Spring is dragging along this year because we've had cool weather longer than usual. That's a good thing!
But is has also meant some insects are behind their usual schedule.
Take the solitary bees, like the digger and sweat bees. Usually we have clouds of tiny bees visiting flowers in March. This year they have been delayed.
The cuckoo bee can be an indicator. I watch the desert marigolds for them every year. This is a photograph of the first one I've spotted this year and it is April 15, 2020. In past years, we've seen them in February and March.
Taking photographs can be a way of keeping records of when certain events occur.
Do you have any insects that you look for year after year?
I haven't really made a big announcement about it, but on October 6, 2020 my picture book, How to Build an Insect (illustrated by Anne Lambelet) is coming out. There is a preorder page on Amazon, but -- sorry -- no cover yet. Edit: The publication date has been moved to April 2021.
To celebrate, I'm starting a series of posts to encourage children to learn about insects through building models, creating art and making crafts. Each post will feature ideas for a particular insect group.
Just in time for spring, let's make some bees!
Because we are looking at bees from a STEAM perspective, it is important to emphasize that bees are insects. They have three distinct body regions: head, thorax, and abdomen. Bees have six legs and four wings attached to the thorax. They have eyes and antennae on their heads. Creating an accurate model will reinforce these facts.
First, gather photographs of bees and age-appropriate books on the topic. Freshly emerged this month and with many starred reviews, we recommend the picture book Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann. For a full summary and review, fly over to our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.
Activity 1. Paper models of bees
Markers and/or crayons
Glue sticks or tape
Computer paper or newspaper for wings
For the youngest children, cut out ovals for the head, thorax and abdomen, as well as paper strips to be the legs and antennae. Cut elongate triangles of white paper or newspaper for wings.
Have the children assemble the parts and glue together.
Cut out body parts from construction paper or computer paper, assemble, and decorate.
Detail Note: What color are bees?
Check out any bee craft on the internet and they are likely to have contrasting yellow and black stripes. Bold, contrasting colors like that are examples of warning coloration, a sign that animal is defended in some way.
Not all bees are yellow and black, though. They can be almost any color.
Honey bees are orangish to brown and black.
This sweat bee resembles the hues of a peacock: teal, blues, and purple.
This one is green and gold.
The bottom line is to let the children explore color. No need to limit them to yellow and black.
Activity 2. Draw bees
Older children may want to use their art skills and draw bees. Check out the video below for step by step instructions. Cool!
If a child is not confident about drawing, consider starting with a stencil.
The stencil can be filled in using crayons, colored pencils, or markers, but I chose oil pastels.
Make a heavy outline of the stencil with the oil pastel.
Using a finger or bit of tissue, draw the pastels from the edge by rubbing. This creates a shading effect.
Remove the stencil and fill in details like antennae, if desired.
Activity 3. Model bee
(Amazon Affiliate link)
Model Magic or air-dry clay
Chenille stems (also known as fuzzy stems or pipe cleaners)
Plastic water bottle (empty)
Form the head, thorax, and abdomen out of lumps of air-dry clay or Model Magic. Join them together. (Hint: Using short pieces of chenille embedded between the body sections will create added support.) Add contrasting-colored ovals to head for eyes.
Cut 2 chenille stem pieces for antennae and insert into clay head. Cut 6 chenille stem pieces for legs. Insert into clay thorax.
Cut elongate triangle wing-shaped pieces from an empty plastic water bottle to form wings. Overlap and embed the attachment end into the thorax, so the bottoms of the wings cover the abdomen.
I purposely left the instructions a bit vague to allow for creativity, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.