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Date: Feb 28, 2007
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THE ARTICLE

The mystery of America’s vanishing bees

The disappearance of millions of bees is worrying agriculturalists in 24 states across the USA. Honeybees are vanishing at an alarming rate across America. Their absence is beginning to threaten the production of crops and the livelihoods of farmers. It is a little-known fact that bees contribute around $14bn to the U.S. economy as they go about their business of pollinating flowers. The unexplained vanishing act is likely to affect the lucrative harvest of avocados, almonds and kiwi fruits, as well as numerous other fruits and vegetables. This will result in higher prices for consumers. In some states, over half of the bee populations have vanished without trace. Some beekeepers have reported losses of more than 70 per cent of their bee stocks. The phenomenon has baffled scientists, who are now as busy as bees to come up with an explanation.

One U.S. beekeeper is at a loss to explain what has happened to his bees. David Bradshaw, 50, from California, told the New York Times that he had never seen anything like it in all his years of beekeeping. He estimates that half of his 100 million bees have gone. He said he has known of bees to disappear before but that this is America’s first national bee crisis. Experts have put forward several theories including a cold snap felling swarms of bees, or bee viruses resulting in what scientists are calling a “colony collapse disorder”. A further possibility is that the bees are stressed out. With the factory-like, intensive farming methods used in the USA, bees are put to work much more often than nature intended. This may have lowered their immunity to viruses and harmed the ability of queen bees to produce eggs.

WARM-UPS

1. I’M A BEE: You are a bee. Buzz around the classroom and talk to your fellow “bees” about your life. What flowers do you like? What do you worry about? What do you think of humans?

2. CHAT: In pairs / groups, decide which of these topics or words from the article are most interesting and which are most boring.

bees / disappearances / crops / farmers / vanishing acts / almonds / prices / beekeepers / crises / cold snaps / viruses / intensive farming / stress / eggs

Have a chat about the topics you liked. For more conversation, change topics and partners frequently.

3. ANIMAL SIMILIES: With your partner(s), talk about the times in your life you are, or have been:

  • as busy as a bee
  • as stubborn as a mule
  • as sly as a fox
  • as blind as a bat
  • as strong as an ox
  • as wise as an owl
  • as brave as a lion
  • as proud as a peacock

4. BEELINES: Look at these newspaper headlines. Talk about them with your partner. What is the story behind them? Change partners and share stories.

  • Bees contribute $14 billion to U.S. economy
  • Bees discovered to be more intelligent than humans
  • Disappearing bees spell the end of the world as we know it
  • Bees found to be excellent pets
  • Bees to be used in new warfare tactics
  • Beekeeping – the world’s most rewarding job
  • Basketball-sized bees swarming towards world’s major cities

5. BEE RANKING: Look at the table. With your partner(s), rank the people/animals according to who likes bees most. Change partners and compare rankings.

  • flowers
  • bee-eaters
  • small children
  • farmers
  • gardeners
  • beekeepers

6. BEES: Spend one minute writing down all of the different words you associate with bees. Share your words with your partner(s) and talk about them. Together, put the words into different categories.


 
 

BEFORE READING / LISTENING

1. TRUE / FALSE: Look at the article’s headline and guess whether these sentences are true (T) or false (F):

a.

Magicians have replaced rabbits with bees in their magic shows.

T / F

b.

Bees contribute $14 billion to the U.S. economy.

T / F

c.

The price of avocados, almonds and kiwi fruit may rise in America.

T / F

d.

Over 70 percent of bees have disappeared in some U.S. states.

T / F

e.

One beekeeper has lost 50 million bees.

T / F

f.

America is suffering its first national bee crisis in four decades.

T / F

g.

A heat wave is being blamed for the disappearing bees.

T / F

h.

Some scientists say U.S. bees are overworked and stressed out.

T / F

2. SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article:

a.

vanishing

bewildered

b.

absence

profitable

c.

lucrative

sign

d.

trace

had in mind

e.

baffled

disaster

f.

estimates

disappearing

g.

crisis

striking down

h.

put forward

dearth

i.

felling

propose

j.

intended

reckons

3. PHRASE MATCH: Match the following phrases from the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

a.

