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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.

Life can be challenging for honey bees.

For instance, take the red bird of paradise flower.

These flowers have amazing long stamens.

See the red threadlike-structures towards the left. The bumps at the ends are the anthers that produce pollen.

Collecting that pollen from such a fragile structure can be a chore.

It requires some acrobatics, even with wings.


One honey bee is using other stamens as scaffolding of sorts.

Another tries a different approach.

It's called the fly in and grab.

Grasp the anther.

And down it goes.

It would have been better as a video, but I saw a bunch of honey bees doing this.

It looked like a ride at an an amusement park. The stamen droops with the weight of the bee then springs up again when the bee lets go.

All in a day's work, I guess.

When I visited the yard this morning to take photographs for this post, first I checked to see what was flowering. Flowers are great places to find insects.

The little leaf cordia (Cordia parviflolia) attracted my eye. It was covered with clusters of white blossoms.

The flowers were beautiful, but nothing was visiting them. In contrast, the plant next to it was humming and buzzing.

That's the wolfberry, Lycium species. It isn't much to look at from a human perspective.

From an insect's perspective, however, it was an open grocery store.

The honey bees and digger bees were lining up to sip nectar.

Smaller bees were wrapped around the anthers harvesting pollen.

When it was done, the underside of this one's abdomen was white with pollen.

Snout butterflies visited the flowers, too. They are drab when sitting like this.

Surprise!

Numerous flower flies and a few wasps flitted around. This flower or hover fly has a really big head compared to the rest of its body.

From the street (top photograph) the wolfberry bush looks like a small cluster of brownish branches on the left between the bright green Texas sage on the bottom left and the little leaf cordia. If you didn't know the wolfberry was there, you wouldn't even see it. Just the same, it provides food for hundreds of insects which in turn pollinate our gardens and serve as food for wildlife.

I hope I can continue to convince our homeowner's association that it deserves to stay.