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Video: A California teen’s research on bees’ memory is helping avert colony collapse disorder

Jim Fields | March 10, 2023

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When Rory Hu came across a news article about the global decline in honey bee populations, she was inspired to do something about it. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, it puts the global food supply at serious risk.

The teen from San Jose, California, dug deeper, discovering in her research that harmful pesticides can damage the honey bees’ learning and memory. Impaired bees can’t harvest pollen well and have a hard time finding their way back to the hive.

With the help of a local beekeeper, Hu set out an experiment to mollify these effects. She created artificial flowers tinged with caffeine and a food supplement called T-Polyphenol. The experiment intended to use the compounds to improve the bees’ memories. Her experiment worked. The bees thrived.

Rory won the Department of Defense STEM Talent Award of $10,000 for her experiment at the 2022 Broadcom MASTERS, a national science and engineering competition for middle school students. “Knowing that I would even be able to have a small part in [solving the problem],” she says, “it would be extremely gratifying to me.”

Check out more recent coverage of teenagers breaking new ground in STEM from The 74:

—Produced & Edited by Jim Fields

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