In January, we hosted a unit study about honeybees at our home. It was really fun! There were about 50 people here, swarming around the stations. I’ve been working on a honeybee curriculum called “All About Bees for Kids” and thought this blog is a good venue to share it!
At the bottom of the post, will be a printable file with the activities. If you are reading this from Utah, we can loan you some of these materials to host your own unit study about honeybees.
We are also hosting a hands-on, in-the-beehive workshop for kids (especially homeschool kids) on a Saturday in June. Stay tuned to our Facebook Page for more details as it gets closer.
- Honeybee Facts
- Pollination Poster and tasting table
- Pollination Game
- Pheromones Game
- Master Engineers
- Three Types of Honeybees
- Beekeeping Equipment Tour
- Observation Hive (optional and seasonal)
- Beeswax Lip Balm
When we taught this, we grouped activities into 4 stations. As it was January, we didn’t have an observation hive.
- Station A, Learning about bees, Activities 1, 2, and 6
- Station B, Games, Activities 3, 4, and 5
- Station C, Beekeeping equipment, Activity 7
- Station D, Make beeswax lip balm, Activity 9
- Station E, Service project (we painted stir sticks for a children’s music program)
Library Books: We also went to the public library to check out kids’ books about honeybees and pollination. We used these in case a station was shorter than others. The real time crunch was Station D. It took a bit longer than we thought to make the lip balm.
Description of activities:
1. Honeybee Facts
Toss a bee (or other stuffed animal) to each child in turn. Have them share one thing they know about honeybees.
Share the following bee facts facts with kids. Have them guess the numbers before telling them. These numbers vary depending on the source.
- Hive population mid-summer is 40,000-80,000 bees!
- There is one queen bee, 4,000-8,000 drone bees, and the rest are worker bees.
- Bees live about 10 weeks and can fly 1 week after hatching
- There are 20,000 different species of bee
- 5 million acres of crops depend on honeybees for pollination
- 90 different crops in the U.S. depend on honeybees
- 1/3 of the human diet is from insect-pollinated plants
- 80% of that 1/3 is pollinated by honeybees.
- Bees drink nectar from flowers, store it in their honey stomach, then regurgitate it to the house bees, which eat and regurgitate it into honeycomb cells. After curing for a while, some of the moisture evaporates off and it becomes honey.
- While visiting flowers, bees’ fuzzy legs grab onto pollen and carry it from flower to flower, thus pollinating other plants, which makes plants able to make fruit and seeds.
- Bees eat pollen for protein.
- When a hive gets crowded, a young queen and swarm of young workers fly away to find a new location and build a new hive.
2. Pollination Poster
Create a poster with several fruits bees pollinate. Provide a tasting table with these foods. Wikipedia has an extensive pollination list as well.
Bees pollinate: sunflowers, asters, apples, cherries, almonds, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, cucumbers, watermelon, squash, pumpkin, plum, peach, nectarine.
Bees help pollinate: lima beans, canola, cotton, grapes, pears, some soybeans, strawberry, and tomato.
Ask youth to raise their hand if they eat any of the following fruits. Have them keep their hand up until the end of the list. Usually all youth have raised their hand by the end.
3. Pollination Game
- Make “Velcro legs.” Attach the abrasive part of 3, 6-inch strips of self-adhesive Velcro to pieces of fabric large enough to tie around youth legs (calves). You will need about 2 youth with “Velcro legs” for every 15 kids. See picture.
- Make 2 sets of “pollen.” Make 20 each of 2 different color circles (about 3 inches in diameter) that say “pollen.” Attach the non-abrasive Velcro side to the back of these circles. (40 circles total for every 15 kids.)
To play the game:
- Explain the basics of pollination to youth. Bees visit flowers and pollen sticks to their hairy legs (like Velcro). Then they visit other flowers and drop off pollen. Pollen fertilizes the fruit, causing it to develop (or increases fruit size).
- Choose 2 youth to be “bees;” they will wear the “Velcro legs.”
- Divide the remaining youth into 2 teams of “flowers.” Give each team a set of “pollen” to divide up.
