Photos of bee tower: via Dezeen
In the spirit of a Ron MacLean pun, we thought we'd open this story with this: There's a new tower in Buffalo, New York that's creating a lot of "buzz" (cue groan and/or drum/symbol smash here).
Architecture students at the University of Buffalo have built a condo for a colony of honey bees that really stands out - and not just because of the bees.
It's a 7 metre (22 feet) high gleaming silver hexagonal structure, located in a grim industrial zone near the Buffalo River, that's dotted with old grain elevators.
It seems the honey bees had become squatters in the boarded-up window of a nearby abandoned office building. But rather than bring in an exterminator, a developer decided to call the university for ideas.
"The UB guys said, let's do a design charrette", said Rick Smith, president of Rigidized Metals, which is working on a redevelopment project near the old office block.
His company then sponsored the university's "Hive City" design competition, which asked students to design a new place for the bees to live.
Lisa Stern, a Master's student at the UB School of Architecture and Planning, was part of the winning design team. She said the "main focus was a safe-house for the bees" but they also "wanted something to stand out on the site."
The tower has steel perforated panels, designed to protect the bees from the wind but also to allow a bit of light in.
The bees have the penthouse suite; they live near the top in a specially designed box to keep them warm. Plus, they have their own entrance and the box has a laminated glass bottom.
At the base of the tower, there's a place for people to go in and look up and watch the bees do their thing - without the risk of being stung. And there's a series of pulleys so beekeepers can lower the hive and do what they do, or give school kids a close-up look.
The tower is called Elevator B and is meant to symbolize the renewal of the area, both economically and environmentally.
A nearby nature preserve is also developing an education program on the bees and on the mysterious death of bees around the world.
Bee populations have been under severe strain in recent years, with Time Magazine even calling it a "Beepocalypse." Many species have been declining in North America and Europe, with some thought to be extinct or close to extinction.
The Bee Informed Partnership, released a report indicating more than 30% of managed honey bee colonies in the United States were lost this past winter. More than 6000 American beekeepers were surveyed, managing nearly 600,000 colonies.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has outlined several possible causes for the mass loss of honey bees including mites, viruses, bacterial disease and pesticides.
Some studies have pointed to Imidacloprid (from a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids), a common chemical used on lawns and farms.
A bee inspector in California's Central Valley examines a colony
Health Canada issued a statement saying that "bees were believed to have been exposed to these pesticides through dust containing pesticide residues, generated during planting of treated corn seed."
That has some beekeepers and environmental groups calling for those pesticides to be banned here, until they've been proven safe.
"I think the best for beekeepers would be a ban," said Dan Davidson, president of the Ontario Beekepers' Association.
"We have to call for replacement of these chemicals. We won't be able to keep going on if they continue to be used at the rates they're being used now," he told CBC Radio's 'The Current'.
But many farmers say the chemical is critical to protect their crops, so until it's proven to be dangerous, they'll keep using it.
Health Canada has released a list of 25 best practices for farmers, to "reduce the risk to pollinators, particularly honeybees, from exposure to dust from treated seed."
The European Union plans to ban that class of chemicals for two years. Canada has no plans to go there right now, saying more research is needed.