In the Doctor Who episode “The Stolen Earth”, migrant bees leave the Earth to go back their original planet. The story piqued St. Mark’s junior Spencer Burke’s interest. He started reading about colony collapse disorder, when entire colonies of honeybees abruptly disappear. The “beepocalypse”, a term coined in 2006, made news headlines across the country. Turns out honeybees haven’t rapidly declined: Everyone was up in arms about the wrong bee.
Instead, the 16-year-old Burke’s research showed solitary bees are declining. Every female solitary bee is a queen. They are all fertile and burrow into the ground to lay eggs. Unlike communal honeybees, solitary bees are responsible for the bulk of pollinating crops and wild plants.
Burke’s parents where skeptical at first but signed him up for classes so he could gain a basic understanding of bees. He decided he would focus solely on solitary bees and began formulating a plan.
“It’s a global issue. There’s no way I can truly make a huge difference in global scale. But if I can make a difference in the local scale, that can eventually reach a global scale,” Burke says.
Pests, pathogens, pesticides and habitat loss are leading causes of solitary bee decline, he says.
“There’s very little I can do about global warming,” Burke says. “I can’t really prevent people from using pesticides, but I can address a habitat loss and mass urbanization, which is arguably the biggest cause.”