“The busy bee has no time for sorrow.”
– William Blake
May 20th is celebrated as World Bee Day to draw attention towards the essential role that bees play in our lives as well as their waning across the world. Over the past decade, bees have suffered immensely through loss of habitat, climate change, use of pesticides and parasites.
Three out of four crops we consume depend directly on bees and other pollinators. Be it Apples or Cashew nuts, almost all plants depend on bees in one way or the other to pollinate. Without bees, pollination could suffer critically, thus, impacting global food production.
By teaching your kids about Bees, you can transform them into planet crusaders. These simple activities will help your child realise her/his role in the environment and how small actions can have a great impact. What’s more, they will also get to learn some cool fun facts about bees.
Fun Facts about Bees
- Bees are invertebrates. It means they do not have backbones.
- Bees live in colonies with other bees.
- A male bee is called a drone.
- Bees have two pairs of wings – Fore wings and Hind wings. Fore Wings are bigger than Hind wings.
- Bees have 170 different odour receptors to help them distinguish flowers from each other.
- The bee family comprises of three different members:
- Queen Bee: She is the one responsible for laying eggs. She runs the hive and is supported by worker bees.
- Worker Bees: Like the name suggests, these are workers who collect nectar, build and clean hive. The bees you see in your garden are most likely worker bees.
- Drone: Male bees are called drones. Their only purpose is to mate with the queen bee.
- A queen Honey bee can lay unto 2500 eggs a day.
- Some bees like Carpenter Bee, Leaf cutter bee, Mason bee, Digger Bee and Mining Bee are solitary in nature. That is, they live alone and make their single nest.
- Queen bee lives somewhere between 2-5 years, a worker bee lives upto 5-6 weeks and a drone upto 6-7 weeks.
- Honeybees flap their wings up to 200 times in a second.
While there are so many kinds of bees, it is without doubt that Honeybees rule the popularity meter. After all, we get sweet honey from these amazing insects. And not only that, we also use the wax they make to build and maintain their hives.
Honeybees live off honey, they made in the spring, during winters. They often curl into a ball during the cool winter months to preserve the warmth. These bright yellow and black insects are of great help to humans. The honey made by them has excellent anti-bacterial properties and is used in many Ayurvedic medicines.
How Do Bees Make Honey?
Honey is basically 80% sugar and 20% water. Bees using nectar, which they collect from flowers, make this golden sweet liquid. Honey is the only animal food made by insects that is consumed by humans. That indeed makes it special.
An average honeybee makes only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. So for every teaspoon, you need to be thankful to as many as 12 honeybees. Making honey is a serious task and that is what Honeybees live on during the cold winter months. But thankfully, they make a lot more than they need so we can have some too!
It is the worker honeybees we need to thank for honey. To make honey, they visit many flowers to collect their sweet nectar. Now, honeybees have two stomachs. One stomach is for storing honey and the other for food. So, the honeybee collects nectar till its honey stomach is full of nectar and can hold no more. It then flies off to its hive where it gives them nectar to other worker honeybees, who then chew on the nectar for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes of chewing the nectar, the honey is almost ready. It is then stored in honeybee’s own jar that is the hexagonal cells of the hives. Lastly, other worker bees fan their wings around the honey to make it more sticky and less watery. Now, that’s a lot of work!
We need to be really thankful to our honeybees for this sweet food of theirs and use it with care. You can do your bit for the honeybees, for the honey they give, by planting flowers that are full of nectar.
The Honeycomb: A Mathematical Wonder
Honey Bees are great builders. If you have ever looked at a honeycomb, you will realise that they are hexagonal in shape. Isn’t it wonderful and amazing? These combs are a mathematical wonder. Almost all the cells in the honeycomb are same in size and shape. Now, that’s not an easy task!
The honeycomb is made of wax produced by bees. Young worker bees are entrusted with the task of producing wax. When a worker bee is nearly 10 days old, it’s wax-producing glands, four pairs of those, get active. These glands produce wax and secrete it, which is then deposited on the sides of bee’s abdomen. On contact with air, the wax hardens and deposit as thin wax scales on the bee’s bodies.
After the wax has hardened, the bee scrapes it off its abdomen using its legs. It then chews on the wax to make it soft and palpable to mould into hexagonal shapes, consequently building a honeycomb. A healthy bee may produce eight scales of wax in 12 hours. One gram of Beeswax needs around 1000 scales. Quite a lot of work!
Honeycomb is a perfect example of tessellation occurring in nature. Bees use this tessellating structure to maximise storage space while using minimum wax to make these. Simply astounding!
Much like Honey, beeswax is also valuable to human beings. It is used in lip balms, body lotions, to make candles and also as a coating & varnish.
Bee Activities for Kids
We’re a fan of STEM activities here at Kidpillar. Whatever occasion it is, I’d LOVE to point out a few interesting things kids and adults can do together to make it fun!
1. Drink Like a Bee
This is a fun-filled STEM activity to understand how bees drink nectar. Bees have hairy long tongue that resembles a mop. It is covered with tiny hairs that raise the moment honeybee dips its tongue into the nectar. This allows more nectar to stick on to the hairs and thus enabling a honeybee to suck more nectar in every sip.
To help understand how it works, try this simple activity. You will need:
- Old Mascara brush/ small bottle brush
- A cup/bowl
- Craft paper
- Thick Paper towels
Step 1: Take a cup and fill it half with honey. Keep it aside.
Step 2: Draw a flower on the craft paper and cut it out using scissors.
Step 3: Cut a small hole in the center of the flower.
Step 4: Paste the flower on the honey bowl, so as to cover it, using tape.
Step 6: Repeat step 5, with a mascara/bottle brush.
