Boy Scout creates “bee hotels” to house pollinators

Boy Scout Eugene Tunney built and placed 10 "bee hotels" around Minneapolis in an effort to provide bees with space to forage. Photo by Nate Gotlieb
Boy Scout Eugene Tunney built and placed 10 "bee hotels" around Minneapolis in an effort to provide bees with space to forage. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Bees in Minneapolis will have extra spots to forage for food this spring, thanks to a local Boy Scout.

Fourteen-year-old Eugene Tunney has installed 10 “bee hotels” around Minneapolis as part of an effort to earn ranking as an Eagle Scout and a conservation award. The hotels contain hollowed-out sticks, pinecones and flowers on which the bees can forage for pollen, as well as information on how people can make their own bee hotels.

“It’s adding more to the ecosystem,” Eugene said of the hotels, adding that he’s learned a lot about native and bumblebees through this project.

Eugene assembled the bee hotels himself and placed eight of them around Southwest Minneapolis. He also created a YouTube video to explain how to create the hotels.

Eugene began as a Cub Scout when he was in first grade and is expecting to get his Eagle Scout ranking this year, according to his dad, Edmund Tunney. He said he’s hoping Eugene will receive the conservation award in August.

The conservation award is known as the William T. Hornaday Award and was created to recognize scouts that have made significant contributions to conservation. Hornaday was a pioneer in wildlife conservation, one who was credited for saving the American bison, and he helped found the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Only 1,200 Hornaday Awards have been handed out since the inception of the U.S. Boy Scouts in 1906.

Awardees are required to plan and execute conservation projects, promote them and follow up to determine the actual impact. The honor often takes months to earn.

“Think of it as an Olympic medal bestowed by the earth,” the Boy Scouts website says.

The awards program was begun in 1914 by Hornaday to challenge Americans to work constructively for wildlife conservation and habitat protection. The award was renamed in his honor after his death in 1937 and became a Boy Scouts award.

Eugene said he hopes more people will be inspired to build their own bee hotels after seeing his project.

His efforts mirror those happening across Minneapolis. The city is urging all gardeners, landscapers and farmers to avoid pesticides and pre-treated plants as part of an effort to protect pollinators. The city notes that pollinators are in a sharp decline because of an ongoing loss of plants that feed and shelter them, combined with pesticide use.

Visit minneapolismn.gov/environment/bees to learn more about protecting pollinators.

Tire mulch receives funding from School Board

Minneapolis Public Schools is moving forward with a plan to replace waste tire mulch on all of its playgrounds that use the substance as ground cover.

Chief Operations Officer Karen DeVet on April 27 presented a plan to the School Board to remove the tire mulch and replace it with untreated wood fiber during the 2017–2018 fiscal year. The district will spend an estimated $3.3 million from its capital planning budget on replacing the substance at 47 playgrounds.

Tire mulch contains a variety of materials known to be toxic, according to a Minneapolis subcommittee tasked with studying the substance. A Yale study found that about half of chemicals detected in tire-mulch samples had never been tested for their health effects. A Duluth study found that 12 of 13 chemicals in a sample were on a Minnesota Department of Health “chemicals of high concern” list.

MPS switched from wood to tire mulch because of issues with mold, safety, freezing and drainage. It used rubber tire mulch because of its ability to provide adequate fall protection and because it did not degrade.

The effort to remove the substance started because of a group of parents who formed Play It Safe Minneapolis. A city subcommittee spent the second half of 2016 studying the issue before presenting recommendations to the City Council.

The council passed a resolution in April prohibiting the use of city funds for tire mulch-as-ground cover projects.

In a Facebook post, Play It Safe Minneapolis thanked School Board member Nelson Inz, Superintendent Ed Graff and the district’s facilities staff for their work on the initiative. The group stressed that the district’s capital fund is different from its general fund, which faces a $21 million budget gap for the 2017–2018 school year.

Capital fund dollars cannot be used for general fund purposes.

The School Board is scheduled to approve the funding on June 13 as part of its capital plan.

Phyllis Kahn honored with MN Bicycling Award

Former state legislator Phyllis Kahn has been recognized for her efforts to make Minnesota a better state in which to ride a bicycle.

The 44-year state representative from Minneapolis received a Lifetime Service Award from the Bike Alliance of Minnesota in April. The organization said Kahn “laid the groundwork for the experience many Minnesotans have come to expect when bicycling.” It noted she helped dedicate funds for recreational trails and supported bike friendly legislation throughout her tenure.

Kahn was one of five awardees honored at a ceremony on April 29. Minneapolis-based Peace Coffee was honored as the “bicycle friendly business champion.”

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