11-year-old girl urges Illinois lawmakers to ‘Save the Bees’

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WINNETKA, Ill. — (WGN) A young north suburban resident is trying to create a buzz at the state capitol. She’s a well-versed environmentalist who is banking on lawmakers to help her save the environment one bug at a time.

Scarlett Harper, 11,  is focused specifically on the bee population.

U.S.  beekeepers lost roughly 40% of their honey bee colonies between 2018-2019, an unsustainable decline.

Scarlett is taking on the bug spraying industry and hopes to save the bee population from harmful chemicals where she can.

Scarlett Harper

In her Winnetka backyard, she has created her own little eco-system complete with birds, trees, bugs and even a fairy garden. It is a place to escape in the pandemic and a place to learn about nature. Most notably the bees.

 “Bees are my favorite,” she said. “I just love them so much.”

When companies were spraying for mosquitos last summer, Scarlett said she saw it affecting the bee population too. So she took action. She reached out to her state representative Robyn Gabel from Illinois 18th District.

 “She said, ‘I used to see bees and butterflies in my backyard and now I don’t anymore,’” Gabel said.

Enter House Bill 3118: The Bee Bill.

“Scarlett testified and I believe it came out of committee with 100% of the vote,” Gabel said.

The main goals of the Bee Bill are to spray for mosquitos only when they are present and problematic. Neighbors, because of wind currents, need to be notified when spraying with certain chemicals takes place.

Scarlett and Gabel hope the bill passes. Right now, it has stalled in Springfield.

“After our last conversation she said, ‘I think we need more evidence on how this may harm children or adults,” Gabel said.

The future scientist has been researching current laws, investigating chemicals, meeting with mosquito biologists to get the now amended bill in a good place practically and politically.

 “It was written to be reasonable so there isn’t much room for compromise now,” Scarlett said.

Until there is movement in Springfield, Scarlett is composting, bird watching and gardening in her own backyard all in the interest of bees.

 “One in three bites of every single bite of food that you have was made possible because of a bee,” she said. “Without pollinators, plants have serious issues trying to reproduce. …  We can’t live without plants. And plants can’t live without bees. … So they are so much more important to us than we realize.”

The Bee Bill came out of committee but lawmakers are still negotiating. It is a process, Scarlett is learning a lot about. She is studying at a 6th and 7th grade level and is not discouraged. While science is her passion, she says she’s interested in politics too these days.

Gabel hopes the bill will get called in the fall veto session or maybe next January.

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