Honeybees are vanishing at

calling a “colony collapse disorder”

b.

It is a little-

baffled scientists

c.

vanished

an alarming rate

d.

The phenomenon has

his years

e.

as busy as bees to come

without trace

f.

One U.S. beekeeper is at a

forward several theories

g.

never seen anything like it in all

loss to explain what has happened

h.

Experts have put

up with an explanation

i.

resulting in what scientists are

their immunity to viruses

j.

This may have lowered

known fact

WHILE READING / LISTENING

GAP FILL: Put the words into the gaps in the text.

The mystery of America’s vanishing bees
 

The disappearance of millions of bees is worrying agriculturalists in 24 states across the USA. Honeybees are vanishing at an ________ rate across America. Their absence is beginning to threaten the production of crops and the ________ of farmers. It is a little-known fact that bees contribute around $14bn to the U.S. economy as they go about their ________ of pollinating flowers. The unexplained vanishing act is ________ to affect the lucrative harvest of avocados, almonds and kiwi fruits, as well as numerous other fruits and vegetables. This will ________ in higher prices for consumers. In some states, over half of the bee populations have ________ without trace. Some beekeepers have reported losses of more than 70 per cent of their bee ________. The phenomenon has baffled scientists, who are now as busy as bees to ________ up with an explanation.

 

 

 

result
vanished
alarming
come
business
stocks
likely
livelihoods

One U.S. beekeeper is at a ________ to explain what has happened to his bees. David Bradshaw, 50, from California, told the New York Times that he had never seen anything like it in all his years of beekeeping. He ________ that half of his 100 million bees have gone. He said he has known of bees to disappear before but that this is America’s first national bee ________. Experts have put forward several theories including a cold snap felling ________ of bees, or bee viruses resulting in what scientists are calling a “colony collapse disorder”. A ________ possibility is that the bees are stressed out. With the factory-like, ________ farming methods used in the USA, bees are put to work much more often than ________ intended. This may have lowered their immunity to viruses and harmed the ________ of queen bees to produce eggs.

 

 

further
crisis
nature
estimates
ability
loss
intensive
swarms

LISTENING

Listen and fill in the spaces.

The mystery of America’s vanishing bees

The disappearance _________________ bees is worrying agriculturalists in 24 states across the USA. Honeybees are vanishing at an alarming rate across America. Their absence is _________________ the production of crops and the livelihoods of farmers. It is _________________ that bees contribute around $14bn to the U.S. economy as they go about their business of pollinating flowers. The unexplained vanishing act is _________________ the lucrative harvest of avocados, almonds and kiwi fruits, as well as numerous other fruits and vegetables. This will result in higher prices for consumers. In some states, over half of the bee populations have _________________. Some beekeepers have reported losses of more than 70 per cent of their bee stocks. The phenomenon has baffled scientists, who are now as busy as bees _________________ an explanation.

One U.S. beekeeper _________________ explain what has happened to his bees. David Bradshaw, 50, from California, told the New York Times that he had never seen anything like _________________ beekeeping. He estimates that half of his 100 million bees have gone. He said he has known of bees to disappear before but that this is America’s _________________. Experts have put forward several theories including _________________ swarms of bees, or bee viruses resulting in what scientists are calling a “_________________”. A further possibility is that the bees are stressed out. With the factory-like, intensive farming methods used in the USA, bees _________________ more often than nature intended. This may have lowered their immunity to viruses and harmed _________________ bees to produce eggs.


 
 

AFTER READING / LISTENING

1. WORD SEARCH: Look in your dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms, etc. for the words ‘honey’ and ‘bee’.

  • Share your findings with your partners.
  • Make questions using the words you found.
  • Ask your partner / group your questions.

2. ARTICLE QUESTIONS: Look back at the article and write down some questions you would like to ask the class about the text.

  • Share your questions with other classmates / groups.
  • Ask your partner / group your questions.

3. GAP FILL: In pairs / groups, compare your answers to this exercise. Check your answers. Talk about the words from the activity. Were they new, interesting, worth learning…?

4. VOCABULARY: Circle any words you do not understand. In groups, pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find their meanings.

