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Are bees endangered?

Buzzing About Climate Change: The Un-bee-lievable Impact on Bees

September 20, 2023

Buzzing About Climate Change: The Un-bee-lievable Impact on Bees

Ask students: Why are bees crucial to our ecosystem, especially in the United States? How does climate change indirectly pose threats to bees?


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Are Bees Endangered?

Bees are more than just the creators of the sweet, golden syrup we love; they are key pollinators that play a vital role in our ecosystems and the global food supply. One-third of all the food we consume relies on pollination, primarily from bees. However, these tiny, industrious creatures are facing threats from habitat loss, pesticide use, disease and climate change. This may pose far-reaching consequences, affecting biodiversity and potentially leading to the disruption of ecosystems.

The vulnerability of bees is closely tied to climate change, which drives fires, droughts and alterations in flowering seasons, affecting the availability of nectar and pollen for bees. Consequently, reduced bee populations affect the pollination of plants that provide our food and much more, creating a vicious cycle of environmental degradation.

The Bees in My Backyard!

There is more to bees than just honeybees! Check out this easy bee identification guide to see who's buzzing around your backyard.

This edition of “Today’s News, Tomorrow’s Lesson” aims to help teach students an understanding about:

  • The role of bees;
  • The reasons behind their perceived vulnerability;
  • The relationship between bees and climate change;
  • How scientists have developed a “bee vaccine”; and
  • How government and conservation intersect to fight back against climate change.

Through videos and adaptable discussions and activities, students will be encouraged to think critically and propose solutions to help protect these essential pollinators. Choose one or more of the several activities bee-low to start getting your students excited about bees!

A Vaccine for Bees (high school)

Huh? Bees can be vaccinated? Watch the video below from “CBS Mornings,” and answer the discussion questions as a class.

Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  1. Why are bees so crucial to our ecosystem and agriculture, especially in the United States? Discuss the economic impact of bees on crops and the potential repercussions of declining bee populations.
  2. Brian Ashhurst mentions that bee colonies are facing multiple threats such as disease, parasites, pesticides and climate change. How do these factors individually and collectively contribute to the decline of bee populations? How might they be interconnected?
  3. What challenges did the team face while developing the world's first vaccine for honeybees?
  4. Dr. Jurg Meyer highlights the dreaded American foulbrood disease that affects bees. What are the measures taken when such diseases are identified in a hive?
  5. Based on the report, what is the potential future impact of this bee vaccine, and how might it pave the way for other innovations? How does this story showcase the balance between nature and human intervention for the greater good?

A Vaccine for Bees (middle school)

Listen to this two-minute podcast from NPR to learn more about a newly developed vaccine for honeybees, then discuss with your classmates.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why are honey bees vital to the agriculture and food industry, and what are the primary threats they currently face?
  2. Describe the significance of the world's first honeybee vaccine and how it could be a potential solution to the problem of American foulbrood in honeybee colonies.
  3. How does the newly developed vaccine work to immunize the honeybees, and why is the focus on the queen bee?
  4. How does climate change indirectly pose threats to honeybees, particularly concerning the spread of mosquitoes?
  5. Based on the development of this vaccine, what potential future advancements in honeybee health might scientists anticipate or work toward?

Black Voices in Agriculture (high school)

Watch the video about Samantha Winship, an urban farmer and beekeeper from Winston-Salem, N.C., and discuss the questions below as a classroom.

Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Samantha Winship view the relationship between humans and nature, particularly through her experiences as a beekeeper and farmer?
  2. Winship has noticed that bee and plant behaviors have become unpredictable due to climate change. How do these changes impact farmers, and what broader implications might they have for the global food supply?
  3. Winship mentions that "planting a seed is a revolutionary act" and emphasizes the importance of small farms and families in the future. What do you think she means by this, and why might small-scale farming be seen as revolutionary?
  4. The video touches upon the essential role of bees as pollinators. How do you think the health and behavior of bees directly impact food security and biodiversity, and what actions can individuals and communities take to support bee populations?
  5. Winship hopes that people will become more engaged with the environment and help educate younger generations. Why is this critical for the future, and what are some effective ways communities can foster environmental awareness and action?

The Government and Conservation (middle/high school)

Do you know about the U.S. government and its agencies that help fight back against climate change, preserve our natural treasures, and keep our water clean? One such agency, the U.S. Forest Service, works to create pollinator habitats in the Hoosier, Shawnee and Mark Twain national forests. Watch the video about their work below, then discuss the questions, learn more about the importance of civic service, and get tips on making your own pollinator garden!

Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways might the changes in the forest areas affect bee populations and their ability to find food and nesting sites?
  2. How does creating habitats in log landing areas benefit bees specifically, considering their need for particular flowers and environments for pollination?
  3. How do the practices in national forests aim to maintain a balance between harvesting timber and preserving diverse plants and animals?
  4. What roles do students play in this project, and why are their perspectives considered vital?

Get Involved: Civic Engagement, Volunteering and Conservation

Civic duty is one of the foundations of democracy, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to get engaged! For example, let’s examine what projects the U.S. Forest Service, which we just learned about, is currently working on. You can view a current list here.

As a class, split up into small groups and assign each other different ongoing projects that this agency is currently working on. Take two or three minutes to review each project, then present briefly to the class the following information:

  • What is this project called, and what is its purpose?
  • Where is the project located?
  • Is this project accepting volunteers?

What kind of tasks are volunteers and other participants expected to do?

Bee Connected to Nature: Pollinator Garden Tips

School or Community Project: Plan a school or community project like creating a bee-friendly habitat, planting bee-friendly flowers, or raising awareness about the importance of bees and the impacts of climate change on them. You can also make a project at home!

Review some tips from the American Montessori Society and see whether bees, butterflies and more can find a new home near you!

Brainstorming Solutions (middle/high school)

Divide the students into groups and let them brainstorm potential actions people can take at individual, community, and policy levels to mitigate climate change effects and support bee populations.

  • Example Question: What are some of the most effective actions we can take to protect bees?

Lesson Plans on Climate Change

Explore more resources for educators to find a wide-range of relevant preK-12 lessons on climate change or supporting young people as they continue to lead the conversation around the climate change crisis.

Andy Kratochvil
Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, video games, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community. He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from... See More

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