Spring has Sprung! Help Save the Bees with a Native Pollinator Garden

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Spring has Sprung! Help Save the Bees with a Native Pollinator Garden

The grass is green, the sky is blue, and flowers are blooming! Now is the time to start working on your garden. This spring, why not make your yard a paradise for pollinators, providing them with the nectar and pollen they need to be strong and healthy? Planet Bee spent hours poring over the best pollinator plants native to the Bay Area. We were excited to discover that some have medicinal uses, have been used by Native American tribes, and play host to a variety of butterfly species! Here's a list of some of our favorites:

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Baby Blue Eyes: a carpet of beautiful blue flowers, bliss for bees! Annual groundcover, flowers from early spring to midsummer. Must be kept moist if grown in full sun-- prefers partial shade.

Silver Carpet Spreading Beach Aster: Ground cover with silver leaves and purple flowers in late summer. Native to the coastal bluffs of Monterey county. Host to Gabb's Checkerspot Butterfly larvae.

California Poppy: 3 inches tall, with beautiful orange flowers. The state flower of California. Used by Planet Bee in all our seed balls! Medicinal uses include treatment of insomnia, aches, nervous agitation, and diseases of the bladder and liver.

Checkerbloom: 2 foot spreading wildflower native to the coastal prairie, with beautiful pink flowers. A nectar and larval food source for the West Coast Lady, Painted Lady, Common Checkered Skipper, and the Gray Hairstreak butterflies.

Silver Lupine: Tall plant with silver leaves and blue flowers in summer. Host to the caterpillar of San Francisco’s rare and endangered Mission Blue Butterfly. Native Americans have drunk tea with lupine leaves to treat nausea, failure to urinate, and internal hemorrhage. Some subspecies of lupine have poisonous seeds.

Narrowleaf Milkweed: 2-4 foot plant with pink flowers in summer. Larval host and food source for the Monarch butterfly. Tolerates shade. Different Native American tribes have had different uses for it. The Zuni have used the silky seed fibers to make yarn which was woven into a fabric worn by dancers. The Pueblo have eaten green milkweed pods and uncooked roots. The Yokia Indians of Mendocino County have eaten young flowers. A number of tribes have turned the sticky sap into chewing gum by heating it until it became solid, then adding salmon fat or dear grease.

Showy Tarweed: 3-4 foot plant with yellow flowers. Drought tolerant. Some native North American Indian tribes have relied on tarweed seeds as their staple food source. These seeds are rich in oil, and can be ground into a powder and eaten dry, mixed with water, or combined with cereal flours.

California Yampah: 3 foot perennial grass-like plant with white flowers in summer. Native to Mt Diablo. It can be found in the Central Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills, growing in moist soil, often near streams. Yampah seeds and leaves can be eaten, as can their tubers. These "Indian potatoes"  were relished by American Indians to the point the plants were over-harvested to extinction in many areas. Uncooked yampah roots are a gentle laxative if consumed in excess and were used medicinally for this purpose.

Happy gardening!

Sources

www.baynatives.com

For more info on Lupines: http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/WildLupine.html

For more info on Narrowleaf Milkweed:  https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_asfa.pdf  

For more info on California Yampah: https://granadanativegarden.org/2016/07/14/care-for-a-side-of-yampah-with-your-meal-sir/

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Knock, knock...

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Knock, knock...

Hello, and happy April Fool's Day!

Today we'd like to share a couple of our favorite cheesy bee jokes with you. 

Q: What do you call a bee that lives in America?
A: A USB! 

Q: Why did the bee go to the barbershop?
A: To get a buzz-cut!

Q: What do you call a bee born in May?
A: A maybe! 

Q: Why did the bees go on strike?
A: Because they wanted more honey and shorter working flowers! 

We wish you a day of fun and laughter. 

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The History of Earth Day

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The History of Earth Day

Do you know how Earth Day began?

Up until the last few decades, Americans have been mostly unaware of the negative environmental impacts we are having on our planet.  We believed that the land was something which would always be there for us to use, something that could infinitely replenish itself. It is only rather recently that we've discovered how far this is from the truth. 

The seeds of the green movement as we know it were first planted in the 1960s, with Rachel Carson's best-selling "Silent Spring", a book addressing the disastrous impact of pesticides on wildlife and ecosystems-- an issue that is instrumental in the decline of bees today.

Earth Day was founded by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 after witnessing the destruction caused by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara. In an amazing display of cross party-cooperation, Nelson persuaded Republican Pete McCloskey to serve as his co-chair. He built the event up by tapping into the power of the anti-Vietnam War protests erupting across the country, and picked the date April 22nd due to its convenience for college students, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams. Nelson also put together a staff of 85 to promote Earth Day across America. 

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets in massive coast-to-coast rallies to demonstrate for a healthy environment. Earth Day  gave a voice to the new tide of concern for the environment. Groups that had been fighting separately against such issues as oil spills, sewage dumps, and deforestation realized that they had a common agenda, and grew stronger by banding together. Impressively, the movement managed to unite Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, rural and urban. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Environmental protection was finally a part of national policy!

In 1990, for Earth Day's 20th anniversary, the event went global. 200 million people in 141 countries celebrated the event, and Nelson was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Earth Day 2000 used the power of the internet to organize activists, with 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundreds of millions of people.

Earth Day 2010 was a struggle, beset by climate change deniers, wealthy oil lobbyists, and a largely uninterested public. Despite all the odds, Earth Day was a success, with 250,000 people attending a Climate Rally at the National Mall in Washington DC, and the launching of the world's largest environmental service project, "A Billion Acts of Green®", a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into "The Canopy Project".

Today, Earth Day is the largest secular event in the world, with more than a billion people in 192 countries across the world participating. This April 22nd, help us recapture that original Earth Day energy, and defend Mother Earth with us, by signing up for the Burroughs Family Farm 5k Run! Proceeds support Planet Bee's educational programs, allowing us to inspire a green-minded generation who will protect the planet in the decades to come. Today more than ever, we need to stand together to ensure a sustainable future.

Want to learn more about the history of Earth Day? Check out the cool video below! 

Source:

 "The History of Earth Day". Earth Day Network. 2017. http://www.earthday.org/about/the-history-of-earth-day/ 

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Who Runs the Hive? Girls!

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Who Runs the Hive? Girls!

From the moment they're born to the moment they die, female worker bees labor tirelessly to keep the hive alive-- cleaning cells, feeding larvae, making wax, foraging for nectar and pollen, guarding the hive against attack, and much more. 

Today we celebrate all of us lucky enough to be born female, whether we are daughters or mothers, workers or queens. Women run the world just as surely as female bees run the hive-- and it is no different in our office, where our Executive Director (Queen Deb!), two full-time Environmental Educators, and four interns are all women. 

Today, take some time to thank the women in your life-- your mother, your wife, your sister, your daughter, your friends, and your coworkers. If you are a woman, look back on your accomplishments and feel proud of who you are. Remember that women are strong, and women get the job done. 

Happy International Women's Day!

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Buzz Past the Finish Line with Planet Bee!

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Buzz Past the Finish Line with Planet Bee!

Looking for something fun - and fulfilling - to do this Earth Day? We've got just the thing.

On Saturday, April 22nd, join us for an amazing 5K Benefit Run and family-friendly event at Burroughs Family Farms in Snelling, CA. 

The Run Happy Bee Happy event will kick off at 10 am with the 5k Run/Walk followed by the Kids’ Run.  Race participants will run through gorgeous organic almond orchards, and get a tour of Burroughs Family Farm's organic and sustainable practices – including their solar panel sites, farm-made compost, biodiverse beneficial hedgerows, and organic pastured hens. Following the race, everyone will enjoy brunch made with Burroughs Family Farm products and other locally-sourced organic foods. Brunch will include quiche, yogurt parfait, various fruits and granola, coffee, lemonade and some adult beverages. You won't leave hungry. 

Besides the run, there's going to be a lot to do. Face painting, a petting zoo, wagon rides, live music, fresh-off-the-farm food... We can't wait! We'll also be teaching a free Humble Honey Bee workshop, and raffling off swag from our awesome sponsors, as well as Planet Bee honey.