5. STUDENT “BEES” SURVEY: In pairs / groups, write down questions about bees, honey and being busy.

  • Ask other classmates your questions and note down their answers.
  • Go back to your original partner / group and compare your findings.
  • Make mini-presentations to other groups on your findings.

6. TEST EACH OTHER: Look at the words below. With your partner, try to recall exactly how these were used in the text:

  • millions
  • rate
  • fact
  • flowers
  • trace
  • busy
  • loss
  • years
  • first
  • calling
  • intensive
  • eggs

DISCUSSION

STUDENT A’s QUESTIONS (Do not show these to student B)

  1. What did you think when you read the headline?
  2. What do you think is behind the mystery?
  3. How valuable do you think bees are to nature?
  4. Are there any animals that are busier than bees?
  5. What kind of economic damage do you think the disappearance of bees could do?
  6. What do you think life is like as a bee?
  7. What would happen to the world if all bees vanished?
  8. Do you think the bee mystery is a warning about global warming?
  9. What do you think bees would like to say to humans?
  10. What do you think would cause bigger damage to the planet, the disappearance of bees or ants?

---------------------------------------------------------------------

STUDENT B’s QUESTIONS (Do not show these to student A)

  1. Did you like reading this article?
  2. When was the last time you were at a loss?
  3. What do you think the job of a beekeeper is like?
  4. How do you think it’s possible for millions, perhaps billions, of bees to disappear without trace?
  5. How do you think Americans are reacting to their first national bee crisis?
  6. Do you think bees can become stressed out by visiting too many flowers?
  7. Do you work harder than nature intended you to?
  8. What do you think of intensive farming techniques?
  9. What question would you like to ask a bee?
  10. Did you like this discussion?

AFTER DISCUSSION: Join another partner / group and tell them what you talked about.

  1. What was the most interesting thing you heard?
  2. Was there a question you didn’t like?
  3. Was there something you totally disagreed with?
  4. What did you like talking about?
  5. Which was the most difficult question?

SPEAKING

THE MYSTERY DEEPENS:

You are the one of bee leaders behind the mystery of the vanishing bees. With your fellow bee leaders, answer these questions:

  1. Why did you decide to disappear from 24 American states?
  2. Where did you go?
  3. How long will you stay in hiding?
  4. What do you want from the humans?
  5. What will you do if you do not get what you want?
  6. Are you in contact with any other animal or insect populations?
  7. What are your fears about the future of the planet?

Change partners and share your answers.

Return to your original partners. Decide on five things you want the humans to do. If they do not do these things, all of the world’s bees will go into hiding. Write your demands and reasons below:

Demands

Reasons

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

4.

 

5.

 

Role play a discussion between the chief bee negotiator (the bees will not return unless all demands are met) and the President of the United States (will the world believe you are negotiating with bees?).

Change partners and compare stories on how your negotiations went.

LANGUAGE

CORRECT WORD: Put the correct words from a–d below in the article.

The mystery of America’s vanishing bees

The disappearance of millions of bees is (1) ____ agriculturalists in 24 states across the USA. Honeybees are vanishing at an (2) ____ rate across America. Their absence is beginning to threaten the production of crops and the livelihoods of farmers. It is a little-(3) ____ fact that bees contribute around $14bn to the U.S. economy as they go (4) ____ their business of pollinating flowers. The unexplained vanishing act is likely to affect the lucrative harvest of avocados, almonds and kiwi fruits, as well as numerous other fruits and vegetables. This will result (5) ____ higher prices for consumers. In some states, over half of the bee populations have vanished without trace. Some beekeepers have reported losses of more than 70 per cent of their bee stocks. The phenomenon has baffled scientists, who are now as busy as bees to come (6) ____ with an explanation.

One U.S. beekeeper is (7) ____ a loss to explain what has happened to his bees. David Bradshaw, 50, from California, told the New York Times that he had never seen anything like it in (8) ____ his years of beekeeping. He estimates that half of his 100 million bees have gone. He said he has known of bees to disappear before but that this is America’s first national bee crisis. Experts have put (9) ____ several theories including a cold snap felling swarms of bees, or bee viruses resulting in (10) ____ scientists are calling a “colony collapse disorder”. A further possibility is that the bees are stressed out. With the factory-like, intensive farming methods used in the USA, bees are (11) ____ to work much more often than nature (12) ____. This may have lowered their immunity to viruses and harmed the ability of queen bees to produce eggs.

