Lesson 1.7

Honey Bee Duties

Grades: K-3

Essential Skills: Science, Language Arts, Drama

Duration: 1 - 2 class periods


Students are introduced to the three kinds of honey bees and learn about the duties of worker bees. At the completion of the lesson, students will be able to (1) describe the three kinds of honey bees (queen, worker, drone), (2) discuss the duties of the worker bee and (3) discuss how one of the duties of the worker bee is to defend the hive against bee enemies.


Teacher Preparation:

Other Materials:

  1. Cotton balls
  2. Easy to distinguish scents such as peppermint, vanilla, cloves, lemon
  3. BEEGO sheets, tagboard, glue and scissors for each student

Information Sheets:

Activity Sheets:

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (15 minutes)

Tell students that there are three kinds of honey bees within the hive. Explain that all of the honey

bees in the colony have different types of jobs. There is one queen, many worker bees, and some male bees called drones. Give each student a copy of Activity Sheet 3 (Worker, queen and drone).

Explain the function of each type of honey bee, using Information Sheet 3 (Honey Bee Biology) as a reference. Have the students discuss some of the jobs that the honey bee worker might do. Remind them of other lessons, such as the bee dances where bees gather food. Make a list on the board of all the responses.

Activity 1 Guard bees (45 minutes)

Ask the students to think of what kind of enemies honey bees might have. Give the students time to share their ideas. Several insects (dragonflies, certain wasps and assassin bugs)eat honey bees, particularly foraging bees visiting flowers. Spiders trap honey bees in their webs and eat them. Birds, toads and lizards will eat bees if they have a chance. Bears, badgers, mice and ants are common bee enemies that like to eat honey.

Inform students that skunks come out at night. They scratch on the hive to rouse the bees, and capture and eat any bees that come out! Ask the students to discuss what they think would happen if a skunk began to eat bees at a bee hive? (The bees are likely to sting the skunk to defend themselves.) Ask how a skunk defends itself from its enemies (odor).

Tell the students that guard bees stay around the hive entrance to protect the hive from enemies. These bees are middle-aged (18-21 days old in an expected life cycle of 35-45 days) and are the most alert in the bee community.

Explain that the guard bees attack if an enemy comes too near the hive. Stress that it can be a big job and the guard bees may need help. Other honey bees will stop their work and come to help defend the hive.

Explain that one way the bees know the animal is an enemy is by its scent, or smell. Ask "What do the honey bees have to help them smell an enemy?" (antennae)

"How do you think the guard bees tell the other bees of the hive that they need help?" (by sending out a chemical message )

Activity 2 Sniff and scout (30 minutes)

Prepare cotton balls with one scent (peppermint works well) by placing a drop of scent on each ball shortly before they are needed. Give each student a scented cotton ball. Tell the children that the bees in each hive have their own smell. Have the students pretend they are in a hive. Ask them if they can recognize the smell of their hive.

Select several students to be guard bees. Ask "What do you think would happen if a bee from another hive tried to enter?" (The guard bees would attack because they wouldn't recognize the scent.) Have the rest of the class leave the room.

Before the class reenters, select several students to be bees from another hive. Give them cotton balls with a scent that is different from the hive scent. (You may elect to include several alien scents among the class bees.) Have the students mix with the rest of the class.

When the guard bees detect a strange scent, they should prevent the unfamiliar bee from

entering the hive. Once all the unfamiliar bees have been barred from entry, bring the whole class together and talk about the effectiveness of depending on the sense of smell to detect enemies or unrelated bees.

Conclusion (30 minutes)

As a review of this lesson and some of the prior lessons, play "BEEGO." Provide a copy of the BEEGO sheet to the students. Direct them to cut out the squares, rearrange them and glue them to a piece of tagboard to make their own game board. If students cannot handle scissors well, the playing boards will have to be prepared in advance.



Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Drone
  2. Queen
  3. Worker
  4. Guard Bee
  5. Nurse Bee
  6. Scent


Buzzing a Hive, by Jean C. Echols, illustrated by Lisa Haderlie Baker. Published by Great Explora tions in Math and Science, University of California, Berkeley. 1987.

The Honeybee, by Paula Z. Hogan, illustrations by Geri K. Stringenz. Published by Raintree Children's Books, 1979.

La Abeja, by Paula Z. Hogan, illustrations by Geri K. Stringenz. Published by Libros Infantiles Raintree, 1979.

The Life Cycle of the Honeybee, by Paula Z. Hogan, illustrations by Geri K. Stringenz. Published by The Steck-Vaughn Company, 1991.

Honeybees, by J. Lecht. Published by The National Geographic Society, 1973.