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If the bees had a vote, the Beestra wild bee finder and hotel would be the odds-on favorite for Coolest Things Made in the Ozarks. Beestra is a bee house. It consists of a 9.5-inch by 4-inch by 4-inch box filled with dozens of paper nesting tubes that simulate the bees’ natural habitat. The structure itself doubles as its shipping box. Ames Chiles founded Bois D’Arc-based BeeFoster with her father, Dan Chiles, in 2019, fueled by their passion to save the bees. Beestra is sold on the BeeFoster website and on Etsy.
SBJ: Why are bees so important?
Ames Chiles: Without bees, our plates would be entirely beige – just wheat and corn. Any kind of fruit, nut or vegetable you like, chances are, it needs pollination. But native bee populations are crashing all over the world. It’s a huge problem.
SBJ: I notice your product is designed to be recycled after a season. Why?
Chiles: They are durable to last a year, but at the end of the year, they’re a little worn out, which I actually like. It’s your reminder to take it down and replace it. Parasites are a natural part of the bees’ life cycle. They pick them up on flowers and bring them back to their home. If they return to the same home year after year, parasites build up and eat all of their food supply.
SBJ: There are other bee habitats on the market. How is Beestra different?
Chiles: I would say that most of them are designed to look really cute to people, but they overlook a lot of things that make it a good habitat for bees. I see a lot that are made out of bamboo, but that’s not good because it retains moisture, and that leads to mold, which is a killer of bees. Also, a lot of them don’t have predator screens, so they end up becoming a buffet for birds. Some are designed to be hung from trees, but when they’re swinging around, delicate eggs get knocked off the pollen loaves that are the food source for baby bees.
SBJ: I take it honeybees live in the Beestra?
Chiles: No. The bees that we’re interested in are mason bees and leafcutter bees. They are so much more efficient than honeybees, but people bring in honeybees to make up for the loss. Honeybees are technically invasive – they’re not native; they’re not made to pollinate our plants. It’s so crucial to protect our native species, including flowers.
SBJ: How many types of bees are there, anyway?
Chiles: There are about 450 species of bee in Missouri alone, and most nest in the ground. The United States has about 4,000 species of bees. Bumblebees are the best pollinators out there, and several species have gone extinct in the last few years. They nest underground, and they’re notoriously difficult to build habitats for. I would love to be able to do that.
SBJ: So by saving bees, you save native plants.
Chiles: Yes, but we’re saving them for their own sake, too. It’s about having respect for these species and trying to undo some of the damage that’s been done. Our product exists to raise awareness and show you how many bees exist about you so you can sense the health of your ecosystem. I would hope people might be inspired to plant more flowers and think about living a little wilder. On a human level, I would love to see more flowers here in the Springfield area. I want a more colorful place.
Heirloom Candle Bar moved; art supply thrift store Arrow Creative Reuse opened; and Rockford, Illinois-based Beef-A-Roo debuted in Springfield.