The best part? When you register for the run, you've made a donation! The proceeds of this run benefit us at Planet Bee Foundation.

If you're not the running type (believe us, we understand), you can still get involved to support Planet Bee and this incredible event. Become a sponsor of the race, and we'll put your name on a sign, and fill your pockets with California wildflower honey! You can become a sponsor by emailing Benina Montes, our partner at Burroughs Family Farms: benina@burroughsfamilyfarms.com.

Want to learn more about Burroughs Family Farms? Check out the video below. 

We'll see you there!

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Spotlight on our Volunteers!

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Spotlight on our Volunteers!

Planet Bee Foundation Emily Erickson

Our first volunteer, Emily Erickson, is a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Entomology. She completed her undergraduate degree at UC Davis with a B.S. in Agricultural Science and a minor in Entomology.  Now, she is enjoying learning about native bee behavior and identification for her current research project. Eventually, Emily hopes to work with urban bee conservation through habitat restoration and pollinator gardens. She cares deeply about urban green space development, both for ecosystem restoration and for human emotional and physical health. 

Q: How did you find out about Planet Bee?

A: I found Planet Bee while searching for volunteer opportunities after my graduation from UC Davis. I grew up across the Bay in Oakland, and I was attracted to the prospect of applying my knowledge in apiculture and entomology to development and education within my own community. 

Q: How are you involved with Planet Bee?

Planet Bee Foundation Emily Erickson

A: While I was living in Oakland, I helped with some beekeeping demonstrations and other outreach activities. Now that I live across the country and am less able to participate in hands on events, I contribute a blog post here and there. I hope to become more involved in the ZomBee Watch Project soon! 

Q: Why are you involved with Planet Bee?

A: I volunteer with Planet Bee because I believe that the work they do is invaluable. We have seen the positive pay-offs of urban gardens and outdoor learning, and it seems only natural to incorporate beekeeping into these existing systems. I personally felt so much awe when I came to understand how honey bees interact with each other and the surrounding environment, and I have used this information to look at my environment through a whole new lens. I believe that teaching children and adults about honey bee behavior and stewardship will have positive pay-offs towards our understanding of science and ecology, while helping to support pollinator populations and enhance urban green spaces.

Q: What has been your best experience volunteering with Planet Bee?

A: I recall showing families and children our observation hive at the Sacramento Farm to Fork festival. It was incredibly rewarding to show people how a hive looks inside, and to see them gradually get over their fears. It's something that people are very interested in learning about, but up until recently the information hasn't been that accessible. I find that people become much more interested in bees when they can watch them perform as they would inside the hive. 

Q: Why do you think the work Planet Bee does is important?

A: I think that Planet Bee's work is important in bringing vital information on honey bee biology, and by extension ecosystem health, to interested parties. 

Planet Bee Foundation Joseph See

Our second volunteer, Joseph See, grew up in Fresno California, and has had a lifelong love for insects and other living things. After graduating from California State University Long Beach, he has worked mainly as an environmental educator. Joseph is passionate about connecting people with science and fostering a love for the natural world. When not working, Joseph is usually tinkering with some sort of creature or plant related project, such as building observation hives. 

Q: How did you find out about Planet Bee?

A: I found out about Planet Bee through a friend of Debra’s when I mentioned my passion for beekeeping.

Q: How are you involved with Planet Bee?

A: I have assisted Planet Bee with tabling and community garden events

 Q: Why are you involved with Planet Bee?                                           

A: I enjoy being able to help Debra and chat with Bill and folks about bees. It is also a nice excuse to pop open beehives and bother the little creatures!

Q: What has been your best experience volunteering with Planet Bee?

Planet Bee Foundation Joseph See

A: I have enjoyed facilitating the hive dives for the public at the Kezar Community Garden. Opening up a beehive is kind of like a dissection but without the gore. Perhaps it scratches the same itch that gets kids to dig up fire ant mounds with spoons smuggled from the dining hall. It is a beautiful thing to observe the workings of this superorganism. It is great to watch people overcome their fear and start being drawn into the complexities of the hive. 

Q: Why do you think the work Planet Bee does is important?

A: I think it is great for folks to be reminded of the complexity and interconnectivity of the natural world. Bees are a great medium for that. 

Planet Bee feels so grateful to have two such talented and passionate scientists as our volunteers. Despite their busy schedules, both Emily and Joseph have chosen to dedicate some of their time to helping Planet Bee pursue its mission of creating a green-minded generation through environmental stewardship and spreading the message of the struggling honey bee. They are an inspiration for us all.

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2016: Sweet as Honey for Planet Bee!

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2016: Sweet as Honey for Planet Bee!

Planet Bee Educator Sarah puts her antennae up with students at Fairfield Elementary

Planet Bee Educator Sarah puts her antennae up with students at Fairfield Elementary

Since becoming a nonprofit, we’ve taught our Humble Honey Bee Program at 78  schools in Northern California and worked with 9,500 students; in 2016 alone we've taught over 6,000 students! That means that last year 6,000 children came face to face with our observation hive of live bees, learned how bees create one third of our food supply through pollination, and came up with ways that each of them personally could help save the bees from Colony Collapse Disorder. Our 90% retention rate proves that these students will remember what they have learned, perhaps even for the rest of their lives. Our goal is that  these students will grow up to become environmentalists, making decisions that will impact the future of our planet and all its inhabitants.

We also tabled at a multitude of events. Some, such as Discovery Day at AT&T Park and the San Francisco Green Festival Expo, had attendance of more than 30,000. Others, such as Health Hub Novato Food Drive and Pollinator FunFair, brought our message home to local communities. By bringing our observation hive and spreading the word to save the bees at these events, we have influenced hundreds of thousands of children and adults alike to become environmental stewards.

A young girl removes a frame of honey from a hive at Keller Estate Winery 

A young girl removes a frame of honey from a hive at Keller Estate Winery 

Our Adopt-A-Hive program saw substantial growth in 2016. Planet Bee permanently installed  hives at eight locations in the Bay Area. We taught beekeeping and honey-spinning workshops at six of these locations, including Google, SAP, Homeward Bound of Marin, and Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project.  Hundreds of employees and students were able to don beekeeping suits and work hands-on with our hives, inspiring them to develop an emotional connection to the bees and therefore to help protect them in the years to come. Additionally, Planet Bee sold 250 packets of bees, thus introducing 2,500,000 new honey bees to pollinate the flowers of Northern California. All proceeds from bee sales went directly into supporting our educational programs.

Students build ZomBee light traps at Argonne Elementary

Students build ZomBee light traps at Argonne Elementary

Perhaps the crowning achievement of 2016 was the creation and launch of Planet Bee’s Citizen Science ZomBee Watch K-12 School Program (ZBW). Created in collaboration with ZomBee discoverer and San Francisco State University Entomology Professor John Hafernik and his team, this program teaches students to become ZomBee Hunters! ZomBees are honey bees which have been parasitized by zombie flies, causing them to fly at night and be attracted to lights. This three-day program is STEM-based and complies with Next Generation Science Standards. During the first day, students learn about the ZomBee phenomenon and use recycled materials to engineer their own ZomBee light traps. On the second day, students practice the scientific method by examining and analyzing samples of zombie flies, zombie larvae, and ZomBees. Between the second and third days, students put out their ZomBee traps. On the third day, students examine the contents of their traps, determine whether or not they have caught any ZomBees, and post their findings on the official ZBW website, thus contributing to real scientific research on the geographical spread of the zombie fly.  Teachers at Bay Area schools interested in bringing ZBW to their students can sign up here. Planet Bee has enjoyed piloting the ZBW program with Bay Area schools such as Oak Grove Elementary and Argonne Elementary, and is looking forward to piloting our national remote ZBW program with students at Sandwich Middle School in Massachusetts this spring. We will also begin offering ZBW to out-of-state schools in the coming fall.

In 2016, we were overjoyed to add five new worker bees to our hive, allowing us to enormously expand the reach and scope of our programs. We had a great deal of help from our three new San Francisco State University interns, who assisted Planet Bee in exchange for college credits. Shane Garvin, our token drone and resident mad scientist, helped create the curriculum for our brand-new ZomBee Watch Program Nicole Zamignani, a pediatrician-in-the-making, was our jack of all trades. Ashley Velasquez, an extraordinary artist, became our resident photographer, videographer, and graphic designer. And of course we had Joelle Dugay, our longest intern of two years, without whom none of our school visits or events would be scheduled. Joelle keeps Planet Bee buzzing with her lightning efficiency and amazing organizational skills.

