The Amazing Honey Bee
Students investigate the three types of honey bees in a colony, identify their roles, and recognize honey bees as part of a community that works together. Grades K-2
- Honey samples
Activity 1: Bee Communities
- KWL Chart
- The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci
- Honeybee Worksheet
- Amazing Bees Online Poster
- Venn Diagram or Top Hat Graphic Organizer
Activity 2: Making Honey
- The Beeman by Laurie Krebs
- Small cartons or containers of milk
- 3-ounce cups, 1 per student when the class is divided in half
- Instant pudding mix
- Spoon or stir stick
- Can of whipped cream
Activity 3: A Day in the Life of a Honey Bee
- KWL Chart
- Dry erase boards, 1 per student in small groups
- Dry erase markers, 1 per student in small groups
brood: the offspring produced by the colony (eggs and larvae)
cell: a hexagonal wax chamber built from beeswax for brood rearing and storage of honey and pollen
drone: a male honeybee that is produced from an unfertilized egg
egg: laid by a queen bee, this is the first stage in the life of a honeybee
enzyme: protein catalyst, which speeds up a specific chemical reaction
evaporate: turn from liquid to gas
hive: a home to a colony of bees
nectar: a sweet liquid secreted by flowers
pollen: the fine, powder-like material produced by the anthers of flowering plants
pollination: the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of a plant; the spreading of pollen by insects, birds, bats, and the wind between flowering plants
pollinator: agent that moves pollen resulting in the pollination of flowers
proboscis: straw-like tongue used by honey bees to suck nectar or honey
queen: a female bee that lays eggs
regurgitate: bring swallowed food up again to the mouth
workers: female bees who build and guard the hive, look after the queen and gather food
Did You Know?
- Did you know that a honey bee can fly around 15 mph?
- Honey bees gather 10 pounds of nectar to make one pound of honey.
- A foraging honey bee can carry 80% of their weight in pollen or nectar.
- Honey bees make up 80% of all pollinators.
- Honey bees use several dances in the hive to communicate the location of nectar and water to other bees. One well known dance is called the waggle dance.
- There is only one queen per colony. More than one queen will fight and only one will survive.
- The queen honey bee lays between 1,000-3,000 eggs per day!
Background Agricultural Connections
Honey bees are an important insect that are familiar to many elementary students. Honey bees like to live in dark, enclosed places. In the wild, they can be found in tree limbs and trunks. Beekeepers care for honey bees in wooden hives. Three different kinds of honey bees live in the hive:
- Queen - One female who lays all of the eggs. She has a long, thin body and is the largest bee. Queen bees live from 3-5 years and can lay up to 2,000 eggs each day.
- Drones - Drones are male bees. Their job is to mate with the queen so she can lay eggs. Each colony in the hive has about 100 drone bees.
- Workers - Worker bees are all females. There are usually hundreds of worker bees in a hive. They are the smallest bees, but they have many important jobs. These jobs include grooming the queen, nursing the brood (young bees), creating wax, building the honeycomb, guarding the hive, foraging for nectar and water, and making honey.
When worker bees are foraging, they collect nectar from flowers using their straw-like mouth part known as a proboscis. The nectar is stored in a special part of their body called the crop, or honey stomach. Pollen is collected on the legs and and body of the forager bees. The pollen is transferred from flower to flower to pollinate the plants so seeds, fruits, and vegetables are produced. Over 1,000 different plants that are grown for food, beverages, fiber, species, and medicine need pollinators in order to produce the products we need and want.
When the forager worker bees have a full crop, they travel back to the hive. When they are back in the hive, the forager regurgitates the nectar and transfers it to a worker bee in the hive. Enzymes in the stomach of the bees convert the nectar into a thin, watery form of honey. This liquid is placed in a cell in the honeycomb. The bees use their wings to fan the liquid to evaporate the water until it thickens. Finally, the wax-making worker bees seal the honeycomb cell where the honey continues to ripen and develop flavor.
- Provide a sample of honey on a cracker or spoon for students to taste. Encourage them to use adjectives to describe the taste and sweetness that they are experiencing.
