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Scouts from Troop 577 construct solitary bee nesting boxes to install throughout City of Dallas parks. Organizer Scout Spencer Burke, on the far left, holds a completed nesting box.

DALLAS, TEXAS (June 2020 - Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Boy Scouts are continuing to live the Scout Slogan of “Do a Good Turn Daily.”  Spencer Burke, a member of Boy Scout Troop 577 chartered at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, spearheaded and led 19 of his fellow Scouts in a conservation service project on Sunday to address the declining solitary bee population.

While the declining population of pollinators, such as honeybees and butterflies, has been well-documented, the loss of solitary bees has received little attentions.  Solitary bees, including the mason bee, leaf-cutter bee, and sweat bee, are tiny, unobtrusive insects that, as the name implies, live alone.  Unlike social bees, solitary bees do not live in hives, produce honey or have a queen.  Due to these significant differences, solitary bees are not aggressive.  Most importantly, the solitary bees pollinate more flowers and crops than any other insect species, including butterflies and birds.  Scientists estimate the solitary bees are solely responsible for approximately one-third of all the food we consume.  However, because of urban sprawl, the solitary bee nesting habitats have been seriously eroded.

Aided by a grant from the Karma for Cara Foundation, Spencer led a team of volunteers to construct 100 solitary bee nesting boxes.  The constructed houses simulate the protective housing for the solitary bees, and consist of various sized holes drilled into wood.  These small holes are perfect for the bees to inhabit and lay eggs in the holes.  Spencer’s solitary bee houses will soon be placed in parks and trails all over the City of Dallas, as well as private nature conserves including Twelve Hills Nature Center and the Connemara Conservancy. 

Spencer, a rising junior at St. Mark’s School of Texas, is no stranger to environmental conservation.  He previously led a conservation project to remove invasive species and plant Texas native grasses and wildflowers in a designated area at the Twelve Hills Nature Center.  Spencer also led an activity where volunteers made wildflower seed balls which they then threw in various plots along the newly-developed Northaven Trail.  

Spencer’s solitary bee nesting project was originally planned for earlier this year, but had to be postponed due the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the Boy Scouts arrived, Spencer took their temperature and asked a series of health questions before allowing them to work.  Each Scout was also requested to wear a mask and socially distance as much as possible. 

“Over the past couple months, much of our community has been isolated due to COVID-19, and we have had to suspend all of our scouting activities,” Burke said.  “We couldn’t see each other without the danger of harming a loved one.  But through this project, our Troop 577 scouting community finally united with a common cause, and we all worked diligently to make an impactful difference in our environment.  Ultimately, through the efforts of many volunteers and lots of hard work, we have been able to positively help our community and environment in this time of need.”