Planet Bee Foundation Staff

Planet Bee was also able to hire two new full-time environmental educators, allowing us to teach many more students than ever before! Sarah Thorson recently graduated from Chapman University with majors in Environmental Science and Dance. She took charge of communications and community partnerships, and Planet Bee has grown tremendously due to her long hours of work. I myself, Ayla Fudala, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with majors in Environmental Studies and English. I became Planet Bee’s staff writer, composing blogs and newsletters that I hope have informed and entertained you. Both Sarah and I have taught programs, done beekeeping and honey spinning, tabled at events, advertised on social media, written countless grant applications, and created and improved curriculum; and we have loved every minute of it!

To us, Planet Bee feels like a home, and we have our astonishing Founder and Executive Director to thank for it. Everything that Planet Bee has accomplished has been a result of the tireless love and labor of Debra Tomaszewski, who in the space of only a few years miraculously managed to transform Planet Bee from a simple backyard beekeeping club, run side-by-side with her husband Bill, into a fully-fledged nonprofit, spreading the word about the struggling honey bee to thousands of children and adults across Northern California. I am amazed every day to come in to work and find that not only has Deb been up all night emailing schools and sponsors, she has also woken up early to provide bagels and coffee and a bright smile for her staff. Our queen bee makes every day a day to remember.

In this past year, Planet Bee’s reach has expanded beyond our wildest dreams, and we have transformed from a simple idea to a fully-fledged educational nonprofit. None of these successes would have been possible without your support, and so we thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.

No matter how much you’ve done, there is always infinite room to grow. In the spirit of self-improvement, here are Planet Bee’s new year’s resolutions!

In 2017, our goal is to teach our Humble Honey Bee program at 60 schools to another 7,000 future environmental stewards. We plan to bring our new ZomBee Watch Program to at least another 10 schools and 500 students and will pilot our remote ZBW program at Sandwich Middle School in Massachusetts,  along with other schools across the United States—changing us from a local nonprofit to a national one! We intend to make this remote ZBW program open to all by next fall, so email our Executive Director Debra Tomaszewski at debra@planetbee.org if you’re interested.

On the Adopt-A-Hive front,  our goal is to increase the number of hives at our current locations, and to install hives at several new locations, including schools, community gardens, and corporate campuses. Our AAH program will bring hundreds of thousands of new bees to the Bay Area in 2017. This summer we plan to build an outdoor classroom, containing a pollinator garden and hives, in the  Golden Gate Park CommUNITY Garden. We will invite schools to take field trips to the garden, where students will get to suit up for a unique hands-on beekeeping experience!

At present, we are tirelessly working to raise funds so that we can continue to offer our programs at no cost, removing any barriers to accomplishing our mission of creating a green-minded generation of environmental stewards. In 2017, we will dedicate ourselves to achieving our goals and spreading a love for honey bees to thousands more, from coast to coast.

From all of us at Planet Bee – Happy New Year. Here’s to very green and healthy future!

Written by Ayla Fudala

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Colony Failure Linked to Low Sperm Viability in Honey Bees

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Colony Failure Linked to Low Sperm Viability in Honey Bees

In the last few years, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has become the buzzword on everybody’s lips. CCD is when a seemingly healthy honey bee colony with adequate food stores and brood (bee larvae) abandon their hive, leaving only the queen and a few nurse bees behind. Since it was first recognized in 2006, bee mortality rates due to CCD have risen to 44% in 2016. This drastic population decline has been chiefly attributed to four factors: poor nutrition, pests, pathogens, and pesticides.

A recent study by the USDA ARS Bee Research Facility suggests that another factor contributing to CCD could be low sperm quality or “viability”.

Let’s begin with the bee who produces this sperm, the drone. A drone is a male bee, often derided as the “free loader” of the colony due to the fact that he does no work and eats twice as much honey as a worker bee. The true role of a drone is to reproduce. Once a drone is mature (14 days after emerging from the cell) he has 21 days to mate with a queen before his sperm expires. This is accomplished in “congregations,” where around 25,000 drones and virgin queens gather and mate. Each queen will mate with around 12 drones (who die in the process), and will keep their sperm in her “spermatheca,” a small, ball-shaped pouch in her abdomen. She will then use this stored sperm to fertilize the eggs that will eventually become workers.

Due to this highly efficient system, a queen will only mate one or two times in her life. Thus, it is essential to the colony’s survival that the queen remains strong with healthy laying habits. One of the primary warning signs that beekeepers look for in unhealthy hives is a “spotty” brood pattern, meaning that there are many empty cells in the middle of a brood site. This happens because the bees notice a problem with the larvae and remove it, or because the queen has very low productivity and lays eggs inconsistently. The February 2016 USDA study examined spermatheca from queen bees sampled from beekeepers across the country. The beekeepers had evaluated the strength of the colonies that the queens were being extracted from (good or poor health). They found that the strength of the colony seemed to correlate to percent sperm viability in the queen.

The USDA went on to test their hypothesis that physical factors such as shipping temperatures were to blame for loss of sperm viability. This was tested in the lab by exposing mated queens to the temperature extremes that they may experience during travel (39°F and 104°F) for one, two, and four hours, and then testing sperm viability. They also ordered queens from breeders and attached devices to the cages to chart the fluctuation of temperature during travel.

The results of this study showed that although exposure to extreme temperatures did not increase queen mortality, there was a significant loss of sperm viability. They also found that there was variability in shipping temperatures and sperm viability between breeders. So, the next time you order queens from a breeder, call them first to check how they ship their queens, or buy local so you can transport them yourself!

Written by Emily Erickson, graduate student of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University

Source:

Pettis, Jeffery S., et al. “Correction: Colony Failure Linked to Low Sperm Viability in Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) Queens and an Exploration of Potential Causative Factors.” PLOS ONE Vol. 11, Ed. 5. 2016. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0147220

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Why We Teach Outside

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Why We Teach Outside

The Costs of an Indoor Childhood

Did you know that the average American child spends 7 and a half hours a day, or about 53 hours a week, indoors consuming media? Studies have found that higher media use results in lower grades in school.  An "indoor childhood" also increases the risks of asthma, diabetes, obesity, attention deficit disorders, poor eyesight, low vitamin D levels, aggressive behavior, and personal isolation. In fact, because of inactive lifestyles and increased time spent indoors, today's children may have life spans that are 3 to 5 year shorter than their parents!

The Problems with Test-Based Education

In 2001, the US Congress and many states chose to shift towards a “high stakes” educational approach by emphasizing student performance on standardized tests. This approach emphasizes the memorization and recitation of information, a system in which students are passive receivers rather than active participants. No emotional connection is developed between child and knowledge; and so the material is often forgotten the moment it is no longer of use.  Learning facts about the environment isn't enough to enough to make an impact on students' values or inspire them to action. In fact, learning about an environmental issue that seems too complex or too difficult to solve can intimidate children and adults alike, making them feel powerless to make a change.

The Benefits of Outdoor Education

However, it's not all bad! Studies show that all of these costs can be counterbalanced by the positive effects of an outdoor childhood. Children who participate in outdoor education programs receive better grades and test scores, exhibit better classroom behavior and fewer disciplinary problems, are more motivated and enthusiastic about learning, are able to concentrate for longer periods of time, and are less likely to drop out of school.  Outdoor education is particularly effective at helping under-served, low-income students perform better in school. Spending time being active outdoors also improves general physical fitness, decreases risks of obesity, and improves your immune system.  Outdoor environmental education even advances children’s emotional development! One study found that students with higher levels of environmental concern were more socially mature, responsible, conscientious and value oriented than those who showed little concern.  

Experiential and Affective Learning Create Environmental Stewards

We at Planet Bee, along with many of today's environmental educators, endorse experiential and affective learning.

Experiential learning means allowing the student to have their own experiences which they then reflect on and draw conclusions from, making them active rather than passive in the learning process. Studies show that the more experiences children have in nature, the more inventive and creative they will become, and the more concerned and active about the environment they will be.

