Begin with a Bee

Illustrated by Claudia McGehee

“And here’s the wonder: her tiny body (not even an inch) holds everything she needs to create a whole colony of bees.”

Begin with a Bee is a nonfiction picturebook that follows the life of a rusty-patched bumble bee queen. The story starts in the winter as the bee hibernates. When spring arrives, she emerges from the ground, collecting pollen and eating nectar. She then builds her nest in an underground burrow and hatches her eggs. The newly born worker bees begin their tasks, which include finding nectar, cleaning the nest, and pollinating flowers. With the bees’ help, by the end of the summer, the seeds scattered by the flowers have all blossomed into beautiful flowers and delicious crops. Next winter, the cycle begins anew with a new queen. The book’s ending text provides more information about rusty patched bumble bees and ways we can help them.

Begin with a Bee explores the busy lives of bees, the small yet vital insects that often go underappreciated by humans. By highlighting the bees’ pivotal role in pollinating flowers, fruits, and vegetables, the book reminds readers that human food systems depend on these and other non-human creatures (see interconnectedness). Unfortunately, the rusted-patch bumble bee species is one of 350 endangered bee species. In the afterword, the book cites the main causes of bee endangerment as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. Despite these challenges, Begin with a Bee offers readers hope, emphasizing the importance of nurturing and preserving the small pieces of nature that can be found in our everyday surroundings (see nearby nature). It urges readers to take part in bee conservation actions by becoming sustainable gardeners and contributing to citizen science projects. Overall, Begin with a Bee is a great classroom resource for teaching students factual information about bees, seasons, and life cycles while also promoting an ecocentric worldview. In reading about the rusted-patch bumble bee, young people will appreciate the complexity of our interconnectedness to all living beings, no matter how small and insignificant they may originally seem.

©2024 ClimateLit (Alexandra Delacruz)


Publisher: University of Minnesota Press, 2021

Pages: 40

ISBN: 978-1517908041

Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13)

Format: Nonfiction, Picturebooks

Topics: Bees, Citizen Science, Climate Change, Conservation, Ecocentrism, Endangered Species, Gardening, Habitat Loss, Interconnectedness, Keystone Species, Nearby Nature, Pesticides, Pollination, Pollinator Habitats, Pollinators, Web of Life