1. What inspired you to write a book about bees?
I became inspired to write a book about bees after I designed an outdoor classroom for an elementary school. For marketing purposes, I researched all the natural elements that influence an outdoor classroom. During my research, I discovered that over 20,000 species of bees and other insects copy or mimic them! I was surprised because I was only familiar with the European honeybee and the bumblebee. Because I had to promote the outdoor classroom to the kids (as well as the parents and school board), I came up with the idea for an interactive way for the kids to learn more about bees (and their mimics) by posting photos of them on a board with the question: "Can You See If I'm A Bee?". Because the students enjoyed this, and I felt they should know that bees are in decline worldwide, I decided to write a book about them so that they can become "Bee Ambassadors," making sure that bees survive. As the saying goes," Children are the future."
2. As a mom of two boys, why do you feel it is important that children learn to
understand and appreciate bees?
As a mom, I feel it is my responsibility for children to be aware of our changing environment and what they need to do to help save our planet. Children need to learn about and appreciate bees because they are a keystone species that ensure the continued reproduction and survival not only of plants but other organisms that depend on those plants for survival, including us! One in every three bites of food that we eat is made possible by bees. If we lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all the animals that rely on those plants will disappear, affecting the entire food chain. The world would struggle to sustain the more than seven billion humans on our planet.
3. As a landscape architect with an interest in conservation, how might you alter how
you go about doing your job now that you know so much about how important bees
are to our world?
Being a landscape architect from California, I've always promoted using drought-tolerant plants in the landscape to conserve water. However, now that I'm aware that the bees and other pollinators are struggling to survive, I focus on creating ecosystems for them, whether in a small, residential garden or a large landscape like a public park. Native plants are vital to creating a thriving ecosystem because most bees and other pollinators feed on specific plant species native to their environment. A Squash bee is so named because it is much better at pollinating them than the average honeybee. Also, I recommend only planting usable lawns vs. the typical front lawn for aesthetics. Stopping the application of toxic chemicals such as pesticides is a must; I educate my clients that there are substitutes for these that don't harm bees.
4. What are some of the biggest misconceptions we have about bees?
A misconception that is commonly made about bees is that they all make honey when less than four
percent of them do! Also, most people assume that all bees live in colonies and build hives like the European honeybee. Seventy percent of the 20,000 species of bees nest
5. What are some fun facts that you can share with us?
Some fun facts about bees are: They have five eyes; two large and prominent compound eyes and three smaller eyes that help them detect light and movement. Bees are noisy because they beat their wings over 11,000 times in one minute! Bumblebees flap their wings back and forth vs. up and down. Their wing beats are similar to a helicopter vs. an airplane. The only insect that makes food that we can eat is the honeybee. The nectar of a flower determines the honey's flavor.
6. What can we each do to protect or nurture bees?
Bees are in danger of becoming extinct and humans are the primary reason for this.We can plant a garden that attracts bees and other pollinators, providing a safe place for them to live and find a variety of nutritious food sources. You don't need a lot of space to do this. Window boxes, flowerpots and other planters will attract bees. Get involved with local governments and organizations to help public spaces become bee habitats. Stop using pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Buy organic products or make your insecticidal soap. Build or purchase a bee house for native species. Donate to organizations that help bees. Purchase local honey and beeswax products to support local beekeepers. Teach and inspire tomorrow's "bee" stewards, our children, about "bee-ing" responsible (couldn't help the pun!) and doing everything they can to save them.
7. Why did you choose to use the tool of rhyme to tell the story of bees?
I think that education should be fun for children. A teacher at my kids' elementary school mentioned that children enjoy books that rhyme and tend to focus more on these books when being read to at Storytime. Books that rhyme was my personal favorites when I was growing up. Today's research shows that Dr. Seuss' books served as a gateway to the phonics based approach to learning how to read. Rhyme is essential for teaching children to read the structures and patterns of spoken and written language. It also prepares them to make predictions while learning words, giving them crucial decoding skills.
8. Out of 20,000 species of bees, which ones are your favorites? Why?
The bumblebee and sweat bee. The bumble bee because it is so comical. Its body seems so large compared to its wings that it doesn't seem like it should be able to fly. They appear fat and happy as they make their loud buzzing sound while flying from flower to flower. The green sweat bee is my other favorite because it is a bright, metallic green color, making it incredibly beautiful. Also, green sweat bees are very expressive if they catch you watching them. They'll turn around to face you; then they'll stare at you with their two large compound eyes and sway back and forth in flight, like a mini pendulum in the air, then suddenly fly away.
9. Is the fate of bees, in some ways, endemic of humanity’s fate as it relates to pollution
and global climate change?
Yes, it is. We, like the bees, depend on a healthy climate and environment; if bee habitat is destroyed, we are affected too, as many of our planet's ecosystems that we rely on will no longer be able to function. Bees can be compared to a canary in a coal mine. If they become extinct, we probably will, too. At the very least, the world's population will be significantly reduced because we depend on bees to pollinate most of our food. Therefore, the fact that bees are rapidly declining paints a bleak picture for our future. It will be our failure if we don't help them.
10. Your passion for conservation and subsequent career choice was sparked during
your days in elementary school when a known naturalist and environmental
educator made regular visits to your school. Do you hope to inspire a new
generation in a similar way?
Yes, I want to inspire our youth to enjoy learning as I was in my youth by the naturalist Elizabeth Terwilliger. She had a captivating way of teaching, such as imitating birds singing or making a sign like a "V" for vulture with her arms. She made learning fun and enchanting. If I could be as successful as she was in inspiring youth, that would be quite an achievement.