- Ask the students, "How do you think honey is made? Where does it comes from?"
- Write the word "bee" on the board. Ask the students to brainstorm connections bees have to food, plants, and agriculture. As a class, create a list, mindmap, or a word cloud about bees that can be posted in the classroom as a tool that can be referred back to throughout the lesson.
Explore and Explain
Activity 1: Bee Communities
- Provide each student with the KWL Chart handout. As a class or independently, have the students create a KWL chart to record what they Know (K) about honey bees, what they Want (W) to know about them, and what they have Learned (L) by the end of the lesson.
- Read The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci.
- Hand out a copy of the Honeybee Worksheet to each student. Discuss the roles of the three types of honeybees and have the students complete the worksheet. Integrate the following facts into the discussion:
- Bees live in groups called colonies.
- Each colony has one queen. The queen has a longer body than all of the other bees in the colony.
- Drone bees are smaller than the queen. They are male bees and their only job is to mate with the queen so she can lay more eggs. One colony will have about 100 drone bees.
- Worker bees are the smallest bees in the colony. They are all female and have lots of different jobs including feeding the larvae; cleaning the hive; creating wax and using it too make new cells; grooming and feeding the queen; guarding and protecting the hive; and leaving the hive to collect pollen, nectar, and water. There are thousands of worker bees in the colony.
- Use the information on the Amazing Bees Online Poster to help students discover the ways in which bee colonies work together as a community.
- Use a Venn Diagram or Top Hat Graphic Organizer to compare and contrast how bees in a hive and students in a classroom work together as a community. Examples include:
- The bees in a hive live in large groups called colonies. In our school, our class is a large group of students.
- In the hive, there is one bee who is the leader—the queen. In our classroom, the teacher is the leader.
- In the hive, the worker bees have special jobs—take care of the young bees, guard the hive, create wax to build the honeycomb where eggs are laid, forage or find pollen and nectar to feed the bees in the hive, and make honey. In our classroom, we all have jobs. (Students can list jobs specific to their classroom.)
- If a bee doesn't do his/her job, the whole hive is affected. For example, if the bees that are supposed to look for pollen and nectar decide not to, some or all of the bees will not have the proper nutrients. In our classroom, if someone doesn't do their job, it affects the entire class. For example, if one person does not put away their books in our library, other students won't be able to read those books.
Activity 2: Making Honey
- Read The Beeman by Laurie Krebs. Discuss the roles of the bees, as well as the terms explained in the book—nectar, pollen, hive, colony, cells, eggs, larva, and pollination.
- Have the students act out the steps of the honey-making process:
- Forager bees collect nectar from flowers using their straw-like mouth part called a proboscis. As they suck up the nectar, pollen sticks to their legs and body. Forager bees visit up to 100 flowers to fill their stomachs with nectar. Place small cartons or containers of milk, which represents flowers with nectar, randomly throughout the classroom with a parent volunteer/assistant. Assign half of the students to stand in one corner of the classroom to represent worker bees that stay in the hive. Assign the other half of the students to be foragers. Provide each forager with a 3-ounce cup. Instruct them to visit the flowers where the parent volunteer/assistant will pour a small amount of milk into their cup. When their cup is half-full, they will fly back to the hive.
- When the forager bees are full with nectar, they fly back to the hive and regurgitate the nectar into the mouths of other worker bees. Special enzymes in the stomachs of the bees change the nectar into runny, watery honey. The worker bees spit the honey into the waxy honeycomb. Have the foragers travel to the "hive" and give their cup of "nectar" (milk) to one of the worker bees. Have parent volunteers/assistants add 1 teaspoon of instant pudding mix to each milk cup. The pudding mix represents the enzymes that turn the nectar into honey.
- The worker bees use their wings as fans to evaporate the water from the honey. This makes the honey thicker. Provide the worker bees with a spoon or stir-stick to mix the milk and pudding mix for 1 minute. Allow the mixture to sit and thicken for 5 minutes.
