National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
Honey Bees: A Pollination Simulation
3 - 5
Students will identify the parts of a honey bee, the stages of its life cycle, and its role in pollination.
- Preserved honey bee, 1 per group
- Hand lenses, 1 per group
- Honey Bee PowerPoint
- Anatomy of a Worker Bee activity sheets, 1 per student
- 32 black chenille stems
- 8 containers of 100 mini (5mm) pompoms
- 8 small containers* of water
- 16 medium-sized (1") pompoms*
- 16 jewel bags (1.5" x 2") with yarn tied as a necklace*
- 16 drinking straws*
- Construction paper, 25 pieces
*These items are included in the Pollination Simulation Kit, which is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
- Beeswax Modeling Clay Recipe
- A Beeswax Modeling Clay Kit is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
- Cardstock or construction paper
- Honeycomb, optional
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
- Honey Bee PowerPoint
- Beeswax Modeling Clay Recipe
- Anatomy of a Worker Bee KEY
- Anatomy of a Worker Bee Activity Sheet
beeswax: a substance secreted from glands located on the underside of a worker bee’s abdomen
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
colony: a group living together
hive: a home to a colony of bees
honeycomb: six-sided wax cells in a beehive
metamorphosis: the process of change in the form and habits of an organism during transformation from an immature stage to an adult stage
nectar: a sweet liquid secreted by flowers
pollen: a fine, powder-like material produced by flowering plants
pollination: the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of a plant
propolis: a resin-like material used by bees to construct and seal parts of the beehive
royal jelly: a milky, yellow syrup secreted from a gland in a young worker bee’s head; used to feed larvae
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Bees pollinate 95 different crops, helping to create nearly one-third of the world's food supply.
- Honey is the only food produced by insects that is eaten by humans on a wide scale.
- A queen bee can lay over one million eggs in her lifetime.
- Worker bees' wings can beat 250 times per second allowing the bee to fly at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
Ask students, "Why are honey bees important to humans?"
Activity 1: Bee Anatomy
- Create groups of 4-5 students. Provide each group with hand lenses and preserved honey bees. Ask the students to examine the bees and, as a group, make a chart listing the details they observed. Provide time for each group to present their observations to the class.
- Explain to the students that honey bees have three main body regions— the head, thorax, and abdomen. Use the “Honey Bee” PowerPoint to discuss the main parts of a worker bee.
- Ask students to label the parts of a worker bee on the “Anatomy of a Worker Bee” activity sheet.
Activity 2: Pollination Simulation
- Using the background information as a guide, discuss the roles of each of the three castes of honey bees—the queen, workers, and drones.
- Simulate the role worker bees play in pollination by conducting a pollination simulation. Choose 8 students to represent flowers, 16 students to represent worker bees, and 1 student to represent the queen bee. Numbers of flowers and worker bees may vary according to class sizes. Extra students can represent the worker bees and drones that remain in the hive.
- Have students create construction paper headbands to differentiate flowers, worker bees, and the queen bee. Draw and cut out flowers to glue onto the flower headbands. Create antennae using chenille stems to staple onto the worker bee headbands. Cut out a crown-shaped headband for the queen bee.
- Choose a large area, preferably outdoors, to serve as the “garden” and a smaller area to the side of the garden to serve as the “beehive.”
- Each flower will hold one container of mini pompoms to represent pollen and one container of water to represent nectar. The flowers will choose a location inside the garden in which to stand.
- Each worker bee will carry one medium-sized pompom to represent the bee’s hairy body, one jewel bag tied with yarn and worn as a necklace to represent the honey sac, and one straw to represent the proboscis.
- The worker bees will begin at the beehive with the queen, drones, and other workers whose duties require them to work inside the hive. When the queen bee gives the command, the worker bees will leave the hive in search of nectar from flowers.
- When a worker finds a flower, they will land their medium-sized pompom into the container of mini pompoms. The worker will then simulate gathering nectar with their proboscis by filling a straw with water using their finger to create a vacuum. The water will be deposited into the jewel bag. When the worker removes the medium-sized pompom from the container, the tiny pompoms will stick to the larger pompom much the same way pollen sticks to the hairs of a bee when it visits a flower.