Affective learning means cultivating an emotional or value-based link between child and knowledge. For example, when we encourage our students to love and want to protect honey bees, we are encouraging affective learning. The environmental attitudes of adults are often based on formative childhood experiences of emotional responses to nature or its destruction as well as role model parents or teachers. 

Both types of learning allow our students to become personally invested in environmental issues, creating a lifelong impact that will transform them into environmental stewards and inspire them to take action.

When a child like the one pictured to the right sees a bee being born with his own two eyes, he forms a bond with honey bees which he will never forget. We hope that this child and others like him, who have seen and felt the beauty of nature, will go on to lead our country towards a greener future. 

What can I do to get outdoors? 

Here are some ways that you, and your friends and family, can be more active in nature!

  • take a hike
  • visit a nature center
  • participate in a community clean up
  • walk to work or school
  • take part in a Citizen Science project

Resources for teachers:

  • Invite Planet Bee to teach our Humble Honey Bee Program at your school for FREE! Sign up here
  • Find hundreds of green lesson plans online, for instance: 

Environmental education is our future

New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, wrote that “the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, [and] enables imagination among its students is going to be the winner in the rapidly-evolving global economy of the twenty-first century.” Our planet's future depends on whether or not we can raise a green-minded generation who will take care of our environment and steer us towards a brighter tomorrow.  

Written by Staff Writer and Planet Bee Educator Ayla Fudala

 

Sources Cited

Adams, Eileen “Back to Basics: Aesthetic Experience.”  Children’s Environments Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 19-29. 1991.

Borden, R.J. and Francis, J.L. “Who cares about ecology? Personality and sex differences in environmental concern.” Journal of Personality, Vol. 46, Issue 1. March, 1978.

Chawla, Louise. “Children’s concern for the natural environment”. Children’s Environments Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 3, p. 13–21. 1988.

Coyle, Kevin J. “Back to School: Back Outside! Create High Performing Students.” National Wildlife Federation. September, 2010. https://www.nwf.org/pdf/Be%20Out%20There/Back%20to%20School%20full%20report.pdfGinsburg, MD, MSEd, Kenneth R., Committee on Communications, and Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.” American Academy of Pediatrics. 2000.

Gurevitz, Rachel.  “Affective Approaches to Environmental Education: Going beyond the Imagined Worlds of Childhood?”  Ethics, Place and Environment, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 253-268.  June, 2000.  http://wild4woodz.synthasite.com/resources/Affective%20approaches%20to%20Environmental%20Education.pdf

Hungerford, Harold, et al. Evaluating Environmental Issues and Actions. Stipes Publishing, LLC. 2003.

Kaiser Family Foundation. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds”. 2010.

Kellert, S.R. "Attitudes towards animals: Age-related development among children”. Journal of Environmental Education, V. 16, Iss. 3, p. 29-39. 1985.

Ludwig, David S.  “Childhood Obesity: The Shape of Things to Come”. New England Journal of Medicine, p. 357-23. 2007.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). “Why Teach Outside—environmental education resources.” 2016. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/ee/whyteachoutside.html

Orr, David W. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Island Press. 2004.

Ramey, CT, et al. “The Predictive Power of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the Standford-Binet Intelligence Test in a Relatively Constant Environment.” Child Development, Vol. 44, p. 790-795. 1973.

Read, H. Education through Art. Faber and Faber. 1945.

State Education and Environment Roundtable (SEER). “California Student Assessment Project: The Effect of Environment-based Education on Student Achievement.” 2000.

Stein, Rob. “Millions of Children in U.S. Found to Be Lacking Vitamin D.” The Washington Post. August, 2009.

Trudeau, F., and Shephard, R. J. “Physical education, school physical activity, school sports and academic performance.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Vol. 5, p. 12. 2008.  

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Native Bees and Why We Love Them!

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Native Bees and Why We Love Them!

                                                       Bumble bee pollinating a flower

                                                       Bumble bee pollinating a flower

Did you know that there are 4,000 different bee species native to North America? These bees vary widely, from cuckoo bees to bumble bees. Some are smaller than an eighth of an inch, while others are more than an inch long. They range in color from metallic green or blue to dark brown or black to striped red or orange. 

Native bees are often overlooked because they aren't domesticated, or because some of them don't look like "traditional" bees (fuzzy, black and yellow). But these bees are the original residents of North America, who quietly and industriously pollinate our crops side by side with our favorite bee (can you guess which?)
 
Native bees might not spend much time in the spotlight, but they make a huge contribution to our society. And they are struggling just as much as honey bees. Many species are endangered, and a few have already become extinct. The pesticides that harm honey bees also harm wild bees, as do parasites, pathogens, and poor nutrition due to monoculture farms. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences last year found that wild bees may be disappearing in California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt, the Mississippi River Valley and other key farm regions. Between 2008 and 2013, modeled bee abundance declined across 23% of US land area.

Now more than ever we must find new and innovative ways to protect these national treasures and preserve the balance of our ecosystem.
 
Environmental stewardship is more important than ever. With a few small actions, you can make a big difference in protecting and supporting our precious pollinators. Here’s one easy way: stop using pesticides in your home gardening practice and provide a diverse food source for bees by planting flowers and keeping your grass a little longer to let clover grow in.
 
Together, we can make a difference!

Sources:

Harvey, Chelsea. "Wild bees are dying off and need to be protected--but not for the reasons you think." June 22, 2015. The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com. 

Koh, Insu et al. "Modeling the status, trends, and impacts of wild bee abundance in the United States." November 20,2015. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, pnas.org. 

Moisset, Beatriz. "Native Bees of North America". November 26, 2010. Bug Guide, bugguide.net. 

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Meet Our Hive

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Meet Our Hive

This summer and fall, we were thrilled to welcome 6 new worker bees to our hive! Due to your generous contributions, we took on 4 new interns from San Francisco State University, and hired 2 full-time educators. Over the course of this blog post, we'll be introducing you to each of our new staff members in turn. We hope that you'll learn to love them as much as we do!

 We’ll start off by introducing you to SFSU sophomore and new Planet Bee intern Ashley Velasquez, who proves that big things really do come in small packages!

The daughter of refugees from El Salvador, Ashley is an extraordinary artist and Planet Bee's resident photographer and videographer. Her work with Planet Bee contributes credits towards her undergraduate degree. She is majoring in Visual Communications with a minor in Biology. Ashley's dream is to use her art to convey environmental messages. You can see one of her pieces, "Queen Bee Cross Stitch", to your right!

 I sat down with Ashley to learn more about what makes this talented artist tick.

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Planet Bee?              

A: I love being around kids because it reminds me to cherish all the little moments, and to look at the world through the eyes of a child. Kids always know so much more than you expect them to.

 Q: What is your favorite bee fact?       

A: That the drones, the male bees, are completely useless (except for one thing!)

 Q: What has been your favorite day working for Planet Bee?                           

A: My favorite work has been with Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project in Oakland. The kids are so smart and enthusiastic. I admire their work ethic and love for knowledge.

 We at Planet Bee feel so lucky to have someone as special as Ashley in our hive. We hope that you, too, are surrounded by good people for whom you feel grateful.

You just met the smallest worker bee in our hive. Now you’ll be meeting the tallest! Shane Garvin is our Teaching Fellow and token drone.

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 An entomology major at San Francisco State University, this bug-loving mad scientist is also working towards his high school teaching credential. Shane wrote the curriculum for our new ZomBee Watch Citizen Science Program, and will soon begin teaching it in schools across Northern California! We are astonished by the research, effort, and resourcefulness Shane has put into this ground-breaking project. I interviewed this brilliant entomologist to find out why he's so dedicated to Planet Bee. 

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Planet Bee? 
A:  Tough question! It's got to be a tie between getting to teach so many excited kids, and getting to work with all the wonderful Planet Bee team members. Getting to interact with so many curious young minds is rewarding in of itself, and I am truly grateful to be working in an office full of like-minded, environmentally friendly individuals.

Q: What was your favorite day working for Planet Bee?
A:  My first time working with the kids of the Acta Non Verba program! The kids in Oakland were extremely receptive to our lessons and always dying to learn more. They were also extremely brave when it came to their own beehives, and knowledgeable about how the bees help their edible garden.

