Finish!

This Sunday, June 9th, I went to Hornets Nest Council and presented my project to them. After moments of deliberation, they came back into the room to hand me the Gold Award. Through all the ups and downs of the project, I anticipated the moment when the golden pin would be latched securely on my vest, but I don’t think I realized how meaningful the event itself would be.

When my mom finished placing the pin on my khaki vest, I thought about all the moments that led up to it and all the people that helped me. Thank you to everyone who played a part in my project, from the blog viewer in Canada that helped my efforts reach around the globe to the troop member who planted the seeds that thrived in the garden. The garden looks incredible these days, and without your efforts, the project would have been impossible, so thank you very much!

 

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Ant Free!

The latest trip to Winthrop was full of surprises. First and foremost, as you can see in the title, the ants have left the garden! Even though we couldn’t find any left over ants, we preemptively laid down a natural ant deterrent made out of red pepper flakes and cinnamon sticks so we don’t expect them to come back any time soon. Plus, it is an all natural solution that stays in line with our no-pesticide rule.

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The second and most obvious shock was the giant tree growing in the middle of the garden. How it got there, none of us really know, but it’s thriving in the soil. We’re really not quite sure whether to take it down or let it grow, because it has a lot of budding flowers growing amidst the leaves that would probably be good for the bees. We don’t want it to cause too much shade to stop the lovely wildflowers from growing, so we are just going to see how it grows and maybe take it down in the fall.

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With the project coming to a close, I am so grateful to see how well the garden has flourished in it’s little nook. I hope that it continues to grow and thrive even after Winthrop takes over and I leave so that it can provide a home to bees for many years to come.

Bees vs. Ants

The other day I took a trip out to Winthrop University to check on the garden. Despite the heat (or maybe because of it), the garden is thriving. Many of the younger flowers are now well established and blooming and the border that we planted only a while ago is full of green plants. Not only is the garden doing well, the native species of bee that has been feeding on the plants has now finished it’s life cycle and laid eggs in a couple of the tubes built into the shelter. In the picture below, you can see this in the whole second from the top and the two at the bottom. This means there are a lot of baby bees nesting inside of there.

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However, despite these successes in the project, I was disappointed to find an infestation of ants crawling all over the shelter and nesting in the empty tubes.  They were red and small, so they were probably fire ants. Since the mating season of the bees is over, I just took the box home. The ants wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but as the garden is dedicated to not use pesticide, we will have to find a natural way to get rid of them. Or maybe bees and ants can coexist?

All in all, the last trip to Winthrop was a mixed bag. The garden is thriving, but the ants are another obstacle to overcome. If you have any experience with this, any comments will be appreciated.

Earth Day

DSC_2892.JPGThis Thursday I had the amazing opportunity to go to Winthrop University and meet some of the college students who pass my garden on their way to class at the Earth Day Fair. From my table on Scholars Walk, I handed over 100 flyers and packets of wildflower seeds to students and faculty next to campus clubs, conservationists, and even a fellow scout also raising awareness for their project. While it felt amazing to be part of the event at the college, the best part was seeing people’s positive reactions to the project. At first it was hard to interact with the college students that looked so much older than I did, but their support made me realize that I had more in common with the students than I thought I did.

For starters, I met the journalist who published an article about my project in the college newspaper. Before Thursday, she was a faceless contact over email to whom I owed an enormous debt. It was amazing to look her in the eyes and tell her how grateful I was for her contribution to my project.

Then, I met two girls who used to be in scouting. One of them had been a scout since kindergarten and even now is working on a project that started as a Girl Scout award. It was wonderful to talk to other scouts, especially ones as kind and supportive as these two were.

Even the students who didn’t have a lot of time to talk offered their support and a smile. Some people even told me that they had already heard about my project from a friend or a class they were taking. After the day was over, I went to check on the garden (doing well, thankfully) and as I walked by a student waved and told her friends, “That’s the girl I was talking to you about!”

Seeing the ripple effect of my project in such close proximity inspired me more than the large number of flyers I was able to hand out that day. Even if the students don’t plant their packs of wildflower seeds, I hope that hearing about the project influences them half as much as their support influenced me.