- The worker bees close up the honeycomb with wax to protect the honey. They use the honey as food for the winter. Lucky for us, they make about 2-3 times more honey than they need so we get to eat it too! Have the parent volunteers/assistants use a can of whipped cream to cover the pudding, representing the wax cover. Provide each student with a spoonful of the pudding to show that the bees all share the honey and some is left over. Beekeepers can take some of the honey, but cannot not take all of the honey or the bees will not have enough to eat throughout the winter. The bees all have an important piece in the job of creating honey and all share the product.
Activity 3: A Day in the Life of a Honey Bee
- Lead a discussion about the importance of honey bees and how they affect the environment. Integrate the following points into the discussion:
- As bees travel to find nectar, they brush up on the flower's pollen.
- Pollen is powder-like and sticks to the bees' hairy bodies.
- When the bees fly to the next flower, some of the pollen is brushed off onto the flower.
- The flower uses the pollen to make seeds which can grow new plants that give us fruits, nuts, and vegetables. We depend on pollination for the fruits and vegetables we eat.
- Ask the students to think about what they have learned about honey bees and what a honey bee's day might be like.
- Have the students write and/or draw about where they would fly and what they would do if they were honey bees. Allow time for the students to share their work.
- Complete the KWL chart from Activity 1 by listing what the class learned about bees.
Read Buzz-Buzz, Busy Bees by Dawn Bentley. Provide students an opportunity to identify the letters M, m, T, t, F, f, H, h, N, and n in the book. Write an uppercase letter on the wing of each bee on page 1 of the Letter Recognition Worksheet and a matching lowercase letter on the wings on page 2. (Letters may be written on the worksheet prior to making copies. They may also be shown on the whiteboard or overhead transparency.) Have the students cut out the wings with lowercase letters (page 2) and match these lowercase letter wings with the corresponding uppercase letter bees to show letter recognition. Provide the students with Play-Doh to make the shapes of the letters showing that they understand and identify the difference between an uppercase letter and a matching lowercase letter.
Have the students act out the waggle dance of a honey bee. Refer to the lesson Flower Power Activity 3 for more information.
Throw a honey tasting party which includes various foods that contain honey.
Assess students in small groups. Provide each student with a dry-erase marker and marker board on which to write their answers. Read each question aloud and have the students write the corresponding letter of their chosen answer on their marker boards.
- The name of the place where a bee lives is called a:
- Which of these is NOT one of the three types of bees we learned about?
A. a drone
B. a worker
C. a sweeper
D. a queen
- When a baby bee is growing and it looks like a worm, it is called a:
- When a baby bee is growing its eyes, legs, and wings, and has not hatched yet, it is called a:
Verbal Response – Ask students individually.
Explain one way honeybees change the environment around which they live.
Recommended Companion Resources
- Achoo! Why Pollen Counts
- Amazing Time-Lapse: Bees Hatch Before Your Eyes
- Anatomy of a Worker Bee
- Bees and Wasps
- Beeswax Lip Balm Kit
- Beeswax Modeling Clay Kit
- Before the Plate Website
- Buzzing With Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
- City of Bees: A Children's Guide to Bees DVD
- Flight of the Honey Bee
- Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate
- Give Bees a Chance
- Henry Meets a Honey Bee
- Honey Bee Study Prints
- How It's Made: Honey
- In the Trees, Honey Bees
- Introduction to Pollination video
- Meadowscaping Makes it Better Activity Guide
- Meadowscaping with Kids
- NMSU Field Trip: Honey
- Pollen: Darwin's 130 Year Prediction
- Pollination Simulation Kit
- Prolific Pollinators
- That's So Sweet! – A Look at Honey Production in the Twin Cities
- The Bee Book
- The Bee Tree
- The Beeman
- The Honey Files
- The Honeybee Man
- The Honeybee and the Robber
- The Importance of Pollinators
- The Life and Times of the Honeybee
- The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter
- Up Close Experience: Bees
- Utah State University Bee Lab
- When the Bees Fly Home
- Wings of Life