Q: What is your favorite Bee fact? 
A: The queen bee can lay eggs from multiple partners at once! I was so fascinated when I found out that the queen stores gametes from around a dozen different partners and produces eggs from all those different fathers. That's why there can be several different coat colorations in a single hive.

Shane is the keystone of our team, and we feel so lucky to have him on our side! We hope that you have learned to love him as much as we do. 

Now we’ll introduce you to one of our new interns, the incomparable Nicole Zamignani! 

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The daughter of Brazilian immigrants, Nicole is a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in biology major concentrating in physiology. This LA native loves both children and the environment, and is an excellent chef. After graduating next year, Nicole plans on pursuing a career as a pediatrician. I sat down with this future doctor to hear the scoop about why she loves Planet Bee. 

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Planet Bee?
A: My favorite part is getting to meet so many different people who all share the same interest in the environment and ecology.

Q: What is your favorite bee fact?
A: That they pollinate 2,000 flowers a day!

Q: What has your favorite day working for Planet Bee been?
A: It was really cool when we went to the Clif Bar headquarters. I liked interacting with adults and seeing that they got just as excited about bees as the kids!

We hope that you enjoyed getting to know Nicole! Planet Bee feels fortunate to found such a passionate and intelligent worker bee. 

 It’s time to introduce you to our most experienced intern, Joelle Dugay.

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Joelle is a senior at San Francisco State University majoring in biology with a concentration in zoology. She has an all-consuming passion for insect taxonomy, and never goes anywhere without a test tube for scooping up samples. She is the Program Manager at Planet Bee, assisting with all administrative tasks,  scheduling school visits, helping run social media and giving presentations at events - she keeps Planet Bee buzzing! I interviewed Joelle to find out what this brilliant entomologist and administrative guru loves about Planet Bee. 

Q: What is your favorite part about working for Planet Bee?
A: My favorite part about working with Planet Bee is seeing the enthusiasm that children and adults alike show when they learn something new about bees. Insects generally do not get a lot of love or support, but it makes me happy that people can agree that that bees are need in saving and are willing to make a difference. Also, Debra feeds me a lot of burritos and tea.

Q: What has your favorite day working for Planet Bee been?
A: My favorite day at Planet Bee was when I cleaned out old honey comb and discovered live varroa mites. I think parasites are fascinating in their own right.

Q: What is your favorite bee fact?
A: Japanese honey bees have a special defense mechanism against Asian hornets - hundreds surround a hornet and rapidly move their wing muscles. The hornet is trapped in a ball of extreme heat and high CO2 concentrations, causing eventual death.
 
For someone with such dark tastes in scientific facts, Joelle is astonishingly sweet. Just don't get between her and one of her experiments! 

 Now we’d like to introduce you to one of our two new environmental educators, Sarah Thorson.

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Sarah is a Bay Area native and recent graduate of Chapman University, where she earned degrees in Environmental Science and Policy and Dance. This kombucha-drinking, yoga-loving vegan's life work is to introduce environmental concepts and awareness into school curriculum, and so she is thrilled to be teaching kids about bees! A skilled teacher and experienced environmental scientist, Sarah feels most at home when she's balancing on a ball, choreographing her own modern dance pieces, or selling organic honey at a farmer's market. I sat down with this new-age wonder to see how she's liking her time with Planet Bee. 

Q: How has your experience with Planet Bee Foundation been so far?
A: It has been amazing! It’s extremely rewarding to visit schools and see how excited the kids are about the bees.

Q: What has your favorite day been?
A: My favorite day so far was when we visited the Living Wisdom School in Palo Alto. Due to its small size, we were able to teach every kid in the school, ranging from pre-K to 8th grade. I also loved the fact that they were teaching the kids based on yoga philosophy! 

Q: What do you think is the best thing about working for Planet Bee?
A: It’s great that we get to teach about such an important issue and raise awareness about the plight of the honeybee.

Q: What’s a fun fact you’ve learned about bees?
A: My favorite fact I’ve learned is the process by which a new queen bee is chosen. Six potential queens are raised on royal jelly and the first to emerge kills all the others. There can only be one!
 
Sarah is certainly the queen bee of this hive! We feel so lucky to have this free spirit on our team. 

Finally, we’ll pull back the curtain and introduce you to the puppetmaster behind the scenes, and the author behind these newsletters: Ayla Fudala, the second of our two new Environmental Educators.

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Ayla is a Massachusetts native who graduated last May from the University of Pennsylvania, with majors in Environmental Studies and English. In the past, Ayla has worked for the EPA and USDA, and has taught creative writing to kids in New York and Hong Kong. Her spirit animal is her black cat, Sebastian, and her life's goal is to become a best-selling children's fantasy author. Ayla wants to find ways to teach children environmental stewardship through storytelling and other creative methods.

I sat down with myself and asked myself a few questions.  

Q: What do you like most about Planet Bee?
A: I really love how every day is different. Every school we visit is unique, as is every fair and every company. I love getting to meet new people, and I especially love how excited kids get about the bees!

Q: What has been your favorite day with Planet Bee so far?
A: My favorite day was actually my very first day. Planet Bee was tabling at the Pollinator Fun Fair at Playland, and I got to teach kids and adults who visited our table all the new facts I had just learned about bees. I also got to watch an adorable kid’s pollinator costume contest. To top it off, I got interviewed by Kron 4, and was able to watch myself on TV that same night!

Q: What is your favorite bee fact to teach?
A: I really enjoy teaching kids the differences between female worker bees and male drones. It always turns into a hilarious sort of competition. Girls are always devastated to learn that female worker bees do all the work, and have short lifespans, but are thrilled to learn that they’re smart and make all the decisions in the hive. Boys are overjoyed to learn that drones do no work, eat twice as much as worker bees, and live much longer, but disappointed when they find out that drones are much less intelligent. There are ups and downs for each gender, and the boys and girls loving teasing one another about them. 

I am so glad that I crossed the United States and moved to California in order to work for Planet Bee. I love my coworkers, my adorable students, and my ray-of-sunshine boss Debbie. I hope that these newsletters have helped you understand the passions and ideals that run Planet Bee, and I thank you for all of your generous contributions, which allow us to continue our work. 

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Giving Thanks

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Giving Thanks

Dear friends,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving: a day of joy and gratitude, of celebrating what we have accomplished and giving thanks for the people who bring us happiness. Therefore, Planet Bee wants to share something that never fails to bring smiles to our faces-- thank you cards from our students! Here are a couple of choice quotes and amazing drawings from thank you letters Planet Bee has received this fall.

“Dear Planet Bee Presenters,
My class has never gone to see bees on a field trip before. I think my class loved it! I hope you do this next year with the other 4th graders. Now I am going to not step on bees.
From,
Jake”

Left: Planet Bee Educator Sarah teaches about the three kinds of bees; Top right: children play our powder paint pollination game using pipe cleaner finger bees; Bottom left: children gasp as they see a drone in our observation hive; Bottom right: a student enjoys fresh honey comb

Left: Planet Bee Educator Sarah teaches about the three kinds of bees; Top right: children play our powder paint pollination game using pipe cleaner finger bees; Bottom left: children gasp as they see a drone in our observation hive; Bottom right: a student enjoys fresh honey comb

“Dear Planet Bee Foundation,
Thank you for coming to Oak Grove School. I had several favorite things about your visit. First, I loved the relay race (I won). Second, when we got to look at the bees in their hive. Last I liked when we got to look in the magnifying glass at the dead bees (kind of gross).
Sincerely,
Sophia”

"Dear Planet Bee,
I would keep the bees safe.
Your friend,
Jeremy”

“Dear Planet Bee presenters,
Thank you for coming to our school and educating our brains about bees! I learned that all the workers are girls! I would really like to help the bees survive.
Sincerely,
Jubilee”

Planet Bee Educator Ayla walks through a field of flowers and pollinators

Planet Bee Educator Ayla walks through a field of flowers and pollinators

“Dear Planet Bee,
Thank you for coming to our school and getting there early. When you got to hear the bees through the vent thing it sounded like a hundred bees were about to get out and sting you. You guys are right, we need bees and fruit, and honey bees are very good to our world. 
Sincerely,
Sean”

“Dear Planet Bee Foundation,
Thank you for coming to our school. I enjoyed doing bee things like the pollination game and seeing the bees, they were cute. I can’t believe I saw a queen bee—it was amazing!
Sincerely,
Isabelle.”

