By Mark Iacampo May 24, 2012
HOHENFELS, Germany -- Members of the Hohenfels Girl Scouts, with some help from some male siblings and a handful of adults, rolled up their sleeves and dug into the dirt to construct two "insect hotels" in Hohenfels, recently.
Planting flowers, stacking pallets, and spreading straw, the scouts created two distinctly different "hotels." One is near the Girl Scout hut on Linderberg Street, and the other is located close to Gate 2 near the beginning of the PT running course. Both are well marked with large informational signs.
"Every year the Girl Scouts celebrate World Thinking Day, and the theme this year was 'Go Green, Save Our Planet,'" said Dominique Schnell, Brownie Troop 555 leader. "And since this is also the 100th year anniversary of the Girl Scouts I wanted to do something special, something big."
While the Girl Scouts normally celebrate World Thinking Day in February, Bavarian winter weather prompted Schnell to wait for spring.
"The girls received permission from the recently departed Garrison Commander Lt Col. Kevin Quarles," Schnell said. "They also coordinated with the Environmental Division of DPW to acquire the locations for the two hotels."
Reiner Buettner of the Environmental Division joined the girls as supervisor and "architect." Buettner said that though the designs of the two hotels are different, the basic structure is the same.
"Just give the animals a large variety of several habitats. Straw, which can get moist when it's raining, some dry places upstairs, some wooden logs with some holes, clay pots and so on," said Buettner.
"Some of the materials, including pallets, wood and potting soil, have been donated; other materials, including straw, clay pots and small plants, the girls brought themselves, as well as hard work," Schnell said.
Buettner said that many animals and insects lose their natural habitat through man's intensive use of natural resources. He added that it doesn't just include roads, homes and cities, but also modern agriculture which does not tolerate wild flowers.
"For example, this meadow we are standing on only has two flower species, and that's not suitable for a lot of insects," said Buettner. "Building insect hotels gives them a chance to find some substitute habitats."
Solitary bees, solitary wasps, ants and some reptiles are just a few of the visitors who might find lodging at the hotel.
"Mice will certainly use it, and possibly the European hedgehog," Buettner said. "It can give him a chance to hibernate or find a dry and safe place where he can stay at night."
Besides the benefit to the animals and insects, the hotels will allow community members a chance to watch nature in action.
"It's a chance for the children to watch some insects they may never see," said Buettner. "They can see several species all in one spot, watch them building their breeding chambers, hatching, carrying the pollen and so on."
Schnell said the hotels also represent the Hohenfels community's commitment to keeping their installation green and livable, not only for the people but for the smaller creatures, as well.
"The girls are learning we must be good stewards of Mother Earth," she said.
The scouts didn't wait for the hotels to be finished to begin watching insects, though. Even as they prepared the hotel, 11-year-old Ashlyn Haskins said she spotted worms, beetles, ants, lady bugs, crickets and grasshoppers.
Isabel Enriquez said she was thrilled to be able to give something back to the local wildlife.
"What about those insects? We take away their homes just for people's homes," she said. "Well, now it's our turn to give them a home!"