Bees in the Edible Schoolyard: With Hives (ESYB)

Published July 25, 2013 | Updated January 9, 2016
Subject: Science
Place of Learning: Garden
Resource Type: Lessons
Grade Level: Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8
Uploaded by:
Kyle Cornforth
Program Affiliations:

In this lesson, students study bees in the garden and the important role of pollinators through three stations: Beehive; Catch, Observe, and Release; and Honey Tasting.


Students will be able to:

  1. Feel comfortable around honeybees and native bees in the garden.
  2. Explain the benefits of having a hive in the garden.

Students will:

  1. Safely catch, observe, and release honeybees and native bees.
  2. Discuss pollination, honey, and education as the benefits to having a hive in the garden.

Hive Station:

  • Visual aid card: life cycle of the bee
  • Beehive
  • Plexi-glass box for observation
  • Table for observation
  • Pollen
  • Smoker
  • Bee hat

Catch, Observe, and Release Station:

  • Insect nets
  • Large jars for observing
  • Visual aid cards

Tasting Station:

  • Honeycomb
  • 2 contrasting jars of honey for tasting
  • Wooden stir sticks for tasting
  • Toothpicks
  • Bowl of almonds and serving spoon
Before You Begin
  1. Find areas in the garden where students will be able to observe bees
  2. Read background material on bees
  3. If you have a hive, check the health of the hive
  4. Set-up sitting areas for hive station and eating station
Opening Circle
  1. Introduce the lesson and tell students that today they will learn all about bees.
  2. Invite students to share something they already know or think they know about bees and pollination.
  3. Explain that bees have three major interests:
    • Pollen, nectar, and reproduction
  4. Clarify when and why bees sting and review the warning signs before they sting:
    • Fly away
    • Buzz louder
    • Emphasize that stinging is the bee’s last resort
  5. Introduce the three stations and describe briefly what will happen in each one:
    • Hive Station: Students will learn about the colony and observe the bees at work on the honeycomb.
    • Tasting Station: Students will taste bee-related foods and learn about pollination.
    • Catch, Observe, and Release Station: Students will learn about both honey bees and native bees before going out into the garden to safely catch, observe, and release bees.
In the Field: Bee Hive Station
  1. Explain to students that in this station, they will first learn about the beehive and the role of the beekeeper. Then, they will safely observe a honeycomb from the hive up close.
  2. Ask students what type of behavior is best to have when approaching the hive. (Calm, relaxed, quiet)
  3. Point out the flight path to students and draw the analogy of a busy doorway to explain the importance of keeping the flight path clear.
  4. Now that students know how to safely be around the hive, explain to students that the bee keeper has two main priorities:
    • Maintain the health of the hive by checking for parasites and intruders (other insects)
    • Monitor the growth of the hive by checking in on the amount of eggs that the queen is laying
  5. Explain that when entering the hive, two factors are crucial: protection and distraction.
    • Show students the bee hat and explain how the hat protects the face from any potential bee stings
    • Show students the smoker and demonstrate its use while also explaining how the bees become distracted
      • The smoke gives bees the illusion of a fire
      • In order to survive the flight away from the hive, bees will begin gorging on honey and are thus distracted from the beekeeper’s entrance
    • Explain that the bee keeper must work fast to avoid heat escaping from the hive
    • Bees are cold blooded and need the hive to be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit
  6. Explain that we use the top bar method of beekeeping and show students the hive by lifting the top off.
    • Show students how the bars line up and explain how the bees build the honeycomb on the bar
    • Pull out a new bar and pass it around while encouraging students to smell it
  7. Explain that bees eat nectar to make the honeycomb
  8. Open the observation window and explain how bees build the honeycomb from the bar closest to the entrance outwards
  9. Have students move to a separate table removed from the hive while pulling out a single comb to place in a plexiglass box
  10. Set the plexi-glass box with honeycomb in the center of the table for students to observe the bee activity
  11. Explain that bees use the comb to store nectar, lay the eggs, feed the larva, and make honey
  12. Beginning with the area of the comb closest to the bar, point out the following:
    • Capped honey storage
      • Bees can access the honey by poking a hole
    • Bee nursery: brood cells for the queen to lay eggs
    • Cells with nectar in them
    • Larva and drones
  13. Explain how bees make honey and honey comb
    • Explain that bees forage by collecting nectar and pollen from many flowers; storing the nectar in their bodies and storing the pollen in their pollen sacks 
    • Bees transform the nectar into honey by regurgitating the stored nectar and fanning it with their wings
    • Bees also collect propolis: tree-sap that they combine with wax to seal the hive from intruders
    • Show students bee pollen and point out the different colors of the pollen
    • Explain to students that different flowers have different colored pollen and nectar, which affects the color of the honey
  14. Explain that there are 3 types of honey bees in the colony
    • In every hive there is one Queen Bee
      • The queen can live 3-5 years    
      • The queen’s job is to lay eggs (she can lay up to 2500 a day)
    • The male bees are called drones
      • The drones mate with the queen, typically in flight, and die shortly after. 
      • The population  of the drones in the hive is low compared to worker bees.
      •  Drones are kicked out of the hive as winter approaches
    • Worker Bees
      • Have the highest population in the hive
      • Perform all of the following jobs: cleaning the hive; feeding the brood; attending the queen; receiving nectar and processing it into honey; building more wax comb; guarding bees; and foraging for nectar, pollen, and propolis
  15. Explain to students how the queen bee is replaced in the hive.
    • The queen bee can die while mating
    • When the queen is injured or old, the bees in the hive will pick 5-7 larvae to feed royal jelly in order to create the new queen bee
    • Multiple hatched larvae can compete to be the next queen
  16. Explain to students that bees communicate within the hive by doing the bee dance.
    • Dance in figure 8 loops
    • Bees can communicate the direction of the nectar source through a defined angle from their abdomen to the sun
    • Bees can communicate the distance of the nectar source through the length of the dance
In the Field: Honey Tasting Station
  1. Explain to students that in this station students will taste foods related to bees.
  2. Ask students what their favorite fruit is and explain that without pollinators, those fruits would not exist.
  3. Explain that 35% of our food crops rely on pollinators.
  4. Ask students for examples of different pollinators and explain that the bee is an incredibly efficient pollinator.
  5. Taste almonds and explain that we rely 100% on honey bee pollination for almond production
  6. Now that students have discussed foods that are less obviously linked to bees, invite them to guess the next tasting, which is a direct result of honeybees.
  7. Ask students if they know what honey is
    • Explain that worker bees collect nectar, store it in their bodies, and carry it back to the hive where they then regurgitate it
    • The nectar in the hive becomes concentrated through a process of evaporation and transforms into honey
    • Trace the creation of honey from sunshine to honey
  8. Taste two different types of honey and ask why they might look and taste different.
    • Explain to students that different flowers have different colored pollen and nectar, which affects the color of the honey
    • Explain how honey can be flower specific
    • An average worker bee makes 1/12 tsp of honey in her lifetime
    • To make a 16oz. jar of honey, honeybees have to travel 112,000 miles and visit 4.5 million flowers
    • Honey is antibacterial and contains 80% sugar
      • Raw honey also boosts the immune system and soothes burns
  9. Taste the honeycomb and ask students how they think bees are able to create the wax.
    • Bees secrete wax through their glands
    • Tell students that archeologists have found honey in the tombs of ancient Egyptians


