Tag: honey bee science activities for children

#WorldBeeDay Hands- On STEAM Activities

Melissodes trinodus bee

May 20 is World Bee Day, but we can celebrate bees any day with hands-on STEAM activities.

1. Visit the World Bee Day website for detailed information about the importance of bees (and other pollinators). Look for why the organizers chose May 20 for the date. The right sidebar contains many links to other informative websites, including the beautifully designed and engaging Buzzing with Life.

2. Tohono Chul Gardens has put together an amazing collection of lessons about bees and other pollinators. Created to cover a week’s worth of activities, it includes instructions for gardening and art. If nothing else, download the bee homes activity (PDF).

3. To get a glimpse of the diversity of bees (and some other insects), check out the photographs at the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab Flickr page. Seriously. Click on the photographs to learn the scientific names of the bees and more about them. For example, our little long-horned bee in the photograph above is a Melissodes trinodus.

4. Make a honey bee model (previous Growing with Science post).

5. See our collection of honey bee science activities as well as all our posts in the bee category.

6. Visit our growing list of children’s books about bees at Science Books for Kids.

Insect Science Investigations for Kids: Bees, Ants, and Wasps

For our final week in this series we have science activities and resources for learning more about bees, ants, and wasps, Order Hymenoptera.

1. What are the characteristics of ants, bees, and wasps?

One characteristic feature of the members of the order Hymenoptera is the presence of two pairs of membranous wings that are different in size. The forewings are larger than the hindwings.

mystery-insect-wing-200Exceptions are the worker ants, which lack wings. The male and queen ants do have wings that fit this pattern.

Another feature of the order is that some of the females have an egg-laying tube, or ovipositor, that has been modified into a stinger. Some ants, bees, and wasps use stingers to defend themselves and their nestmates.

molestaCA1-S-alex-wild-public-domainPublic domain photograph by Alex Wild

Ants can often be distinguished from other insects by the fact their antennae have a bend in the middle, although some bees and wasps also have this characteristic.

2. What are the differences between bees and wasps?

Because many bees and wasps exhibit bright warning coloration in the form of contrasting light and dark colors (often yellow and black), people sometimes have difficulty telling them apart.

bee-wasp-infographicThe main difference between the two is that bee larvae are vegetarians and wasp larvae are not. The other physical differences often relate to those differences in diet.

Activity:  Dissect a flower to discover where pollen and nectar are formed.

Commercially available lilies are excellent for this type of dissection. Pollen comes from the anthers and nectar is produced by the nectaries.

Mature_flower_diagram.svg(“Mature flower diagram” by Mariana Ruiz LadyofHats. Public Domain image at Wikimedia Commons.)

3. Ant, bee and wasp life cycles

Insects in the order Hymenoptera undergo complete metamorphosis, with egg, larva, pupa and adult stages.

ant-life-cycleAnt pupae are unusual because some species form silken sacs, called cocoons, and other form bare pupae.

The Ask-a Biologist website has some coloring pages that show life cycles.

Links to .pdf files to download:

4. Ant anatomy

Ants and wasps are also unusual because although they look like they have the standard three body parts of most insects (head, thorax, and abdomen), the middle section actually contains some parts of the true abdomen. For that reason the parts are often given special names unique to the Hymenoptera.


Ask-a-biologist also has a detailed discussion of ant anatomy, although it uses slightly different terminology.

as well as ant anatomy coloring sheets

We also have an activity using marshmallows and toothpicks to make an ant model.


Additional Resources and Books:

ant-books-buttonSee our growing list of children’s books about ants at Science Books for Kids.

honey-bee-books-coverWe also have an extensive list of children’s books about honey bees.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

See the other lessons in this series:

Insect Science Investigations

Honey Bees: Science Activities for Kids

Once again, our activities this week are inspired by a book, this time it is The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field Series) by Loree Griffin Burns and photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. (We also used Loree Burn’s Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion for activities in a previous post). Check Wrapped in Foil for a review of the book.hive-detectives

You may have heard on the news that honey bees are disappearing. The Hive Detectives follows the research of four scientists trying to figure out what is going on, as well as discussing a lot of general information about honey bees.

In the 1990’s I co-authored a set of lesson plans about honey bees, called “Africanized Honey Bees on the Move” for the University of Arizona. At the time the Africanized honey bees had just moved into Arizona, and many people were concerned about them. The lesson plans have a number of hands-on activities to do with many aspects of honey bee biology. If you go to a grade level, it will list appropriate lessons. Each lesson has links to activity and information sheets. Many of the lessons can be adapted to mixed-age groups.

Here are some honey bee-related activities and links:

1. Gardening for bees

Honey bees require pollen and nectar from flowers in order to survive. One simple activity is to investigate what kinds of bee-friendly plants grow in your area and have your children design and plant a bee garden.

You may wonder if encouraging honey bees to visit flowers in an area with children might be dangerous. It turns out that bees collecting food, called foraging bees, are not likely to sting unless they are stepped on, caught or otherwise threatened. This might not be an appropriate activity, however, for children who are allergic to bees.

(The first two websites were recommended in the book).

Pollinator.org has free planting guides to help you find appropriate plants.

And don’t forget the Great Sunflower Project mentioned in a previous post.

These flowering plants help all kinds of pollinators, not just honey bees.

2. Honey bees and water


Any idea what these bees are doing?

Honey bees need a lot of water, especially in the summer. They use the water to cool inside the hive, to prevent the wax honeycomb from melting. You can see the tongue, called a proboscis, sucking up the water at the edge of this lily pad.

Getting water can be dangerous business for a honey bee. Honey bees often end up falling in, like the ones you see in swimming pools. Can you design a safe place for honey bees to gather water to add to your garden?

3. Honey bee communication and dances.

One of my favorite lessons was always doing the honey bee waggle dances as a way of learning how honey bees communicate.

Dancing under a polarized sky also has a lot of information about honey bee dances.

4. Honey bee senses

Honey bees perceive the world in a way that is very different from humans.

Honey bee senses lesson

What a bee sees

5. Honey bee and other bee nests

Investigate where honey bees live, where beekeepers keep bees and what it is like inside a hive.

The Insect Architects post has a some information about honey bee homes.

You can supply nest sites for other kinds of bees.


I don’t know whether you can read it, but the sign says “Digger Bee Nest Site.” We have left a patch of soil for the tiny digger bees to nest in.

The solitary and social bees lesson has a explanation of the different kinds of bees and how to construct an orchard mason bee nest.


There are a lot of ways to use honey bees as examples for science and nature lessons. Please let me know if you would like more information about any of these activities or if you have found a great website that helps children learn about honey bees.

Books to help you find out more (linked images and titles go to Amazon):

In addition to The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe (Scientists in the Field Series),

you might be interested in these other books about bees from a precious post:
For young children you might want to try The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive

Are You a Bee? (Backyard Books) is an intriguing book that compares humans and honey bees in an informative and gently humorous way.

The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre (Author), Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator) is a positively gorgeous book, chock full of good information. Any child who is interested in bees will love this book.

A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell has some interesting tidbits on keeping honey bees, although it is about many other aspects of the natural world as well. A few of the chapters can some information that could be considered adult, such as she briefly discusses her divorce. You might want to read it first to determine if it is suitable for your older children. I have to say my son and I love it and I read it to him almost every summer (a summer tradition).

A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them by Sue Hubbell contains a lot more technical information about beekeeping. There are many other books about beekeeping available, but this one warms my heart because it also shows more of the human side of the experience.

Plus visit our growing list of children’s books about honey bees at Science Books for Kids.

Note: the book that inspired this post was found at our local library.