Teen Robotics Champs Create 13-Mile “Bee Byway” To Save Their Native Bees

bee byway

When two Virginia teenagers devised an innovative solution to save their native bumblebee populations, an entire community rallied to help make their dream a reality.

Joshua Nichols and Luke Marston, both 14, live in Newport News, Virginia, where they are members of an award-winning robotics team, the Ruling Robot Falcons. For about a year now, the boys have been working toward a mass planting of native and bee-friendly vegetation throughout dozens of sites in a 13-mile stretch to create a pollinator corridor—or, “The Bee Byway,” as the project is called—from Huntington Park to Newport News Park.

This pollinator corridor helps to protect bees from isolation and improves their chances of survival.

As The Bee Wayway website explains, urbanization leads to fragmentation of natural pollinator habitat, which occurs when urban development forces pockets of green spaces into isolation. When these green spaces become isolated, they act as “ecological sinks” by effectively trapping native species of plants and animals in them—which cannot grow as the isolated urban green spaces don’t have the resources to support growth.

Bumblebees, in particular, are among the hardest-hit species by isolated urban green spaces due to human development taking up space where they need to build their nests.

The Bee Byway acts as a pollinator corridor to connect those isolated pockets of urban green space by planting bee-friendly plants in both public and private green spaces. This guarantees that bees have a suitable habitat every one-third of a mile along the corridor.

To do so, Nichols and Marston needed people from their community to volunteer and donate, as well as homeowners, schools, and churches that would be willing to offer green space that could be converted into a pollinator garden. When they began planting in March, they had 30 volunteers on board to help, with another 300 ready to pitch in.

“The idea behind it is based on the idea of connectivity,” Nichols told the Daily Press back in January. “Connecting existing natural areas through added natural areas.”

“Bumblebees are what’s called a keystone species,” Marston added. “So bumblebees, like many other animals such as oysters, support their local ecosystem.”

Luke’s mother, Alina Marston, who also serves as the robotics team coach, said she’s watched her son “blossom through the competitions, both personally and academically.”

“He tells me all the time that he doesn’t have to wait till he grows up to make a difference in the world,” she told the publication. “He can do it right now.”

The kids, as they say, might just be alright after all.

Stacey Ritzen

Written by Stacey Ritzen