This year’s Solitary Bee Week ran from June 29 to July 3, and Ava’s [last name withheld on request] project was part of her Silver Award Project, which is the highest accomplishment for a Girl Scout Cadette.
“My project was focused on raising awareness of solitary bees, particularly the mason and leafcutter bees, and to ensure a bee-friendly habitat by building bee houses for them to nest,” she said.
Solitary bees represent 90 percent of the world’s bee species. They live alone (ergo the name solitary bees) in hollow reeds or abandoned holes in trees. They do not live in hives, and are therefore non-aggressive since they do not need to defend it.
They also do not make honey. Instead, they spend their time pollinating and preparing cocoons for the next generation.
As part of her “BEE a Friend” awareness campaign, she provided original research materials and worked with her former science teacher at Public School 99 to add mason bees and pollinators to their STEAM curriculum going forward.
Starting next spring, the afterschool program will also include making a mason bee house.
She has also created education boxes for display at Alley Pond Environmental Center so visitors can learn about the mason and leafcutter bees.
“There has some declination in the general population of bees, and they really play a big part in making our food because they produce about one-third of all food we eat,” explained Ava. “The population is mostly declining due to loss of habitat and pesticides.”
Through her advocacy, friends and family members also installed bee houses, committed to planting native flowers, and pledged to avoid pesticides. As a result, there are ten new solitary beekeepers across the country, from New York to Texas to California.
In the case of mason and leafcutter bees, making a bee house is simple.
“The mason and leafcutter bees nest in hollow reeds, so that the important elements in a homemade bee house are the paper nesting tubes and straws,” Ava said. “The outer casing can be a wood box, coffee can, or plastic cup. You can upcycle reusable materials.
“I never really wanted to be in the Girl Scouts when I was a kid, but then when I visited a troop a few years back and enjoyed it," Ava said. "Then my friends and I formed Troop 4632."
She and her soccer teammates started the troop last August to explore new experiences offered by the Girl Scout program, as well as to have the opportunity to learn to be future leaders and help their community.
“I’ve been working on badges to gain new skills such as archery, woodworking, budgeting, marketing, and comparison shopping,” Ava said. “I even worked with the director of Information Security of an international law firm on my cybersecurity badge.
“I have also attended journey workshops to tackle issues such as relationships, bullying, the portrayal of girls in the media, and took action to address issues identified,” Ava added.
As a Girl Scout, there are core values in place for them to succeed in being the best they can be.
“Leadership is a core value,” Ava said. “You learn how to be a leader, as most of the badges and workshops you do are part of a team and you’re required to take action. There’s also working with younger girls, which also helps you be a leader.”