Girl Scout’s Silver Award leads to good, just Bee Cause

Girl Scout’s Silver Award leads to good, just Bee Cause
Girl Scout Leanna Pignataro of Freeport, left, with her Silver Award mentor Jean-Marie Posner, the resident beekeeper at Sands Point Preserve, right. (Photo courtesy of the Girl Scouts of Nassau County)

For one Girl Scout, it’s enough to do a community project just “Bee Cause.”

It was the efforts of 16-year-old Scout Leanna Pignataro of Freeport while working on her Silver Award project, punnily called Bee Cause, that affected the Sands Point Preserve and the nearby community.

Pignataro said the genesis of the idea came when she decided to focus on the plight of honeybees for her Silver Award in 2017.

“We need bees to pollinate flowers and food, and if we don’t have enough bees, then we don’t have enough food, and that’s something that’s very threatening to not only humans, but to animals, so that could really disrupt the food chain,” Pignataro said in a phone interview. “So I thought we need we need these here. We need them now. And the more bees that we can get into our communities, the better.”

She thought the Sands Point Preserve, already home to several hives, would be a great place to begin the project, and met with resident beekeeper Jean-Marie Posner.

The two collaborated, with Pignataro learning more about how to tend to the bees and what adjustments were needed to help the hives succeed.

All in all, Pignataro and Posner introduced about 30,000 bees to a new hive. Additionally, Pignataro educated residents and young children about the importance of honeybees before donating the beehive she had built to the preserve.

“I particularly admired the determination and enthusiasm displayed by Leanna,” Posner said in a statement. “I feel certain that Leanna’s achievement will inspire others to follow her leadership example.”

As a result of Pignataro’s project, the Port Washington-based Peter and Jeri Dejana Family Foundation awarded a $5,000 grant to the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, which the organization says will go to support its services and programs.

Now, two years later, Pignataro is working on her Gold Award, with the preserve also featured in her plans.

“I noticed the problem with ticks on Long Island that we’re always finding ticks on us, and a lot of people are getting sick,” Pignataro said. “So I researched natural predators of ticks, because it seems that pesticides aren’t working, and they’re harmful to the environment. I found that the northern bobwhite quail is something that eats these ticks, so I decided to incubate and raise quail.”

Pignataro said that 35 of the 40 quail eggs that she incubated had hatched. She released them, along with “a few 100 other quail” that she did not raise, some at the Sands Point Preserve and some at the Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson.

She added that while she returned to the preserve to take care of her beehive after the project’s completion, having most recently visited to winterize it, she has seen it less since the start of the pandemic.

“I do miss it,” Pignataro said. “I miss driving up there and going into the bees because they wouldn’t sting you or anything. They were very calm, very gentle, and it was nice to watch them grow to watch them make their honey. I felt connected to the bees that even weren’t part of the hive that I built. It was a community. And it was really something to see that I had created this. This is me.”

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