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Science Lesson: The Amazing World of Bees

Subjects

Science
--Earth and Nature Science

Grade

4-8

Brief Description

Students learn about the amazing abilities of bees and appreciate ways in which these unique insects help humans.

Objectives

Students will:

  • Learn the basics about bees
  • Identify unique abilities of bees
  • Understand how bees benefit humans

Keywords

Bees, honeybees, honey, pollen, pollination, Royal Jelly, venom, healing

Materials Needed

  • (If desired) Computer(s) with Internet access
  • Bee Facts Quiz (copy for each student or group of students)
  • Paper and pencils, and if desired, additional drawing supplies such as markers

Lesson Plan

Introduction

Assess students’ prior knowledge about bees by asking questions such as:

  1. What kind of creature is a bee? (An insect.)
  2. What are some different species of bees? (Bumblebees, Carpenter bees, honeybees, Killer bees.)
  3. What do bees look like?
  4. What are some parts of a bee’s body?
  5. What are some of the different roles that bees play in a bee colony?
  6. Do bees produce anything other than honey?
  7. What exactly is honey?
  8. How do bees communicate?
  9. How do bees defend themselves?
  10. How do bees help the ecosystem? (Pollination, etc.)

Discussion with Students

Next, teachers should cover basic facts about bees, including typical bee behaviors, habitats and domestication.

Good sources for general bee information include:

The New York Times Bee Section
The San Diego Zoo Bee Collection

Then share with students some of the special and unique behaviors and abilities of bees. You’ll want to include the following points:

Found on every continent on Earth except for Antarctica, and in every known habitat, bees are one of nature’s wonders, possessing several abilities that make them unique in the insect world. These abilities, along with the materials they produce, have made them indispensible to the human race for over 3,000 years.

Electromagnetic Predictors

Apart from cows and fish, bees are the only creature on Earth that is in tune with the planet’s electromagnetic field. While cows and fish use this ability simply to find the direction north, bees take it to the next level by using this electromagnetic sensitivity to predict the weather. Bees can sense the charge in the air that accompanies thunderstorms and therefore know when to seek shelter.

The secret behind the bee’s sensitivity to anything with an electrical charge is the combination of its mode of travel and its body. As bees fly, their wings produce a negative electrical charge, much like when you walk across a carpeted floor in your socks and then receive a static “shock” from touching a doorknob. Their bodies are covered in a blanket of tiny hairs that hold the charge and help collect pollen, which just happens to be positively charged.

Producers of Magical Substances

While other creatures produce food products that people consume, bees are the only insect from which we get food. Honey’s appeal is obvious, but its practicality goes far beyond sweetening foods and beverages and soothing sore throats.

Incredibly, honey never spoils. In addition, humans have been using it to treat wounds for thousands of years. Recently, doctors have found that honey, which is actually regurgitated bee food, has antibacterial properties. Hospitals actually use it to sterilize equipment.

The ability to produce one amazing substance is impressive, but bees actually produce two more such substances. In addition to honey, bees secrete a substance called Royal Jelly, which they use to feed all larvae and the adult queen. A team of scientists in Croatia have discovered that injecting Royal Jelly directly into cancerous tumors stops them from spreading.

These scientists then tested the effectiveness of bee venom by directly injecting it into cancerous tumors. Amazingly, the tumors shrunk. In addition, researchers from Belgium and the U.K. have found that bee venom is effective in combating dementia and muscular dystrophy. It also has the ability to improve human learning and memory.

Superior Weightlifters

Able to carry 50 times their own body weight, worker ants are often considered the benchmark for insect strength. Bees, however, can hoist an unfathomable 122 times their body weight while walking. That would be comparable to an average adult human carrying a load that weighs almost 22,000 pounds!

Because they can fly, bees also trump ants in the payload department. Despite being the least aerodynamic of flying creatures, bees can easily fly through the air with a bundle of pollen as heavy as their own body. They also don’t let their poorly designed bodies stand in the way of fuel efficiency. On a single belly full of honey, a bee can travel 40 miles, far surpassing the most fuel-efficient cars in the world.

Excellent Mathematicians

Bees are the only non-vertebrate creature on Earth that can “count” and remember the numbers. Specifically, scientists have discovered that bees can “count” to four, based on a study where bees learned to fly through a door marked with a specific number of dots in order to reach a reward.

Wrap Up

As a wrap-up activity, administer this 10-question Bee Facts Quiz. Students can work individually or in pairs or groups to complete the quiz and then check their accuracy.

Quiz Answer Key:

  1. B – Bees can "count" to 4
  2. C – 40 miles
  3. A – 122 times their body weight
  4. B – Bee saliva
  5. C – Bee vomit
  6. B – By sensing an electrical charge
  7. A – By using tiny hairs on their bodies
  8. A – Never
  9. C – The same weight as its body
  10. B – Improving eyesight

Extending the Lesson

  • Ask each student to share the most interesting bee fact s/he learned. Students can do this orally or in written form, perhaps including an illustration of the fact. If desired, have students use the Internet to find one to three additional facts about bees. (Recommended sources include The New York Times Bee Section and The San Diego Zoo Bee Collection.)
  • Individually or in groups, have students write out “Top 10” lists of their favorite bee facts, with accompanying illustrations if desired.
     

Assessment

Assess students in terms of the following:

  • (For individual students or groups of students) performance on the Bee Facts Quiz
  • Accuracy of students’ “Top 10” bee facts lists


National Standards

SCIENCE
Life Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.3 Life Science


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
Education World®    
Copyright © 2012 Education World

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