This gives a whole new meaning to the term “creature comforts.”
For his Eagle Scout service project, Jaime Latorre of Troop 2 from Rye, N.Y. (Greater Hudson Valley Council), created an eco-friendly bug hotel.
Jaime and his fellow Scouts built the hotel by hand at a local nature center and wildlife preserve. The multistory abode provides a home for beneficial bugs like bees, wasps, beetles, spiders and praying mantises.
These are the types of insects we two-legged creatures want around, because they pollinate flowers and plants and help keep unwanted pests at bay. By creating the bug hotel, Jaime has opened a place where these little ones can “check in” for a few days or even an entire season. They’re instinctually drawn to the protection offered by the variety of natural and man-made habitats inside.
There’s no room service at this hotel, but each insect inhabitant can choose from a variety of suites furnished with materials like bricks, sticks, pinecones, moss, bamboo and bark.
Knowing that visitors to the Rye Nature Center might be confused by what they’re seeing, Jaime and his volunteers even added an explanatory sign.
“The interpretative signage informs and educates visitors about conserving our environment,” Jaime says.
The idea of leaving this planet better than he found it is something of a passion for the 16-year-old Jaime, who passed his Eagle board of review last October.
He’s even completed his own TEDx talk about climate change, and the video has been seen by more than 1,600 people and counting.
Jaime first learned of bug hotels when he visited a wildlife center near his town.
“A bee pollinator construction drew my attention, and then I thought about other insects that could also need a shelter to live, reproduce and pollinate in order to bolster the health of other local ecosystems,” he says.
Building a hotel
The hotel is a wooden structure with several partitioned “rooms” designed for different kinds of insects.
To build it, Jaime and his crew first raked, leveled and cleaned the designated space. Then they placed six pairs of cinder blocks on the ground and added eight wooden pallets for the base.
Two pressure-treated plywood sheets serve as the roof, with a horizontal piece of wood between. On top of the roof, Jaime added tar paper and shingles to protect the structure and keep the occupants cozy and dry in any weather.
Secondary pieces of wood were added to the bottom and sides to add structural support.
Then came the really fun part: packing the rooms with eco-friendly materials. After that, everything was covered with chicken wire so that the contents were accessible only to bugs — and not rodents or other predators.
Demonstrating leadership, overcoming challenges
To complete an Eagle project, a young person must lead others, proving that no grand task can be completed alone.
For Jaime, leadership started by explaining the plan to all the Scouts and adults who showed up to help.
“I assigned different positions and tasks in order to keep a constant flow of teamwork,” he says. “I set goals at the end of each session and showed my appreciation for their effort.”
Jaime says the toughest part of the construction was the roof — an effort that required precision (“measure twice, cut once”) to ensure everything fit and would remain stable.
Completing an Eagle project during a pandemic presented its own challenges.
“I had to make sure that COVID-19 procedures were followed by the volunteers at all times, including taking temperatures, wearing masks and keeping social distance,” Jaime says.
Learning about himself
All that work, all that responsibility for others can be a truly transformative experience. Scouts who complete Eagle projects learn that they’re capable of anything — a confidence that will prepare them for college, a career and life.
“I learned that I’m able to organize and prepare a large-scale project with different roles and tasks,” Jaime says. “I learned how to effectively communicate and how a good leader has to be proactive, self-aware, passionate and coherent.”
He learned something about the natural world, too.
“I became more aware of the importance of conserving nature and its beauty in our daily lives,” he says. “Small steps, like a bug hotel for tiny creatures, can make a big difference in our planet.”