1.

(a)

worrying

(b)

worried

(c)

worry

(d)

worries

2.

(a)

alarms

(b)

alarm bells

(c)

alarm

(d)

alarming

3.

(a)

knows

(b)

know

(c)

known

(d)

knowing

4.

(a)

round

(b)

of

(c)

about

(d)

above

5.

(a)

in

(b)

on

(c)

of

(d)

with

6.

(a)

up

(b)

on

(c)

in

(d)

down

7.

(a)

of

(b)

it

(c)

out

(d)

at

8.

(a)

throughout

(b)

all

(c)

whole

(d)

very

9.

(a)

reverse

(b)

forward

(c)

backward

(d)

sideways

10.

(a)

who

(b)

when

(c)

why

(d)

what

11.

(a)

busy

(b)

overtime

(c)

put

(d)

working

12.

(a)

intend

(b)

intending

(c)

intention

(d)

intended

HOMEWORK

1. VOCABULARY EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or Google’s search field (or another search engine) to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find more information about honeybees. Talk about what you discover with your partner(s) in the next lesson.

3. BEE POSTER: Make a poster showing the world’s different kinds of bees. Show your poster to your class in the next lesson. Vote on the best one

4. MAGAZINE ARTICLE: Write a magazine article about the impact on the natural world of all bees disappearing. Read what you wrote to your classmates in the next lesson. Which article was best and why?

5. LETTER: Write a letter to a bee. Tell him/her what you think of his/her role and activities in nature. Give him three pieces of advice. Ask him three questions. Read your letter to your partner(s) in your next lesson. Your partner(s) will answer your questions.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:

a. F

b. T

c. T

d. T

e. T

f. F

g. F

h. T

SYNONYM MATCH:

a.

vanishing

disappearing

b.

absence

dearth

c.

lucrative

profitable

d.

trace

sign

e.

baffled

bewildered

f.

estimates

reckons

g.

crisis

disaster

h.

put forward

propose

i.

felling

striking down

j.

intended

had in mind

PHRASE MATCH:

a.

Honeybees are vanishing at

an alarming rate

b.

It is a little-

known fact

c.

vanished

without trace

d.

The phenomenon has

baffled scientists

e.

as busy as bees to come

up with an explanation

f.

One U.S. beekeeper is at a

loss to explain what has happened

g.

never seen anything like it in all

his years

h.

Experts have put

forward several theories

i.

resulting in what scientists are

calling a “colony collapse disorder”

j.

This may have lowered

their immunity to viruses

GAP FILL:

The mystery of America’s vanishing bees

The disappearance of millions of bees is worrying agriculturalists in 24 states across the USA. Honeybees are vanishing at an alarming rate across America. Their absence is beginning to threaten the production of crops and the livelihoods of farmers. It is a little-known fact that bees contribute around $14bn to the U.S. economy as they go about their business of pollinating flowers. The unexplained vanishing act is likely to affect the lucrative harvest of avocados, almonds and kiwi fruits, as well as numerous other fruits and vegetables. This will result in higher prices for consumers. In some states, over half of the bee populations have vanished without trace. Some beekeepers have reported losses of more than 70 per cent of their bee stocks. The phenomenon has baffled scientists, who are now as busy as bees to come up with an explanation.

One U.S. beekeeper is at a loss to explain what has happened to his bees. David Bradshaw, 50, from California, told the New York Times that he had never seen anything like it in all his years of beekeeping. He estimates that half of his 100 million bees have gone. He said he has known of bees to disappear before but that this is America’s first national bee crisis. Experts have put forward several theories including a cold snap felling swarms of bees, or bee viruses resulting in what scientists are calling a “colony collapse disorder”. A further possibility is that the bees are stressed out. With the factory-like, intensive farming methods used in the USA, bees are put to work much more often than nature intended. This may have lowered their immunity to viruses and harmed the ability of queen bees to produce eggs.

LANGUAGE WORK

1 - a

2 - d

3 - c

4 -c

5 - a

6 -a

7 - d

8 -b

9 -b

10 - d

11 -c

12 - d

 

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