“Bee hotel” built at Prince William Co. landfill

MANASSAS, VA. -- The Prince William County Landfill is now home to several "bee hotels" and a pollinator garden.

Over the last two weekends, hundreds of volunteers helped plant a garden of native Virginia plants on a half-acre plot of land within the landfill and construct two "bee hotels". The hotels are structures made using materials (including bamboo, bricks, and pallets) from the landfill and the hope is that native bees will make their home there.

"We’re dumping all of our trash into this landfill. It’s nice to see something good coming out of it," said Louise Edsall, a beekeeper who was helping lead the project. "I expect we’ll have 180 species here, eventually."

"Everything that you can do for our native pollinators is a great deal. I mean, that’s why creating habitat here for them, for their food sources is great and then we give them a home right nearby," said Dr. Cynthia Smith, an Associate Professor at George Mason University, who was one of the project leaders. "Part of that is it’s a teaching tool and we can show people, you know, here’s the native bees working on flowers and then you can see them taking that pollen and nectar back to the house."

"This bee project area will be a part of the tour and students can see the kinds of things that we are doing and hopefully be inspired," said Deborah Campbell, communications specialist for Prince William County's Solid Waste Division.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance (PWCA) will monitor the growth of the garden and track how many pollinators are attracted to it.

"The first pollinator survey we did was really pretty easy. We saw one Tiger Swallowtail and that was it. So, we have only up to go," said Kim Hosen, PWCA's Executive Director.

Edsall also installed two hives in the garden that will eventually hold two honey bee colonies.

"Each of these colonies when at full strength, probably by July, will be 60-to-80,000 bees strong, per colony," said Edsall, who added that honey bee populations are really suffering. "Here in Prince William County, we’re seeing terrific losses this winter. It’s a combination of the extreme temperatures we saw this year and the problems with pesticide use, loss of habitat, and then they are plagued by something called the varroa mite."

Campbell said the county has not decided what it will do with the honey created by the bees, whether to give out samples or sell it, and added it will depend on how much is made. But she said that they are already thinking about a possible name for the product.

"Solid gold. A combination of the color as well as solid waste division," said Campbell.

The project was made possible by a $20,000 grant from Lowe's Home Improvement and Keep America Beautiful.