Whenever we receive a heartwarming or hilarious note from one of our students, it reminds us why we're doing this job-- to build the next generation of environmental stewards, and in doing so, to work towards a brighter future for our planet and all its inhabitants.

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No Bees, No Dinner!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of bees to our food supply. Most people aren't aware of the fact that 1/3 of the food they eat wouldn’t exist without honey bees and other pollinators! In order for a flower to turn into a fruit (anything with seeds on the inside—so this includes all sorts of things we normally think of as veggies, like cucumbers and pumpkins), it must be pollinated by a honey bee or other pollinator. 85% of plants must be pollinated in order to reproduce. 

In order to spread awareness of how essential bees are to our food supply, our sponsor Whole Foods Market created the image below. The first photograph shows a normal Whole Foods produce section, while the second shows the same section without all the produce that comes from plants dependent on honey bees and other pollinators. This meant removing 52% of the produce. This image shows what supermarkets everywhere will look like if bees continue to die off at their  current rate of 44% per year (up 3.5% from the 2014-2015 year!) Our diets will be severely restricted, and a lot of the nutrients we need to be healthy will be missing. Your Thanksgiving dinner will have no pumpkin pie, no cranberry sauce, and no green beans, and your stuffing will be missing a few key ingredients!


We hope that these photographs will highlight the seriousness of the situation. We need to help the bees in order to help ourselves. As we tell our students, you should thank the bees for one out of every three bites of food you eat, and tell your friends and family to do the same. This Thanksgiving, we hope that you include bees in the list of things you're grateful for. If you're in the giving mood, you can always say "thank you bees!" by donating to Planet Bee Foundation, and helping us spread our message to thousands of children across Northern California. 

Thank you for your consideration!

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The Flight of the Living Dead

With Halloween just behind us, we at Planet Bee figured now would be the perfect time to tell you all about a terrifying phenomenon spreading across the nation-- the ZomBee. ZomBees are honey bees which have been parisitized by Phorid or "zombie" flies (Apocephalus borealis). These tiny flies lay their eggs in the abdomen of helpless bees. Then the eggs hatch and eat the bee from the inside, killing it in the process. About 7 days after the bee has died, up to 13 zombie fly larvae emerge from its neck, decapitating the bee. Then the larvae pupate and hatch 28 days later as fully grown zombie flies. Gross, right? But that's not all! The zombie fly larvae control the brains of the bees while they’re still alive. Honey bees only go out during the day, but ZomBees fly at night, and are attracted to lights. So if you see bees swarming around a streetlamp at night, you'll know that those aren't just any bees-- they're ZomBees!

This chilling occurrence was discovered by San Francisco State University Professor John Hafernik when he was collecting dead bees to feed his pet praying mantis. He forgot a few bees in a test tube for a couple of weeks, and was shocked when he discovered that something had hatched from their bodies. Professor Hafernik, concerned by the addition of a new threat to the already struggling honey bee, began conducting experiments on the Zombie flies and infected bees. He found that the flies had recently crossed from only targeting bumble bees and paper wasps to targeting honey bees as well. Further research showed that 77% of sites sampled in the San Francisco Bay Area were infected. Professor Hafernik knew that he needed more data than he could gather alone, so he launched the ZomBee Watch Citizen Science program, which teaches ordinary citizens how to catch ZomBee samples and report their findings online. This ambitious and far-reaching program was ranked in the top 10 Citizen Science programs of 2016. Findings have been reported all over the United States, from Hawaii to Massachusetts, and even from Canada!

When Planet Bee Foundation found out about this terrible threat to our favorite insects, we knew that we had to do something. So Planet Bee teamed up with Professor Hafernik and SF State University's Biology department to create our own three-part lesson on how to catch and study ZomBees. Our curriculum was primarily written by our brilliant teaching fellow, SF State entomology student Shane Garvin. Through our ZomBee Watch Project, Planet Bee educators will visit schools and teach students how to become ZomBee Hunters! Students will build light traps to catch ZomBees, examine their samples for evidence of parasitization, and report their findings on the official ZomBee Watch website, thus contributing to real scientific research!  Our curriculum complies with Next Generation Science Standards, and focuses on the scientific method. Students will make their own hypotheses, design their own traps, and carefully analyze their findings before drawing conclusions. If you're interested in signing up your school for our ZomBee Watch Program, please click here. Planet Bee instructors Sarah and Ayla, along with our teaching fellow Shane, will be teaching our first ZomBee class at La Tercera Elementary in Petaluma next Monday. We hope for the bee’s sake that their students’ traps return empty, but we doubt it. The interactive map of citizen scientist findings on the official ZomBee Watch website shows that infected bees have already been found in Petaluma. The infection has spread.

ZomBee Samples Collected Across North America by Citizen Scientists

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https://www.zombeewatch.org/map/public#.WBkb6_krLb0

With so many factors causing Colony Collapse Disorder already, the zombie fly is only one of the honey bees’ major concerns. Diseases, other parasites, pesticides, and monoculture are weakening and killing bees from coast to coast. It is clear that something must be done to help. Planet Bee hopes that by spreading the word about the ZomBee virus, we will help to raise support for the struggling honey bee. Any help we can get, whether it comes in the form of a donation, a social media shoutout, or a new partnership, will be greatly appreciated. As we tell our students at the end of each class: Please, take a little time out of your day and ask yourself-- what can I do to help the bees?

 

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3,000 Young Minds Pollinated and Counting!

Our goal at Planet Bee is to create the next generation of environmental stewards through hands-on learning. By teaching our students the importance of each individual action, and by encouraging them to form a personal connection with the plight of the honey bee, we are making an investment in the future. Our lessons ignite the spark of environmental activism in our students, who will go on to make positive changes in the decades to come.

                         A student examines a dead bee at Oak Grove                                              Elementary  in Sebastopol

                         A student examines a dead bee at Oak Grove                                              Elementary  in Sebastopol

This past spring and summer, we drove up and down the California coast spreading knowledge of, and love for, the honey bee. We were astounded by the intelligence, curiosity, and passion of our students, and grateful to have met each one of them! We brought our Humble Honey Bee program to 3,000 children at 25 different schools and nonprofits, including Lyndale Elementary in San Jose, Loma Vista Academy in Petaluma, Melrose Leadership Academy in Oakland, Bowman International School in Palo Alto, and George Peabody Elementary in our hometown of San Francisco.  We also installed bee hives at 8 different schools, nonprofits, and corporations through our Adopt-A-Hive program. Happy honey bees are now buzzing in hives at the Homeward Bound of Marin homeless shelter, on the grounds of the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, at Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project in Oakland, in the school gardens of Jefferson Elementary and the Marin Catholic School, and on the corporate campuses of Google, SAP, and Keller Estates.

In the coming months, Planet Bee will be teaching at more Northern California schools including Paden Elementary in Alameda, Westlake Middle School in Oakland, and Fairfield Elementary in Davis, and running honey-spinning workshops for our corporate partners. Are you interested in having Planet Bee teach at your school or business? Let us know at info@planetbee.org.

We’ve also welcomed many new worker bees to our own hive! This summer three new interns, Ashley Velasquex, Shane Garvin, and Nicole Zamignani, all students at San Francisco State University, joined us. This fall we hired two full-time employees! Ayla Fudala and Sarah Thorson are our new environmental educators. Our new hires have been instrumental in expanding Planet Bee’s scope and helping us reach more students than ever before! Stay tuned to the blog because we’ll be spotlighting all five of them in the upcoming weeks.

