Tuesday, May 25, 2010
The Hive Detectives, written by Loree G Burns with photos by Ellen Harasimowicz. Houghton, T Allen. 2010. $22.50 ages 9 and up
"In addition to California almond trees in February, Dave's bees pollinate Florida citrus trees in March, Pennsylvania apple trees in April and May, Maine blueberry bushes in June and Pennsylvania pumpkin plants in July.
"The biggest thing about bees is not honey," says Dave. "It's that your food supply depends on them.""
When twenty million bees disappeared from four hundred of Dave Hackenburg's beehives in the winter of 2006, people took notice. It became big news and Dave could not explain what had happened. It was as if the bees knew what he did not! Loree Griffin Burns, dedicated researcher and writer, was intrigued and determined to learn all she could about honeybees and the threat that researchers are calling Colony Collapse Disorder. She has written an amazing book about her many discoveries, the people she met while doing her research, and the honeybees who do so much in this world of ours.
She tells us about some of the discoveries being made:
"Among this 'stuff' were striking changes in the way the bees' internal organs looked under the microscope. Dennis found swollen, discolored, and scarred tissues and organs throughout the bodies of bees from CCD hives. The CCD bees also contained evidence of yeast, bacteria, and fungal infections, often all in the same bee. These abnormalities weren't seen in bees from healthy hives."
Many suspicions have surfaced as to what is causing the collapse but hive detectives have not been able to link any one particular thing to what is happening in the affected colonies. Pests have been ruled out, as have viruses. Even pesticides don't seem to effect an infected colony more than a healthy one, despite the high levels found in samples of both wax and pollen in many:
"The first surprise was how common chemicals were; Maryann found them in almost every sample she tested, whether it came from a CCD hive or a healthy hive. Of 208 pollen samples, only three were completely chemical-free. 'It was shocking to us to find, on average, five pesticides in each pollen sample,' said Maryann. 'In one sample we found seventeen different pesticides.' Perhaps even more shocking was that the chemicals found most frequently -- and at the highest levels -- were those that beekeepers themselves put in the hive to protect their bees from Varroa mites. Somehow these beekeeper-applied chemicals were finding their way into the pollen the bees stored in the hive."
Loree Griffin Burns does a remarkable job of making her story readable and informative. I could not put it down once I began reading. She writes clearly and with her audience in mind. Hers is a story that could easily be shared as a readaloud in elementary classrooms and would allow for interesting discussion and discovery. The photos by Ellen Harasimowicz are beautiful, clear and offer much additional visual meaning to the text shared. Their story is compelling and gives one pause to consider how this catastrophe will have a lasting effect on every one of us. In a world without honeybees, we will have no honey for our toast, no beeswax candles and no creams for our skin. More important than all of that is the question of what happens to our fruits, vegetables and nuts? Our food supply depends on honeybees and the remarkable work they do.
Throughout the text, Burns includes notes that introduce the dream team of bee scientists, explain what comprises a hive, who's who in there, what bee bodies are like and finally in her Appendix Bee she shares some of the amazing discoveries she made while doing her research. She writes them on mock notebook pages, with accompanying photos that add to our store of knowledge. She also includes a most helpful glossary, a materials to study list and selected references for anyone wanting to continue learning about this fascinating phenomenon.
This is a stunning addition to the SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD series!! Let me repeat myself, please. You need these books in your libraries at school and at home. They are written to make even the most reluctant scientists (moi!) keen on what there is to be learned about the natural world and to reawaken and inform our concerns about it.