- The object of the game is for the “bees” to transfer all the pollen from one team to the other side and vice versa. “Bees” walk (or run) around “flowers” collecting and sharing pollen.
- “Flowers” will try to attach their pollen circles to bee legs, and to remove the other team’s pollen from bee legs until all pollen has been traded between teams.
- Choose new bees and play again.
4. Pheromones Game
- Collect enough film canisters or other small containers so each youth will have one.
- Fill canisters with different scents so each has exactly one match. Youth will smell their scent and then try to find who has their match. Example scents: peanut butter, mouthwash, chocolate, banana, orange juice, pine, spices, essential oils, etc. Place a cotton ball on top.
Play the Game:
- Tell youth that insects talk to each other using scents called pheromones.
- Give each person a film canister with the scent inside. Let youth smell their own canister, then have them smell everyone else’s until they find their match. Play until everyone found their match.
**Note: if you use clear or white film canisters, have youth hold their hand around canisters so they cannot match by color.
5. Master Engineers
Preparation: Bring paper and pencils for youth to draw and some example polygons. Bring completed drawings of pentagon, hexagon, septagon (7 sides), and octagon lattices. A lattice is many of the same polygon hooked together. You could also use wooden or magnetic foam polygons.
To play: Bees are master engineers. They design perfect honeycomb for their houses.
EXPLORE: Which polygon works best for honeycomb cells? Have youth draw lattices of pentagons, hexagons, septagons, octagons, etc. to see which works best to store honey.
DISCUSS: Ask youth what they discovered.
Hexagons work best because they fit together in a lattice, while other polygons don’t. They also maximize the amount of honey stored in each cell. When looking from the side of a cell, bees build cells at a 4 degree angle so honey doesn’t leak out of cells. It took man many years to figure out what bees knew already!
6. Three Types of Honeybees
Make a poster patching game as pictured. There are three castes of honeybees: the queen, worker, and drone. Match the bee with its characteristic.
- Queen Bee:
- There is 1 queen per hive
- She has a stinger
- She lays 1,200 eggs/day or 200,000 eggs/season
- There is no genetic difference between queens and worker bees, only a nutritional difference.
- If a female egg gets “royal jelly” she will become a queen.
- Worker bees know to feed royal jelly to an egg/larva which has been laid in a queen cell.
- Newly hatched queens kill off all competition
- The queen releases a calming pheromone for the hive
- If the queen dies, the pheromone stops and worker bees go into a frenzy to raise a new queen.
- Largest bee in the hive
- Drone Bee:
- No stinger
- Fly outside the hive to mate with queens from other hives
- After mating they die (reproductive organs are ripped out)
- Are “kicked out” of the hive each winter. The queen lays a new batch of drones in the spring.
- Medium-sized bee
- Worker Bee
- Fly outside the hive to collect nectar (sugar) and pollen (protein)
- Build honeycomb
- Make honey
- Make wax
- Use propolis (plant resin) to seal edges of hive
- Care for and feed offspring
- Repair hive when damaged
- Guard hive from intruders
- Smallest bees in the hive
Bee Game Clues
|Collect Nectar and Pollen from flowers||Do not have stingers||Mate with queen|
|Larvae eat royal jelly||Make honey||Release calming pheromones for hive|
|Build honey comb from plant wax||Lay eggs||Male|
|Their eggs are laid in extra long honey comb cells||One per colony||Feed and take care of larva|
|Largest bee in the hive||Middle-sized bee||Smallest kind of bee|
7. Beekeeping Equipment Tour
Bring beekeeping equipment and let youth guess what the equipment is used for. For older youth, print a list and then have them write what each type of equipment is used for.
- Bee box
- Hive tool
- Bee Suit
- Honey extractor
Kids trying the extractor
8. Observation hive
Contact a local beekeeper and ask if they have an observation hive to lend. Show the hive to youth very last or their attention will be on it the whole time.
9. Beeswax Lip Balm
See the recipe and tips from this post. We halved the recipe for each station. One whole recipe makes about 40 tubes.
Microsoft Word Version: All About Bees For Kids
PDF Version: All About Bees For Kids