Planet Bee Foundation's table at the Pollinator Fun Fair on September 11th. From left to right: San Francisco State University Professor John Hafernik, Naturalist Chris Quock, Teaching Fellow Shane Garvin, Founder Debra Tomaszewski, Project Manager Joelle Dugay, Intern Nicole Zamignani, new Environmental Educator Ayla Fudala, and Intern Ashley Velasquez

Planet Bee Foundation's table at the Pollinator Fun Fair on September 11th. From left to right: San Francisco State University Professor John Hafernik, Naturalist Chris Quock, Teaching Fellow Shane Garvin, Founder Debra Tomaszewski, Project Manager Joelle Dugay, Intern Nicole Zamignani, new Environmental Educator Ayla Fudala, and Intern Ashley Velasquez

Last but not least, we are thrilled to announce the launch of a new Planet Bee Citizen Science program called ZomBee Watch. Created in collaboration with Professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University and piloted by teaching fellow Shane Garvin, ZomBee Watch allows students to build traps for, catch, and examine ZomBees-- honey bees parasitized by tiny flies. Students can post their findings on the official ZomBee Watch webite, thus contributing to real scientific research! Look for an upcoming blog post which will explain this frightening epidemic and our exciting new program in greater detail.

None of our accomplishments would have been possible without your contributions! Thanks to you, we have started 8 new hives, taught 3,000 students, developed a cutting-edge STEM educational program, and hired three new interns and two new educators. We are so grateful to all our supporters, who have helped us transform from a simple idea to a full-fledged nonprofit. We feel certain that the coming year will be filled with further successes, and that with you by our side we will continue to help save the world—one bee at a time! 

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So What's the Deal With CCD?

Bees and their hives from co-founder Debra's own home.

Bees and their hives from co-founder Debra's own home.

What is CCD?

"CCD" or Colony Collapse Disorder is when a seemingly healthy colony with adequate food stores and brood abandon their hive and leave the queen and a few nurse bees behind. This phenomenon has been devastating to the beekeeping industry since the first recognized case in 2006, with commercial growers experiencing anywhere from 30-90% of hives lost over winter.

What causes CCD?

Scientists have still not discovered what exactly is causing this unusual behavior and unnaturally high hive losses, however there has been extensive research on how a number of factors may contribute to the phenomenon of CCD. The USDA ARS has placed the possible culprits under four different categories: "parasites and pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and sub lethal exposure to pesticides."

Tell me more about these pests and parasites...

Up close to a varroa mite. Image by Gilles San Martin on Flickr.

Up close to a varroa mite. Image by Gilles San Martin on Flickr.

Of course, there are numerous pests that affect the livelihood pf a honeybee colony, but I will focus on the main ones that beekeepers in the United States deal with. The first is a tiny little invasive mite from the called "varroa mite" which has become a fixture in pretty much every American beekeeper's hives since its introduction in the 1980s. The female mite gets into a brood cell right before it's capped, then her offspring feed on the hemolymph of the larvae. If the larvae survives to emergence, the presence of the varroa during development will greatly lower its fitness and therefore its lifespan. They are prolific pests that spread between colonies via bees traveling outside the hive. They are most often controlled with strong miticides such as Apistan placed directly inside the hive. They also transmit diseases such as Deformed Wing Virus which limits the colony's fitness.

Another common pest is the small hive beetle, discovered in 1996. The hive beetle lays its eggs on the comb; if not controlled, the larvae will go on to consume the honey and the comb. Resulting in the bee colony being pushed out of their hive. In more defensive colonies, the hive beetle poses less of a threat as bees will naturally destroy the larvae. In colonies that are not behaviorally inclined to eliminate the beetle, it can pose quite a threat to their well being. There is no silver bullet for eliminating small hive beetles, but often beekeepers will either treat the soil beneath their hives with insecticide (as larvae pupate underground) or they will install traps in their beehives. In larger operations, the hive beetle can be a particularly difficult pest to control.

The final major pest is the wax moth, which are drawn towards old comb and other bee products. Wax moths can also be controlled by defensive colonies, but in an already weak colony they can have quite the impact. Wax moths are overwhelmingly difficult to treat, and there is no great remedy for them besides preventative cultural practices.    

A wax moth will lay its eggs in honey comb. If not stopped, the emerging larvae will eat through the wax of the hive. This is a hive that was afflicted by a wax moth. Image by Maja Dumat on Flickr.

A wax moth will lay its eggs in honey comb. If not stopped, the emerging larvae will eat through the wax of the hive. This is a hive that was afflicted by a wax moth. Image by Maja Dumat on Flickr.

Okay, well then what about pathogens?

Almond tree flowers being visited by a honey bee. Image by Brandon Brubaker on Flickr.

Almond tree flowers being visited by a honey bee. Image by Brandon Brubaker on Flickr.

Pathogens are microorganisms that cause disease in the host organism, in this case the honeybee. The current state of the beekeeping industry is far more focused on pollination service rather than honey bee production, as that is where the most profit is to be made. With the rise in monocropping operations, the demand for large quantities of honeybee to supply pollination for the blooming period has also increased. There is such a high demand, and imported pollinators are almost essential in these larger operations; honeybee colonies get shipped back and forth across the country in time with the bloom of various crops (a major example is the almond bloom in California's Central Valley). This brings large amounts of hives together from various parts of the country to one relatively small geographic region. The tight quarters are ideal conditions for pathogen spread, and bees may be exposed to diseases they have not experienced before and therefore have an inadequate immune response.

These pathogens include (but are certainly not limited to): Deformed Wing Virus (which was mentioned before by spread of varroa mite), Nosema (a debilitating fungus affecting the honey bee respiratory system), and various paralytic viruses.

So then where does nutrition come in?

The lack of dietary diversity is facilitated by the rise in monoculture and the increasing demand for pollination services. In unmanaged systems, honey bees collect pollen and nectar from a wide range of flowers, which allows a diverse diet and range of nutrients. Colonies utilized for pollination are often placed on fields with only one food source, as often farmers want to encourage maximum productivity from their pollinators (they do not want their bees foraging on non-crop plants). This creates an unnatural and unhealthy diet for the honey bees which leads them to have a weaker immune system and makes them more prone to assault by pests or pathogens.

An example of monoculture - a canola field in Michigan. Image by Julie Falk on Flickr.

An example of monoculture - a canola field in Michigan. Image by Julie Falk on Flickr.

And pesticides?

The most studied chemical culprit is a class of agricultural pesticides called "neonictinoids." These are systemic (meaning they are taken up in the plant's vascular system, and therefor only require one application) nerve poisons whose mechanism only works on invertebrates. As an agricultural pesticide, this seems ideal since there's much less of a danger of chemical runoff with less applications, and it is significantly less dangerous (at least directly) to humans, birds, livestock, etc. Although in theory the pesticide should stay localized to the plant's vascular system, studies have found trace amounts of the chemical in pollen grains. Honey bees collect pollen and store it in their hive to feed their larvae. Though the amount of pesticide found in one grain of pollen should not be enough to have an effect, scientists have found that in the waxy comb it can accumulate up to critical levels. As neonictinoids are nerve poisons, the honey bees that come into contact with them have shown altered behaviors in food gathering. There have also been studies showing an impact on communication, and proper larval development with exposure to neonictinoids. Honey bees rely almost entirely on chemical and physical signals in their hive, so if they are noticing less food coming in or communication is altered, they may think resources are low. Thus shutting down production or leaving the hive. The problem with blaming everything of neonictinoids or another pesticide is that bees affected by CCD don't show the trademark symptoms of pesticide poisoning (poisoned bees will die with their tongues out). In fact, a characteristic of CCD is that there will be very few dead bees left around the hive at all.

I heard that cellphones may have something to do with it, is it true?

The idea that cellphones may contribute to colony losses originated with a study done in the EU in 2010. It suggested that the radiation from the towers altered the electromagnetic field of the earth and in turn the bees' homing ability. Despite the results from this, and a couple other studies done around the world, researchers have ruled out cellphones as a potential cause of CCD. This is in part because there is no real evidence that honey bees rely on electromagnetic field to navigate. Furthermore, many apiaries that are still experiencing losses are in rural areas where cellphone service is spotty or absent.

How come the cause hasn't been narrowed down?

Planting native flowers to your area is a safe way to diversify the bee's diet. These are California Golden Poppies grown alongside other flowers. Image by Rojer on Flickr.

Planting native flowers to your area is a safe way to diversify the bee's diet. These are California Golden Poppies grown alongside other flowers. Image by Rojer on Flickr.

