laser cutter and other shop tools. We offered paid training for one month to three women who made our shelters. As luck would have it, the shop we rented was the first home of Taylor Guitars, who happened to be a leader in sustainability and forest restoration. Today Taylor is one of our key suppliers, donating their waste mahogany to be used in our shelters, including our new Villa. We also numbered our shelters from the beginning and today we are on shelter number 1,720. In 2018, SoloBee was first showcased on a Kashi snack bar box and written up in the Taylor Guitars magazine.
Our unique shelter design showcases the beauty of the salvaged wood while offering a functional design that can be installed on a shelf, fence or post. Our mahogany nesting block has ten nesting tunnels in the two sizes most commonly used by native bees. The distance, depth and arrangement of these nesting cavities are entomologist approved and the most inhabited tunnel style of any bee shelter.
After four years of bee shelter testing and fabrication we have evolved to this minimalist design that we can offer as a kit of parts, which we have always wanted to do. By predrilling holes and milling the parts we made this reward a fun project that you or a group of friends can enjoy making yourself. All of our shelters are numbered in sequence, so if you purchase a ten pack those shelters will all be in sequence too. Other new products include; a tunnel cleaning tool so you clean out the tunnels after it has been occupied; an interpretive sign for the bee garden; and the bee drinking dish to offer bees a drink.
My story began in 1997, when I lived on a tiny island in the Federated State of Micronesia. I went to the islands to teach architecture at a Jesuit boys trade school, but that soon turned into a deep reverence for the fragile island nation and my commitment to help decrease carbon emissions that are melting ice caps and flooding the islands I came to love. Since 1999, when I graduated from architecture school, I have focused my energy on raising awareness about simple living, conservation, and taking action. In 2009, I founded a rainwater and greywater company and in 2015, I built my first bee shelter and Founded SoloBee. I began teaching workshops, giving talks and building bee shelters full time. I also wrote a children’s sing-along songbook called “Zoe the Solobee.” Working as the architect to the solo bees is my full time work. It combines fabrication, art, architecture and creating a community of people who want to take action to heal the earth. I feel a deep responsibility to caring for the earth and doing what I can to help nature thrive. There is a massive movement focused on healing the planet and I want to offer simple solutions that anyone can implement and enjoy. I am grateful to be doing work I feel is important and using my energy to move us in the direction of healing and restoration. I am grateful to be doing this work and am thrilled to share it with you. ~ Candace
SoloBee would not exist without our incredible team. Keng-Lou James Hung, PhD, has been my advisor in everything bees and identifies bees for us that our community sends in. | Michael Kaplan is the engineer working in the shop, he built our first CNC from spare parts. | Carmen Silva stepped up and offered to make our video for this campaign. Me and the bees are grateful for their help as we shepherd SoloBee to her next phase.
As we continue to speak for the bees and expand our product line we will be reaching out to our supporters and keeping you in the loop on the status of native bees and other ways you can help too. Our goal is conserve natural resources while restoring the biodiversity of our precious mother earth. Bees are a keystone species that we cannot live without, by helping them you are healing the world. ~ Candace Vanderhoff
We will manufacture the products in our San Diego workshop with wood set aside for this campaign. If our rewards made with salvaged wood sell out, we will add a new bee shelter reward made with certified sustainable redwood.
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