The Moscow Zoo started building an artificial shelter for bees and wasps. The first house has been set up near the Birds and Butterflies pavilion in the new part of the Zoo. During the warm season, the insects will breed here and hide themselves from rain and wind in autumn.
Externally, the structure looks like a large starling-house with a roof and safety wire mesh on the façade. The inside is lined with wood edge slabs and hollow elder stems for insects to settle in. A further five such houses are to be built before the year’s end.
“Most of us are sure that wasps and bees live in beehives. However, over 90 percent of the population’s individuals prefer a separate dwelling to a collective one. Solitaries are rare and threatened species of insects such as horn-faced and two-coloured mason-bees, Anthidium florentinum, European wool carders (Anthidium manicatum), Anthidium punctatum and Anthidium oblongatum; carpenter bees and others. They pollinate the blooming plants in the city. That’s why it’s essential to create favourable conditions for their life and reproduction. A population decline and complete extinction will dramatically damage Moscow’s nature. This will be followed by disappearance of many plants, flowers and herbs,” said Svetlana Akulova, Director General of the Moscow Zoo.
The Moscow Red List includes 22 species of wasps and bees. They are not always able to find a suitable place to live and breed in a big city. The habitation facilities the entomologists have built for them recreate their natural living conditions as close as possible. In developing the project, the zoologists turned to European expertise. There are similar insect shelters in the zoos of Paris, Riga, Amsterdam, Bristol and other cities.
First artificial insect shelters appeared in the 19th century. The idea was proposed by French entomologist and natural scientist Jean-Henri Fabre. In Russia, during the 1920-1930s, this trend was developed by professor Sergey Malyshev, a Hymenoptera expert. Entomologist Boris Shcherbakov was the first to create them in the Moscow Zoo in 1929-1936.
This year, the Moscow Zoo turns 155. Throughout the year, it will host themed concerts, shows, quests, master classes and tours. Before the end of the spring, it is planned to return a Pallas's cat bas-relief to the main entrance arch. So the rare cat will again symbolize the Moscow Zoo. There is also the zoo’s hymn written for the celebration.