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Environment Cool Kids

Boss of Bees: EC Eagle Scout Project Aims to Increase Local Bee Populations

new ‘bee hotels’ offer solitary bees the perfect place to rest, recharge, and … well, reproduce

Rebecca Mennecke |

BUSY AS BEES. Local high school student Keanan Vandenbush (not pictured) had help from a colony of helpers to create bee hotels, which you can find  around River Prairie. (Submitted photos by Kelly Vandenbush)
BUSY AS BEES. Local high school student Keanan Vandenbush (not pictured) had help from a colony of helpers to create bee hotels, which you can find  around River Prairie. (Submitted photos by Kelly Vandenbush)

A local high school student has been as busy as a bee building new “bee hotels,” which you can now find scattered throughout River Prairie in Altoona, as part of his Eagle Scout project. 

What the heck are bee hotels, you might ask? They are little house-like buildings that are ideal for solidary bees, such as Mason Bees – which are native to Wisconsin – as they can lay their eggs in the little holes and safely leave, unlike honeybees that work hard to make honey and lay their eggs in large homemade hives. Mason Bees – and others like them – are not aggressive, meaning they don’t need to defend their hives, making them ideal for River Prairie. 

I also want people to see that this is something they can do on their own to help the environment. 

Keanan Vandenbush

memorial high school student

At least, according to Keanan VandenBush, a sophomore at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, who created bee hotels as part of his Eagle Scout project. The longtime member of Troop 30 out of St. John’s Church in Eau Claire has tackled a number of leadership roles in his years of Scouts, including Den Chief and Outdoor Ethics Guide. He will be the 16th Eagle Scout in his family. But, he’s never been the boss of bees before. 

“Keanan has always loved being outdoors and being in nature,” said his mom, Kelly VandenBush, in an email. “He loves exploring in the woods and wants to find a way to save the planet. … His grandfather came across an article in a Scouting magazine about bee hotels, and Keanan knew this was what he wanted to do for his Eagle project.” 

The project aims to help increase bee populations locally, as well as to help pollinate the gardens at River Prairie. Signs have also been installed around River Prairie to help educate locals about bees! 

“I also want people to see that this is something they can do on their own to help the environment,” Keanan said. 

Though Keanan hopes he’ll receive his Eagle rank in the near future, he also hopes to work on earning more merit badges as well as helping with younger scouts. In the distant future, he hopes to work in the field of natural sciences. 


Check out some progress photos from the project ...