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Elizabeth Downs wears a protective jacket and hat but still gets stung sometimes. “It hurts a little, but I keep going,” she says.

Linda Coan O’Kresik/Bangor Daily News

Helping Honeybees

Honeybees are fighting to survive. Elizabeth Downs is doing her part to help them.

As You Read, Think About: Why are honeybees so important?

Some kids have dogs, cats, or fish. But 9-year-old Elizabeth Downs prefers a different creature. She’s raising about 150,000 honeybees!

“I collect honey, and it’s really good,” the beekeeper explains. “But there’s a lot more to it.”

Elizabeth first got interested in bees while working in her family’s garden. She learned that without bees, we wouldn’t have many of our favorite foods. She also learned that bees are in danger.

Since 2006, more than ten million bee colonies across the U.S. have disappeared. For years, scientists have been trying to figure out why.

Elizabeth is doing her part to help keep bees buzzing.

“We don’t want bees to go extinct,” she says.

Some kids have dogs, cats, or fish. But 9-year-old Elizabeth Downs prefers a different creature. She’s raising about 150,000 honeybees!

“I collect honey, and it’s really good,” the beekeeper explains. “But there’s a lot more to it.”

Elizabeth first got interested in bees while working in her family’s garden. She learned that bees are important. Without bees, we wouldn’t have many of our favorite foods. She also learned that bees are in danger.

Since 2006, more than ten million bee colonies across the U.S. have disappeared. For years, scientists have been trying to figure out why.

Elizabeth is doing her part to help keep bees buzzing.

“We don’t want bees to go extinct,” she says.

Pollination Nation

Honeybees, along with the more than 20,000 other types of bees around the world, are pollinators. They transfer tiny grains called pollen between flowers, which helps plants reproduce (see page 8).

Bees pollinate about one-third of the world’s crops, including almonds, apples, broccoli, and cherries.

Honeybees, along with the more than 20,000 other types of bees around the world, are pollinators. They transfer tiny grains called pollen between flowers; This helps plants reproduce (see page 8).

Bees pollinate about one-third of the world’s crops. The plants include almonds, apples, broccoli, and cherries.

Buzzing Off

In 2006, beekeepers began noticing that their bees were dying off in a big way. Some keepers lost up to 90 percent of their colonies.

Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman is a bee scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She’s spent years studying the possible causes of bee loss.

“Colony losses are caused by many factors,” she says.

One is the Varroa mite, a tiny insect-like creature. The mites latch onto bees and infect them with a deadly virus. This has killed millions of bees.

Pesticides are another problem. Some farmers spray these chemicals to get rid of harmful pests. But a bee that picks up certain pesticides can contaminate its entire hive.

Poor nutrition has also contributed to the drop in bee populations. Bees drink a sweet liquid called nectar that’s found in flowers. But many areas where flowers grow have been cleared for buildings and roads. This leaves bees with less nectar.

In 2006, beekeepers began noticing that their bees were dying off in a big way. Some keepers lost up to 90 percent of their colonies.

Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman is a bee scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She’s spent years studying the possible causes of bee loss.

“Colony losses are caused by many factors,” she says.

One is the Varroa mite, a tiny insect-like creature. The mites latch onto bees. Then, they infect the bees with a deadly virus. This has killed millions of bees.

Pesticides are another problem. Some farmers spray these chemicals to get rid of harmful pests. But a bee that picks up certain pesticides can contaminate its entire hive.

Poor nutrition has also contributed to the drop in bee populations. Bees drink a sweet liquid called nectar. This liquid is found in flowers. But many areas where flowers grow have been cleared for buildings and roads. This leaves bees with less nectar.

Keeping Hives Alive

Luckily, scientists and beekeepers have been working together to find solutions. Many farmers now use bee-friendly pesticides. Last year, researchers developed a vaccine to protect honeybees from the virus Varroa mites carry. These measures have helped, but keepers still lose about 40 percent of their hives each year.

“Our concern for colony survival is probably as great now as it’s ever been,” DeGrandi-Hoffman says.

She says you can help, just like Elizabeth. But you don’t need to raise thousands of bees! DeGrandi-Hoffman suggests growing plants in your garden or yard for bees to feed on.

“That’s a huge part of the solution,” she says.

Luckily, scientists and beekeepers have been working together to find solutions. Many farmers now use bee-friendly pesticides. Last year, researchers developed a vaccine for honeybees. It protects them from the virus Varroa mites carry. These measures have helped. But keepers still lose about 40 percent of their hives each year.

“Our concern for colony survival is probably as great now as it’s ever been,” DeGrandi-Hoffman says.

She says you can help, just like Elizabeth. But you don’t need to raise thousands of bees! DeGrandi-Hoffman suggests growing plants in your garden or yard for bees to feed on.

“That’s a huge part of the solution,” she says.

1. What is the purpose of the section “Pollination Nation”?

2. What are some causes of colony loss?

3. How are people trying to help honeybees?

1. What is the purpose of the section “Pollination Nation”?

2. What are some causes of colony loss?

3. How are people trying to help honeybees?

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