It's tricky to point to any one of the aforementioned possible factors as the the one culprit causing CCD. This is because none of the hives affected by CCD strongly show any symptoms directly associated with any one of them. Furthermore, all of these factors are related and linked to each to other to some degree. Ultimately, it seems that CCD is a result of a number of environmental stresses interacting with one another that alter honey bee vitality and behavior. As beekeepers and concerned citizens, there are a few things we can do to lessen the stresses of honey bee colonies. We should be mindful of the chemicals we use in gardens and agricultural fields. Planting pollinator friendly flowers around fields and houses will give local honey bees access to more diverse food sources.

For more information, check out:

Kaplan, Kim. "ARS Honey Bee Health and Colony Collapse Disorder." USDA ARS, 10 May 2016. Web. 20 May 2016

Heid, Markham. "You asked: Are the Honey Bees Still Disappearing?" Time. Time, 15 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 May 2016

Moye, David. "Cell Phones Don't Kill Bees (STUDY)."  The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Nov. 2011. 21 May 2016.

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Bee Happy, Run Happy. A 5K to Raise Anyone's Spirits.

Deb and Bill, right, with the Family of Burroughs Family Farms! Benina Montes is pictured center - her hard work and dedication helped make this event possible. Thank you!

Deb and Bill, right, with the Family of Burroughs Family Farms! Benina Montes is pictured center - her hard work and dedication helped make this event possible. Thank you!

Last Saturday, we attended an amazing event (you may have heard us buzzing about it). The Bee Happy Run Happy 5k Fun Run, hosted on Burroughs Family Farms in Snelling was a huge success.

We saw almond orchards galore. We rode on hay bales in the back of trucks. We saw chickens. We got our faces painted. We chatted, we ate, and we ran.  It was phenomenal. We couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday! Just look at the photos, and you’ll see what we mean.

The best part was that this event brought together tons of people and businesses to support honey bees and honey bee education. Through the support of runners, families, businesses, farmers, and beekeepers, we were able to raise over $5,500. That is an incredible boon for us, and we’ve already begun putting that money to use.

We want to thank all of the sponsors of this event that made it possible; Livingston Farmers Association, American AgCredit, Atwater Tire Service, Voyager Foods, Joaquin Rose, Inc/B & B, Arnold Farms, Garton Tractor, M-Mig Construction, Shannon Pump Co., Wally Falke's Air Conditioning Inc., Live Oak Farms, Newswander Apiaries Inc, Jeanette Okuye, Hey Honey, 18 Rabbits, Cliff Bar, Yosemite Farm Credit, Ag Link Food Hub, Equal Exchange, Winton-Ireland, Store & Green, JKB Energy, Mid Valley Agriculture, Burroughs Family Orchards, Burroughs Family Farms, Diestel Turkey Ranch, and Organic West Milk Inc.

Thank you. Support like this keeps us out in school gardens, keeps our honey bees healthy, and allows us to teach over 2,000 people the incredible importance of bees to our food system. And, of course, lets us have fun while doing it!

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Why Outdoor Edu? Check out these numbers!

We're often asked - Why outdoor education? Can't students learn more indoors, won't it have the same effect?

When you look to the facts, that's just not true. Here, we've laid it out for you.

Outdoor education makes a difference - a big one.


  • When students learn outdoors, it’s helps them:
    • Learn across a range of subjects,
    • Keep them engaged with material,
    • Improve state-standardized test scores,
    • And even improve their classroom behavior.
  • A peer-reviewed study reported that compared to a control group, students that had experienced regular outdoor education performed
    •  64% better in science,
    • 63% better in math,
    • 76% better in language arts,
    • and 73% better in Social Studies.

With those kinds of numbers, it’s impossible to deny the impact that learning outdoors can have on students. A 64% increase is huge. Outdoor education can change student’s entire educational experience.

Studies have shown that outdoor education develops a budding sense of community involvement and critical thinking – it’s the backbone of the “learn to think, don’t learn to repeat,” philosophy. These are the traits we need in next generation’s leaders.

Outdoor education means real change in these students lives, their education, and, as a result, their futures. When we think of the next generation, we imagine these students, grown and making change. Outdoor education gives them the foundation to make that change in the most effective way possible.


References:

Effects of Environmental Education on Student Achievement. G.H.Hoody, Lieberman, 2000.

Back to School Full Report, National Wildlfe Federation, Kevin J. Coyle, September, 2010.

Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the Live s of 8- to 18-Year-olds, January 2010

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GMO, Or GMBee?

Genetically modified Bees? This tech. could keep hives safe from diseases. Tell us what you think!

Genetically modified Bees? This tech. could keep hives safe from diseases. Tell us what you think!

This Week's Blog comes from our volunteer beekeeper and budding entemologist, Emily Erickson. She's a recent graduate from UC Davis preparing to enter graduate school this fall. She's written up a fascinating insight into honeybee genetic research that we'd like to share with you, and hear your opinions! Read all about GM-Bees below.


By now the term “GMO,” or Genetically Modified Organism, is one that has taken its spot both on the shelf in the grocery store and in debates over food ethics. Until recently, the research on developing alternatives has been focused on crops and helping farmers address problems with pests and other environmental stresses.

In 2014, researchers in Dusseldorf, Germany published a paper demonstrating the feasibility of creating a genetically modified honeybee. The implications this are huge for the beekeeping world and the status of our food supply.

The most recent information from the USDA reported annual colony losses at 42.1%. Any beekeeper could name a dozen different reasons why colonies decline, including disease, pests - such as varroa mites - and poor foraging behavior. Strong colonies aren’t entirely free of these afflictions, but they tend to be more resistant to the effects.

Many of the traits that foster resistance, such as hygienic behavior, are genetic. This means that a queen with these favorable traits will pass the genes on to her offspring. That leads to a colony that is more able to support itself without as many chemical or physical interventions.

Although selective breeding on honeybee colonies has been done for centuries, genetically engineering resistance offers a more efficient solution to a rapidly declining population. So far they have discovered methods to inject genes into developing queen larvae so that about 25% of queens transmitted the introduced genes to their offspring. Although this rate of transmission doesn’t sound high, it is as much as a 30-fold increase.

The process that they used to in this study could be implemented for commercial beekeepers, as it requires about the same amount of time and effort as old-school queen breeding.

Having a basic understanding of how to successfully introduce genes into queen larvae will be a valuable tool for future research on genetically resistant honeybees. Since this technology is still very much in its initial stages, it is hard to predict how it would actually work on a large scale.

If it does reach a commercial level, it will undoubtedly raise many of the same ethical concerns as GMO crops do now.


What do you think of GM-Bees? Tell us in the comments, or tweet @planet_bee ! Use #GMBees to join the conversation.

 

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An Intern's Experience

Joelle tabling at the Urban Epic Fest in San Francisco. Thanks for all your hard work, Joelle!

Joelle tabling at the Urban Epic Fest in San Francisco. Thanks for all your hard work, Joelle!

We write a lot about what happens outside of our office. But today, we want to share an experience from within. Here, we've shared Joelle's thoughts on Interning with Planet Bee for the last semester and a half. We're so lucky to have her with us, and it warms our hearts and inspires us to read her words.


I was very nervous and wary when I applied to be an intern for Planet Bee Foundation. Not because I didn’t believe in what they stood for, I just doubted my abilities to help in any way. I have always loved bugs, and felt they didn’t get the proper love they deserved. Bees are important, and I wanted people to know that. I eventually convinced myself to ignore the negative thoughts because they were completely untrue.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and I was officially part of the Planet Bee team. Again, I was nervous, but that quickly faded because Debra and Kayla were so friendly! I looked forward to every Wednesday spent at the office. Obviously there was work for long hours, but I found it really fun! I learned a lot more about bees, and became more knowledgeable about the nonprofit world. I think one of the most rewarding experiences I have had with Planet Bee is discovering that there are tons of people who genuinely care or are interested in saving the bees (and other insects)!

My time with the Planet Bee Foundation has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career. I absolutely love everyone I work with, and love seeing kids being enthusiastic about science. This internship has also helped me realize what I want to do after I graduate from college, which is to do research in conservation biology. Planet Bee has encouraged me to take action for the honeybees, and I want to continue using this empowerment to help all in need.

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