Written By Jessica L. Morrison; USDA Forest Service Conservation Education Intern
As a volunteer intern for the Conservation Education department of the Forest Service, I was not expecting much more than to be cooped up in a cubical somewhere; making copies and filing things away into nonexistence. But almost as soon as I arrived at the agency’s big red building, my supervisor made that wouldn’t happen. Besides getting to weed the USDA’s roof gardens and learning how to pet bumblebees, I was given the opportunity to tag along as the film crew of PollinatorLIVE interviewed the youngest beekeeper in the D.C. area.
The offshoot of the last year’s MonarchLIVE, which tracked monarch butterflies during their lengthy migration through the North American continent, PollinatorLIVE is a Conservation Education partnership program educating students about the vast importance that all pollinating insects have on our food chain and the environment.
The young beekeeper is Alison Fritz. She does not flinch as hundreds of bees furiously swarm around her in the sweltering heat. Safely clad in garments akin to something out of a science fiction novel, she comfortably slides open the lid of one of the three hives in her backyard. Fritz has been beekeeping for three years, and she is only 16 years old.
“I’ve always liked insects. My dad taught me to pet bumblebees,” Fritz said. “When I began hearing about problems with the bee populations, I wanted to help.”
The Agriculture Research Service of USDA recently reported a drop in the number of managed bee colonies from 5 million 60 years ago to 2.5 million today. This mysterious decline in North American honey bees is referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The underlying cause of CCD has yet to be determined, but factors such as pesticides, genetically modified crops, and cell phone radiation are some possible suspects.
About one third of the food Americans’ consume is benefitted by pollinators, the USDA says. Alison Fritz and PollinatorLIVE are prime examples of people and organizations working to educate the community on the honey bee’s vast importance on global food chains, and to inspire communities and classrooms to take action against its decline.
During the filmed interview, I glanced around at the faces of everyone on the PollinatorLIVE crew: there was absolute silence. They were all completely enthralled. Instead of some dreadfully stuffy lecture about bees, I think we could all sense the excitement and freshness that was Alison through show-and-tell about her bees.
Seeing this young, impassioned girl share her love of insects and concern for their conservation made something click in my head. Alison simply followed her interest and is doing incredible things as a result of it. We could all be just like her. And that is the essence of PollinatorLIVE program.
I think I’m going to like it here.