May 2010

Investigating the mysterious drop in honey bees

By Loree Griffin Burns
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“Put on your veil, grab your hive tool, and light up your smoker we’re going into a beehive,” begins The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe

With its clear, readable text, amazing photographs and attractive design, the latest title in the “Scientists in the Field” series not only takes readers inside a beehive, but provides a fascinating look at how scientists and beekeepers are working together to research an alarming drop in honey bees.

Readers of The Hive Detectives will feel like investigators themselves. The first chapter provides an engaging introduction to beekeeping by following the activities of Mary Duane, who keeps bees in her backyard as a hobby. Readers see Mary preparing a smoker and using hive tools to check the health of her bees.

Thanks to this background, it’s easy for readers to appreciate the plight of Dave Hackenberg, a commercial beekeeper, who in November 2006 discovered that 400 of his hives were mysteriously decimated. Author Loree Griffin Burns, who has a Ph.D. in Biology and writes about science for children, follows Hackenberg’s quest to bring the honey bee catastrophe to the attention of policymakers and scientists. A center spread provides short bios of four of the researchers who ultimately collaborated on investigations to discover what might be causing colony collapse disorder (CCD) throughout the country.

The Hive Detectives not only tells a compelling story, it is a visual feast, with high quality photographs, an exceptionally appealing design that draws the reader into the topic and a clear, concise glossary. Just as the scientists are profiled in a scrapbook format, the same layout is used to provide information on the parts of the insect and “bios” of the bees that comprise a hive: drones, workers and queen.

Scientists are still looking for the causes of CCD, but it’s clear that chemicals and pesticides play a crucial role. Books like The Hive Detectives are integral to helping young readers—and their parents—gain a better understanding not only of how scientists work to solve real-life problems, but how all of us can be part of solutions by the choices we make.

And that’s definitely a sweet discovery.


Deborah Hopkinson’s newest book (also about bees) is entitled The Humblebee Hunter: Inspired by the Life and Experiments of Charles Darwin and his Children. 

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The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe

By Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
ISBN 9780547152318

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