In the Field: Catch and Release Station
  1. Explain to students that in this station they will learn about honey bees and native bees then safely catch, observe, and release bees in the garden.
  2. Review the three main interests of bees: nectar, pollen, and reproduction.
  3. Explain that only a female bee can sting. The bee’s stinger is in its oviduct, from which eggs are released. Male bees do not have stingers.
  4. Delineate the difference between native bees and honeybees.
    • Show images of honey bees and of native bees
    • Bees native to the bay area are actually solitary, whereas honeybees are social
    • There are 85 species of bees in Berkeley, 1,600 in California, and between 20,000 and 40,000 in the world
  5. Demonstrate how to catch and release bees while noting the following:
    • Bees can see the colors purple and blue best so when looking for bees try plants with purple and blue flowers
    • Explain that bees do not fly downward very well
    • Explain to students that bees have been around for 130 million years and have co-evolved with flowers
    • After catching the bee look to see whether it is a native bee or honeybee and whether the bee is female or male
    • Also observe the bee’s fuzzy belly and legs, which are ideal for collecting pollen.
    • Does the bee have pollen sacs?
  6. Pass out nets and/or jars.
  7. Tell students to return to the Ramada with their nets when the bell rings.
Closing Circle
  1. Pose the question: “Why do we have a beehive on campus?”
  2. Have students share their ideas with each other through a Think- Pair- Share activity.
    • Increase honeybee population
    • Pollination: more flowers, more fruit, more abundance of plants
    • Honey
    • Other bee products: propolis, bee wax, pollen
Connection to Standards

Edible Schoolyard 3.0 In the Garden Classroom, Grade 6:

  • Concepts 3.9: Observe the garden as a habitat for pollinators, understand the impact of pollination on our food supply, develop appropriate responses to them, and consider the multitude of habitats throughout the garden.

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