West Queen West has built six new hotels — for bees
The tiny hotels, perched on birch poles, will be a home for bees during their summer nesting period
The West Queen West Business Improvement Association (BIA) is taking steps to attract new blood to the area by building a series of free hotels.
The only catch? You have to be a bee to stay there.
Six bee hotels have been installed on the stretch from Bathurst Street to Gladstone Avenue with the goal of providing a place for bees who don't live in hives to stay during the summer nesting season.
That puts the area in step with a larger push in Toronto, which became the first Canadian city to be designated a "Bee City" in 2016.
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So what does a bee hotel look like?
"It looks like a birdhouse," said Andrew Roy, head gardener with Restorative Landscapes, the company hired by the BIA to tend the flower gardens in the area and install the bee hotels.
Perched on top of birch poles, Roy explained during an interview on Metro Morning that the insides of the hotels are filled with "a bunch of circular pieces of wood or cuttings of last years plants that will provide habitat to solitary bees."
Those bees would normally nest in the wild — under a thick pile of grass, for instance — but Roy said locations like that can be in short supply in the city.
The project came about as an extension of the company's "pollinator paradise" program, which began last year and which aimed to fill flower beds on Queen with plants that bees like such as lavender and sage.
After last year's drought forced the team to remove some trees from the street, it seemed like a natural move to add in more supports for Toronto's bee population, said Roy.
Rob Sysak, executive director of the West Queen West BIA, was all for it.
"We wanted to become a bee-BIA — excuse the pun," said Rob Sysak. "I've gotten lots of positive reviews from the neighbourhood and the other BIAs are watching out to see what happens with us so they can move forward."
Roy, who is on the stretch of Queen Street early almost every morning to take care of the plants, says he mostly sees honeybees visiting the planters.
"I haven't seen any of the exotic native bees but we very well could," he said.
It's not yet clear if the city will seek regulation for Toronto's budding Air-bee-n-bee listings.