Solitary Bee Wall & Pollinator Garden

The pollinator garden and solitary bee wall located next to the Arboretum Outreach Center allows the University of Maryland community and campus to learn more about bees. The pollinator garden was originally built in 2016 by a former master's student, Olivia Bernauer, to research pollinators’ interactions with certain plants. The garden was then expanded to bring it closer to the bee wall to make the two more united. Both the garden and wall were expanded in 2017 after receiving a UMD sustainability grant allowing the garden to grow in size, and allowing the wall to get the green roof as an addition.

The wall is made from cob material ­-- clay and rubble from the Edward St. John Learning & Teaching Center construction -- and sand and straw that received locally. The plants placed on the green roof of the wall help stop erosion of this soft material by the rain. The wall acts as an important educational component where students can observe or listen to the bees by plugging in headphones to the audio cabinet. The main goal is to provide the community with the chance to learn more about the species of bees in Maryland, as well as the differences in biology and habitat needs.

The pollinator garden has a variety of plants including New England aster, butterfly milkweed, black-eyed susan, swamp milkweed, Joe-pye weed, rough leaved goldenrod, wild bergamot, yellow sneezeweed and blue hyssop which has been at the garden since its original installation. The most recent plants since the expansion includes cherokee sedge, Appalachian mountain mint, New Jersey tea, blazing star, obedient plant, little bluestem, grass-leaved goldenrod, prairie dropseed, foxglove beardtongue, culver’s root, spotted bee balm, gray goldenrod, virginiana spiderwort, and pale purple coneflower. A variety of plants are used for the garden so that it is available at all times during the seasons that bees are active. The flowers chosen also vary in size and shape which allows for the diversity of bees in the garden. The plants that make up the green roof of the bee wall include bee balm, bee balm petite, catnip, creeping jacob's ladder, wild bergamot, and mountain mint. Both the wall and garden is maintained by vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab, Arboretum staff, and students who volunteer.

One of the main goals for the future of the pollinator garden involves opening up the wall to more research opportunities as more bees begin to find the wall and nest there. This will allow for a chance to learn more about plant traits important to pollinators, and more about wild bees. Another goal is to continue to educate the community and campus and encourage others to do similar gardening projects at home. The pollinator garden and bee wall offer many opportunities for students to learn more about the importance of bees through internships or volunteering, or you can visit the garden and enjoy the view of various plants or listen to the sounds of bees nesting in the wall.     

Written by Cameron Smith, Arboretum volunteer