Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Teenagers create 13-mile 'Bee Byway' in their town to save native bees

Joshua Nichols and Luke Marston are using their STEM skills to save the bees.

The bee population is quickly declining in the United States, with urbanization leading to the fragmentation of their habitat. They are important insects, as bumblebees support their local ecosystems by providing food and habitats for other species.

Nichols and Marston, both 14, are members of the award-winning FIRST robotics team, the Ruling Robot Falcons, based in Newport News, Virginia. Using a geographic information system, Nichols and Marston plotted a "Bee Byway," identifying dozens of sites across Newport News where they could plant native and bee-friendly plants. By creating this pollinator corridor, bees are protected from isolation, improving their chances of survival.

"The idea behind it is based on the idea of connectivity," Nichols told the Daily Press earlier this year. "Connecting existing natural areas through added natural areas." The byway is 13 miles long, and in the spring, volunteers joined Nichols and Marston for a mass planting at the different sites along the corridor. Because of the potential of this project, the Ruling Robot Falcons have qualified for the semifinals of the FIRST LEGO League's Global Innovation Awards.

During the pandemic, Nichols and Marston have delivered plants to more than 60 homeowners, so they could add to the Bee Byway without worrying about going out to a nursery. Not only does this give people something to do, but it keeps the project rolling along, and over the summer, Nichols and Marston hope to host a scavenger hunt at Bee Byway sites to help educate the community.