 

Hatching

Seventy-five hours of my life have been poured into this project, but I have never been more passionate about the garden than when I went to Winthrop this Sunday.

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It was reassuring to see the wildflowers blooming and I took pictures of the tiny wildflower seeds sticking their heads above the ground, but those weren’t the most amazing part of the trip. What really amazed me were the three baby bees I saw hatching from their cocoons.

Before I went, I watched some videos of bees hatching, but they didn’t do it justice. The way the bees clicked their tiny bodies as they gnawed out of their little cocoons was a miracle. As soon as the mason bees poked their tiny antennae out, they wiggled their bodies out of their tiny prisons. Then they shook their wings dry and flew off in squiggling lines towards the horizon.

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When I looked at the wildflowers, I didn’t see any of the bees eating, but I did see several female bees flying into the circular shaped holes in the shelter. Obviously, they found enough nutrients to hatch their eggs and continue the life cycle of their species.

For those of you who are so unfortunate as to never see a bee hatch in person, check out the video posted on my Facebook page. Hopefully you’ll find it as inspiring as I did.

 

 

 

More Planting…

With spring already underway, this weekend instead of spring cleaning some volunteers and I went down to Winthrop University to put some finishing touches on the now-certified wildlife garden. Armed with shovels, garden gloves, and an abundance of hard to pronounce wildflowers, there wasn’t anything that anyone could remember that we forgot…

Until we got to Winthrop and realized that although we came with a lot of pots of flowers, we forgot the wildflower seeds. One of the volunteers went back to get them, and after that small mistake the rest of the workday went smoothly.

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We mixed topsoil and re tilled the edges of the garden to break up the nasty red clay that is so abundant in North Carolina soil. Sadly, there were a lot of leafless and lifeless flowers rotting inside the garden, so we dug holes near the (hopefully dormant) flowers to replace them with budding plants that were grown indoors. That way we have healthy flowers to feed the bees when they hatch and leave a chance for the old flowers to recover or turn into compost, either one works.

After we finished fine tuning the garden, we placed the bees inside of a small box in the bee shelter. The bees were generously given to us by my project adviser who cultivates populations of bees and native plants. Even though they look more like seeds than eggs, I’m confident that they will hatch and populate the garden in the next month.

The next step of the project is on Thursday, April 13th at Winthrop University’s Earth Day Fair. I am going to have a table set up with information and flyers. If you are free, please support the project by visiting the University and coming home with bags of swag from other table presentations.

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Officially Certified!

This weekend, my father and I took a visit to Winthrop to check up on the plants and hang up a sign.

The plants were doing very well, although a couple look like they need a little help. The faculty at Winthrop have been very kind to look at the plants and run a soaker hose through the garden to keep it hydrated. I feel confident the plants will begin to thrive in the Spring, and if they don’t, I have backup plants that we can place in the garden to feed the bees.

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After admiring the plants, I nailed the official Certified Wildlife Habitat sign onto the post that will soon be a shelter for native bees. It is bright and beautiful, especially because it means that Winthrop now has their own official contribution to the environment.

The First Steps of the Project

As this project is a Girl Scout Gold Award, there are a lot of steps to take before the project is approved.

First, I found my project idea and filled out a detailed project plan. With the help of my project advisor, the plan was approved quickly and I was given the okay to move forward.

After that, the project moved quickly. I bought the plants to go into the garden and planned a yard sale to raise funds. People were generous both in donating furniture to supply the yard sale and buying furniture at the yard sale. The sale was successful and I raised well over the amount I needed for my garden.

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The Finished Product

Once we raised enough money, we began to plant the garden. We used the Prairie Nursery : Pre-Planned Pollinator Garden and altered the provided garden design to fit the area of soil Winthrop tilled for us. The staff at Winthrop was very helpful throughout the whole process. They provided the volunteers with water and snacks and helped in many aspects of the planting. At we finished with the garden, they wired a soaker hose through the garden to keep the plants watered.

 

However, the project is far from over. My main purpose now is to spread awareness through the website and various events. If you are a student at Winthrop, show your friends the garden or the website. Then, you can start planting gardens of your own at home or in your community. Follow my Facebook page. Help me help the pollinator bees in our area.