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The Toronto Islands are far from a gentrification hot spot, but islanders are buzzing about the rise of the islands' first condo.

For bees and wasps, that is.

Peek behind the Franklin Children's Garden, an educational centre, and you'll find the Pink Bee-Wasp Condo, a wooden box perched atop a three-metre-tall pole.

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The tiny eight-floor building, which looks like a cube of Hubba Bubba plunked on a giant popsicle stick, has 40 nesting blocks for 23 different kinds of Toronto bees and wasps.

Four local artists worked with bee experts to set up the condo as an offshoot of a show called Resonating Bodies - Bumble Domicile, which will shed light on the secret life of bees. That exhibit is running at the *new* gallery on Queen West.

Sarah Peebles, one of the artists, says the goal of the condo is twofold. "We want to get local pollinators reproducing as well as have a site to gather data for our art," she explained, pointing out a small webcam hooked up to the condo's front lobby, which is collecting footage for a second bee-related art show, tentatively scheduled to open next year.

The bee building isn't a wry comment on condo culture like the Pigeon Condo, a 2006 project created by local artists Luis Jacob and Amos Latteier. Instead, the "solitary bees" here each need their own apartment to nest. "It's different from a hive because they're nesting in compartmental, individual units that don't interact," artist Rob Cruickshank said. "They mind their own business."

And while a Barbie-pink condo isn't exactly trendy, the colour has been chosen for a reason. "Some bees love the colour pink," says Laurence Packer, an entomology professor at York University, who recently released a pocket-sized handbook called A Guide to Toronto's Pollinators. "They sometimes get lost, so with colour, they can find their home."

While public tours are still in the works, the bee condo will soon become a teaching tool for children at Franklin, according to Joey Gladding, the centre's head co-ordinator

This week, Peter Hallett, a retired University of Toronto professor and the bee condo's project developer, was showcasing a penthouse suite of spider wasps to a group of children. Natalie Mikoluk, 10, who was visiting the islands with her mom, was astounded. "I've never seen bees and wasps up close," she said, "without being stung."

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Some condo residents

Spider wasps

Leaf-cutter bees

Orchid bees

Mason bees

Potter wasps

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Masked bees

Cuckoo wasps

Bee flies

Aphid-hunting wasps

Nadja Sayej

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