Sep. 18—Thanks to Cherokee County Girl Scout Troop 1380, bees passing through the area will have four new insect hotels in which to spend their summer vacations.
While honey bees live in hives they construct for themselves; mason bees are solitary and prefer living in small holes and crevices. While they do not make honey, like their European-derived cousins, they are effective pollinators, and their stingers are small and harmless to people.
More and more Americans are trying to attract mason bees to their gardens, since they are indigenous to the United States. Insect hotels are small boxes that contain a hollow cedar wood dowels, sawdust, bamboo joints, pinecones, and sometimes small rocks to provide a safe space for bees.
"It's for native bees," said Olivia Young, a member of Troop 1380, who is working on her Bronze Award.
Deforestation has harmed bee populations, so small projects like these go a long way toward helping rebuild pollinator populations. They also improve the quality of home gardens, but it is important to place bee boxes a good distance away from doors that lead into the house.
On Sept. 15, Olivia Young and Ainsley Douthitt dug a hole by the garden next to Cherokee Elementary to mount their bee box. Because mason bees are non-stinging, the insects pose no threat to school kids on the adjacent playground.
The Bronze Award is the last one the girls can earn while they are junior scouts.
"Ainsley and Leslie have less than 30 days to finish this. We are down to the wire. Ainsley's is done tonight, and Leslie's is going to be done as soon as we do the community garden," said Melissa Harris, who leads the troop.
To earn their Bronze Award, scouts must perform a group service project. The girls chose to mount bee boxes throughout the county. In addition to Cherokee Elementary School, Sequoyah State park, Hunter's Home, and the Tahlequah Community Garden will also receive bee boxes.
"The Bronze is done as a troop, so they had to communicate as a team, pick one service project they all believed in, and which when you have 12-18 girls that's not a small task. But they picked pollinator habitats, so that's what we did," said Harris.
In addition to giving back to the community, projects like these help girl to develop motor skills. As well as digging the hole, they were in charge of attaching the box to a 4-by-4 fence post, and mixing and pouring concrete to stabilize the box. On each fence post, they also mounted a sign that describes what the box is for, and to warn passersby not to not disturb the insects.
These kinds of insect hotels may also attract butterflies and ladybugs, which are also helpful for gardens.
Girls who are interested in signing up to participate in Troop 1380 can visit www.gseok.org.