- After collecting nectar and pollen from the flower, the worker will find a new flower to visit. Here, the worker will brush off some of the pollen collected from the previous flower into the new flower’s container. They will then collect more nectar and pollen before visiting another flower.
- Once the worker bee has filled their honey sac with nectar, they will return to the hive.
- For the purpose of this simulation, the worker bee must collect nectar and pollen from each flower before visiting a flower for a second time, and only two bees may visit the same flower at once.
- Trade roles and repeat the simulation as many times as desired.
Activity 3: Beeswax Life Cycle Models
- Ask the students if humans use any items made by honey bees.
- Talk about how honey bees make beeswax. Explain that beeswax is secreted from the wax glands of worker bees to create and cap cells inside the hive. Beeswax is used in the production of candles, cosmetics, artists’ materials, electronics, lubricants, polishes, inks, and paints. Bees require the protein from pollen and the carbohydrates from honey to create beeswax. It takes 6-10 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax, which is enough to construct 35,000 cells within a hive. A beekeeper will harvest two pounds of wax cappings for every 100 pounds of honey.
- If possible, obtain honeycomb so students can observe the wax cells and cappings. Honey in the comb can be obtained from beekeepers, specialty stores, online stores, and farmers markets.
- Use the “Honey Bee” PowerPoint to discuss the life cycle of a honey bee.
- Make beeswax modeling clay (recipe found in essential files). Instruct students to use the clay to create a honey bee life cycle model by creating an egg, larva, pupa, and adult honeybee. Refer to the “Honey Bee” PowerPoint for photographs of each life stage. Students can work in groups or individually to create their life cycle model.
- A cell for each life stage can be created out of paper folded into the shape of a hexagon.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Bees are important to pollinate crops that produce our food. If the plant is not pollinated it will not produce food.
- A colony of bees is very organized with specific workers for individual jobs.
- In addition to pollination, honey bees also make honey.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Use the following videos to further explore the world of honey bees. In Flight of the Honey Bee (2:15) a commercial beekeeper illustrates how honey bees play an essential role in the crop production process. Give your students a close-up look at a honey bee covered in pollen and hives traveling across the country to pollinate different crops. In order to collect pollen and nectar efficiently, honey bees tell each other where to look for the best flowers. Show your students a Dancing Honeybee Using Vector Calculus to Communicate (3:01). The Harvard Microrobotics Lab breaks down the mechanics of insect flight to create a biologically-inspired, insect-scale robot, shown in this two-minute video.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Beebuzz (Activity)
- A 'Bee-Friendly' Guide to Help Save the Honey Bees (Book)
- Achoo! Why Pollen Counts (Book)
- Beekeepers (Book)
- Bees and Wasps (Book)
- Flight of the Honey Bee (Book)
- How Do Apples Grow? (Book)
- The Bee Book (Book)
- The Bee Tree (Book)
- The Beeman (Book)
- The Honeybee Man (Book)
- The Honeybee and the Robber (Book)
- The Life and Times of the Honeybee (Book)
- UnBEElievables (Book)
- When the Bees Fly Home (Book)
- Beeswax Modeling Clay Kit (Kit)
- Pollination Simulation Kit (Kit)
- Anatomy of a Worker Bee (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Honey Bee Study Prints (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Amazing Time-Lapse: Bees Hatch Before Your Eyes (Multimedia)
- Bees: Tales from the Hive (Multimedia)
- City of Bees: A Children's Guide to Bees DVD (Multimedia)
- How It's Made: Honey (Multimedia)
- Introduction to Pollination video (Multimedia)
- NMSU Field Trip: Honey (Multimedia)
- That's So Sweet! – A Look at Honey Production in the Twin Cities (Multimedia)
- The Honey Files (Multimedia)
- Wings of Life (Multimedia)
- Conserving Pollinators: A Primer for Gardeners (Website)
- Pollen Gallery (Website)
- The Buzz About Bees (Website)
- Utah State University Bee Lab (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
- Explain the value of agriculture and how it is important in daily life. (T5.3-5.d)
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
- Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products (T4.3-5.d)
Education Content Standards
3-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
3-LS1-1Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
4-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
4-LS1-1Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
4-LS1-2Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.
Common Core Connections
Reading: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.