Step 7: Using paper towel, wipe the straw and the brush to see which tongue gathered more honey.
This super easy activity will help your child understand why a honeybee’s tongue has hairs on it and how they help it drink nectar. For our activity, we even made a headband to get a feeler of a real bee and add lot more fun.
2. Flower Pollination STEM Activity
One of the best and easiest Bee activities for kids, this one will help your children get the hang of pollination hands-on way. Understanding pollination and how bees & birds help in pollination is a bit tricky for children to understand. This activity makes it a breeze for the kids.
All you need is a bag of cheese nachos or salted cheese popcorn and a bowl. Other flavours work as well but this works the best!
Step 1: Empty the nachos in a bowl.
Step 2: Ask your little ones to touch a few using their hands. No licking fingers allowed!
Step 3: After they have had a few bites, ask them to touch a tissue paper.
What do you see? Is there magic pollen on the tissue paper too? Just the way some of the seasonings stick to your hands when you eat with fingers, pollen sticks to bees and bird’s bodies. And when they fly to other flowers, this pollen falls and gets transferred to other flowers and plants. Simple pollination!
Bees are excellent pollinators and we need them to maintain our ecological balance! They are our natural pollinators and we cannot do without them.
Try out this awesome STEM challenge to help your child understand the complexity of a bee’s eye.
4. Design a Honeycomb
This is one of the Bee activities for kids with a strong focus on mathematics. Challenge your child to create a perfect honeycomb. What you will need:
- Old Newspapers/ Brown craft sheet
- Pencil and Scale
Step 1: Take a newspaper/craft sheet and draw a hexagon using pencil and scale.
Step 2: Cut out the hexagon. You will need at least 20 of these.
Step 3: Place the hexagons next to each other to make a perfect bee hive.
This is relatively easy to make, but just imagine the hard work bees put in to make their home.
5. Buzzing Bee Noise Maker
Mimic the sound of a buzzing bee with this cool STEM Bee activity for kids. Your kids will absolutely love this. You need:
- Big Popsicle Stick
- Double sided tape/ Foam tape
- Large elastic band
- Craft paper
- Office tape/Glue
Step 2: Trim off the two corners from the longer side of the rectangle.
Step 3: Paste the craft sheet on the popsicle stick, leaving an inch off each side and covering half of its width.
Step 4: Tie the yarn on one side of the popsicle stick. Leave the other end of yarn free and long enough to swirl the popsicle stick away from your face.
Step 5: Secure double side tape on both the corners covering both sides of the corners. Remember to use only one side of the double sided tape.
Step 6: Stretch the elastic band over the double sided tape along the length of the stick. Make sure the elastic band is in the center of the popsicle stick.
Spin your buzzing Insect toy to hear the buzzing sound of insect’s wings.
6. Make a Bee Garden
Work towards SDG15 of United Nations to promote biodiversity by planting your very own bee garden. Turn your garden into a bee attracting flower patch by following the pointers:
- Plant bee attracting flowers like Dandelions, Clovers, Mint, Pansies, Snowdrops, Marigolds, Peony, Nasturtium, Sweetpeas etc.
- Plant different flowering plants according to the season so as to maintain a blooming garden through out the year
- Do not use hybrid flowers and plants as they are far less beneficial to bees than their natural counterparts.
- Say no to pesticides and fertilisers as they contain chemicals that harm our natural pollinators
These beautiful, enlightening Bee activities will definitely help your child to think about our helpful natural pollinators and encourage them to do their bit in saving bees from getting extinct.
Bee Books for Kids
Reading about these precious pollinators will augment kids’ understanding and empathy towards bees. To add on, reading is always joyful and a great way to build connection.
Whether your child prefers to read books by himself or you to read aloud, these Bee Books for kids will definitely delight your kids.
1. When the Bees Fly Home
This is heartwarming story about a boy, who wants to help his father in bee keeping. This lovely bee book beautifully depicts the task of beekeeping and how little children can still help.
2. National Geographic Kids Readers – Bees
This one needs a little introduction. If you have a kid buzzing with questions about these helpful insects, then this one is a must buy. Loaded with beautiful pictures and easy to understand language, this one will sate your kid’s curiosity.
3. Bee Dance
Learn about the fascinating bee dance and how bees communicate with each other with this lovely book. Your children will be pleasantly surprised with their dance ritual.
4. Flight of the Honey Bee
Welcome the wonderful world of Honeybees with this book. Like the title says, it is all about the flight and path honeybee travels to sustain itself.
5. A Season to Bee
6.UnBEElievables – Honeybee Poems and Paintings
What better way to explore the world of bees than through poetry! A collection of poems and paintings, this book unfolds the world of bees and their survival challenges.
7. These Bees Count!
This Bee book for kids delivers an important message in a light, fun tone for children to understand. It is easy to see why bees matter through this book. Well suited for younger audience as well!
8. The Life and Times of the Honeybee
This is a complete bee book for kids that answer many of their questions about bees. Set in a humorous, spirited tone this book is packed with scientific facts and knowledge.
9. The King of Bees
This is a beautiful tale about a boy named Henry and his new found love for the bees. Read this book to find out how Henry communicates with the bee and it convinces them to stay.
10.Children’s Book About Bees – A Kids Picture Book About Bees with Photos and Fun Facts
This book is packed with pictures, fun-facts and knowledge on everything about bees. Easy short sections help in easy reading and independent learning. A great buy for kids who are curious about bees.
11. Why Do We Need Bees?
This is a beautiful lift-the-flap book by Usborne. Suited for younger audience, it is an exciting book that answers many questions pertaining to bees. Chunky flaps and easy to understand language makes reading this book fun!