Oslo, the Norwegian city with hot pink manhole covers and a serious garbage deficit, has embarked on an ambitious urban highway-building project complete with roadside lodging and filling stations aplenty. However, those traveling along said highway will primarily be making pit stops for pollen not petrol, nectar not bags of corn nuts. Shelter will be provided in the form of hives, not Holiday Inns. And as for tolls, since when have endangered insects that play an incredibly vital role in global food production been required to fork over a toll?

Oslo’s flower-strewn thoroughfare, a project described as the world’s first bee highway, differs from your run-of-the-mill wildlife corridor — you know, those highway-spanning bridges where, at any given moment, a bear, a moose and a family of chipmunks could be en voyage overhead.

Norway has those too, but Oslo’s urban biodiversity-fostering bee highway is decidedly less rigid, engineered. Like bees themselves, the burgeoning pollinator pike is gloriously busy, piecemeal, a bit all over the place in the best way possible. With traffic (ideally) moving east to west, the highway, in actuality, is a loose network of lush rooftop gardens, hive-laden terraces and balcony-bound pots overflowing with pollen-producing flowers that make up for an absence of bee-friendly spaces in park-starved areas of Norway's preternaturally tidy capital city.

With pollen-rich "feeding stations” situated roughly every 800 feet, The Guardian notes that the ultimate aim of the so-called Pollinatorpassasjer project is to “provide safe passage through the city.”

“We are constantly reshaping our environment to meet our needs, forgetting that other species also live in it,” explains Agnes Lyche Melvaer of ByBi (“Bee Town”), the environmental group spearheading the grassroots project. “To correct that we need to return places to them to live and feed.”

The highway itself is being "constructed" bit-by-bit by a mix of activists, apiarists, gardeners, government entities, businesses and homeowners. Key to this inaugural work of insect infrastructure — with all the potential new greenery involved, it also doubles as a snazzy city beautification project — is an interactive map in which interested participants can first identify areas along the route that are in desperate need of bee-appropriate food and lodging. From there, they can help build up the highway as they see fit, be in providing a safe nesting spot or an oversized pot filled with sunflowers.

“It will be easy to see barriers and obstacles on the map. The goal is to inspire people to fill these gaps,” Melvaer tells local paper Osloby.

An interactive map of Oslo's bee highwayLike any proper highway, Oslo's Pollinatorpassasjer includes a detailed map identifying bee-appropriate food and lodging. (Screenshot: Pollinatorpassasjer)

While hives are indeed encouraged along the Pollinatorpassasje, Melvaer points out that not all bees are social like the European honeybee. In fact, a majority of bees species are comprised of loners that would rather not hunker down in chaotic shared quarters with a few thousand compatriots. Along the bee highway, these bees require private accommodations. “Some bee species like to live in solitary rooms. They need small hollows like a crack in an old tree truck. It’s very important to have some old wood lying around.”

As noted by the Guardian, Norway’s bee population doesn’t face the same threat as in the United States and other European nations where rampant pesticide use, disease and other factors have led to alarming die-offs. Still, a third of Norway’s 200 wild bee species are considered endangered — a significant number considering that 30 to 40 percent of global food production is dependent on pollination.

So long as Norway’s urban bees don’t take any detours and keep moving in the right direction, they’ll find safe haven along Oslo's bee highway, a highway where signs of heavy congestion are nothing but a good thing — the more traffic the merrier.

Via [The Guardian], [The Local]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.