Spot on Science: Bees

WHAT’S THE BUZZ ABOUT SPRING BEING HERE? I’LL TELL YOU! IT’S THE BEE’S KNEES OF COURSE!

DID YOU REALIZE THAT ALL WINTER LONG BEES HUDDLE TOGETHER TO KEEP WARM WHILE SNACKING ON THEIR HONEY SUPPLY? BUT WHEN THE WARM WEATHER OF SPRING ARRIVES THEY FINALLY GET TO STRETCH THEIR LITTLE LEGS AND WINGS. BUT IT’S NOT ALL A SWEET LIFE FOR THESE LITTLE GUYS. IN FACT, THE RUSTY PATCHED BUMBLEBEE WAS JUST ADDED TO THE ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST. IT IS THE FIRST BEE SPECIES IN THE UNITED STATES TO BE LISTED AS ENDANGERED.

SEE THEIR RUSTY LITTLE PATCH? IN THE PAST TWENTY YEARS THESE BEES HAVE DISAPPEARED FROM ABOUT 90 PERCENT OF THEIR EAST COAST AND MIDWEST HOMES. SCIENTISTS THINK THIS IS DUE TO HABITAT LOSS, PESTICIDES AND CLIMATE CHANGE.

YOU MIGHT THINK OKAY SO LESS BEES MEANS LESS STINGS RIGHT? BUT IT ALSO MEANS LESS HONEY AND LESS FRUITS AND VEGGIES TOO BECAUSE BEES ARE VERY IMPORTANT POLLINATORS. THEY HELP TRANSFER POLLEN FROM ONE PLANT TO THE NEXT SO THEY CAN PRODUCE CROPS.

BUT BEES ARE PRETTY BRAINY AND SOME SCIENTISTS ARE HOPING THAT WILL HELP THEM SURVIVE THEIR CHANGING ENVIRONMENT. IN FACT SCIENTISTS AT A LONDON UNIVERSITY WERE ABLE TO TRAIN BEES TO PLAY SOCCER. WELL NOT FULL ON SOCCER BUT THEY DID TEACH BEES TO ROLL A BALL INTO A GOAL AND FOR EVERY GOAL THEY REWARDED THE BEES WITH A SUGARY TREAT.

THEY FOUND THAT THE BEES LEARNED BEST FROM A FAKE BEE OR FROM EACH OTHER THAT IF THEY GOT THE BALL IN THE GOAL THEY WOULD EARN A REWARD. AND EVENTUALLY THE BEES EVEN STARTED CHOOSING BALLS THAT WERE ALREADY CLOSE TO THE GOAL TO MOVE THERE.

BUT WE CAN’T RELY ON THE LITTLE GUYS TO SAVE THEIR ENTIRE SPECIES BY PLAYING SOCCER. WE NEED TO BE INVOLVED TOO. THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE IS WORKING TO GET FARMERS TO PLANT BEE FRIENDLY CROPS WHEN THEIR FIELDS AREN’T IN USE, BUT YOU CAN START A FLOWER GARDEN TO GIVE BEES A NEW HOME.

AND YOU CAN KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN LOOKING FOR THE FUZZY FRIENDS AND REPORTING THEM TO BUMBLE BEE WATCH .ORG.

LOOKING OUT FOR THESE HONEY BUNNIES IS SO IMPORTANT TO KEEP SPRING IN BLOOM!


Instructional Links


Website: Bee Spotter | Info on bees. Create an account & submit data about bees.

Video: PBS LearningMedia, KQED Quest, The Bounty of Bees | Includes background essay & discussion questions about disappearing bees.

Website: United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Pollinator Live | Includes webcasts, webinars, & teacher resources.

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