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Dances with Bees

Materials

  • A Dances with Bees activity sheet for each student
  • A flower (real or fake) or a drawing of a flower
  • Masking tape or a black board
Dances with Bees

Honeybees communicate with sophisticated “dances” to tell other bees where to find nectar and pollen. Your group will reenact a couple of these dances to learn about bees and how they communicate with each other.


Background

All animals and insects use some form of communication. For honeybees, it is often referred to as a dance. Scout honeybees go out in search of good nectar and pollen sources. When they come back, they do a dance that tells the other bees not only how far the nectar is, but also the direction in which to travel using the sun as a reference point. If the nectar is in the direction of the sun, the dance will be performed straight up the walls of the hive: if the map were a clock, they would dance toward 12:00. If the nectar is 30 degrees to the right of the sun, the dance will be performed at about 2:00. If the nectar is distant from the hive, the scout bee does a figure-eight dance (Waggle Dance). It’s dark in the hive, so the other bees hold on to that scout bee to feel the directions.


Activity Instructions

Set-Up

Get your group thinking about communication and how different animals may have different forms of communication. Ask them: “How do we communicate?” (They will likely say that we talk.) “Do we communicate in other ways?” (Some people use sign language. Sometimes we use gestures.)

Now tell your group: “All animals have ways to communicate. Can you think of any?” (Dogs and cats have their own way of talking. If a cat is nervous or scared, she’ll arch her back. If threatened, a dog will show his teeth. If any of the kids have pets, they may know that a dog will go stand or scratch at the door when it wants to go out or bark to announce visitors.)

Finally, ask your group: “How do you think insects, such as honeybees, communicate with each other?”

Activity

Start off by making a circle with masking tape on the floor or on the board. Draw a sun at “noon”; also put marks at 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00. Tell your group that this is the “compass” the scout bee uses for directions. Then, tell them you’ll be the scout and demonstrate the Waggle Dance. Choose one child to close his/her eyes while you hide the flower in the direction of one of the markers. As that child watches you waggle, he/she should say out loud the direction of the flower.

Now allow the kids to do the activity:

  1. You may want to have the kids draw their own “compass” or “clock” on a scrap piece of paper and explain that even though bees do their dance on the hive wall, they will do the dances on the floor.
  2. Divide the kids into groups of three or four.
  3. Give each group a set of materials: the Dances with Bees activity sheet and a flower or picture of a flower.
  4. Each group can do the activity on their own. You may need to designate a scout bee for each group, but each person should get a turn being scout bee.
  5. Afterwards, ask them what they think of the honeybees’ way of communicating.

After the groups finish with the dances, have them come back together and talk about the reasons honeybees use dance as their way of communicating. You might also ask them if they can think of other forms of communication that animals have that weren't mentioned earlier.


Related Activities


Dances with Bees

A honeybee hive needs lots of honey and that means a lot of flower nectar. When a scout bee finds flowers, she goes back to the hive to tell the other bees where the flowers are. How does she tell them? She dances! Find out if you, too, can do a dance that explains where to find food.


Student Activity Sheet

Download Student Activity Sheet

Online Resources

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