Lesson 1.8

Africanized Honey Bees

Grades: K-3

Essential Skills: Science, Language Arts, Art

Duration: 1 - 3 class periods


Students are introduced to Africanized honey bees and learn what to do if they are involved in a stinging incident. At the completion of the lesson, students will be able to (1) identify differences between the domestic honey bee and the Africanized honey bee and (2) list ways to avoid bees and describe what to do if stung.


Teacher Preparation:

Curriculum Support Materials:

  1. AHB and EHB in plastic
  2. Poster 1. Honey bee collecting pollen
  3. Poster 8. Entrance to a honey bee nest in a wall

Other Materials:

  1. Map of North and South America
  2. Map of the world (showing Europe and Africa)
  3. Africanized honey bee information bulletins (Appendix)

Information Sheets:

Activity Sheets:

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (15 minutes)

Show the students Poster 1 (Honey bee collecting pollen) and ask them to share their thoughts about bees based on what they have learned from the previous lessons. It may be necessary to begin the discussion with a few questions, such as:

When the discussion turns to bee stings, have the children describe the sting and what they did to reduce the pain. Remind them that unless they are allergic, once the pain goes away, they will be okay.

AHB Note: One sting from an Africanized honey bee is like a sting from a regular honey bee. It is no worse. And just like with other honey bees, the worker bee dies after it stings.

Students may have heard about "killer" bees from listening to the media or adults. The last question above is to probe how much students know about the AHB. Be aware that they may have discussed "killer" bees amongst themselves, often with embellishments. These activites should help correct any misconceptions students have.

AHB Note: Experts believe that the AHB is here to stay. Africanized honey bees are just like other bees, but some of them defend their nests more strongly. There is no need to be afraid. Just be careful and stay away from bee colonies or nests, just as you would stay away from rattlesnakes, scorpions or other poisonous desert creatures.

Building on the opening discussion, review with the students the importance of bees, including honey production and pollination of many of our fruit and vegetable crops, as discussed in Lesson 1.3.

Activity 1 AHB & EHB (30 minutes)

Explain that there are two main types of honey bees now living in the United States. Show students where the United States is on the map. Explain that these two types of honey bees are the Africanized honey bee (AHB) and the European honey bee (EHB). Pass around the sample bees in plastic for students to see.

AHB note: The AHB and EHB look exactly alike. Only an expert using sophisticated laboratory equipment can tell them apart.

Tell students about the Africanized honey bee and compare it with the European honey bee (See Information Sheet 17, AHB and EHB Characteristics.) Tell them to expect honey bees to act differently than they have in the past. Talk about the fact that the AHB and EHB are similar in many respects. Make a list on the chalkboard. Explain that there are, however, some differ ences in these two strains of honey bees.

Reiterate that since it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between AHB and EHB sim ply by looking at them, to be safe the students should stay away from areas where they have seen a number of bees as there may be a hive nearby. Caution students to be aware of nu merous worker bees going into and out of an opening. They may look like flies flying around from far away. Tell them to listen for the buzzing sound of numerous bees in one place. Show Poster No. 8 (Entrance to a honey bee nest in a wall.) Tell them that if they see numerous bees in an area away from flowers, they should stay away and inform an adult immediately.

Explain that when worker bees are away from their hive (where the young are raised) they are very busy gathering water, pollen and nectar. They are focused on the task at hand and are not likely to sting while looking for food. But it is best to leave them alone as well.

Activity 2 Insects named after place of origin (30 minutes)

Explain that honey bees are not native to North or South America. Show students where North and South America are on the map.

Explain that Africanized honey bees got their name because they originally came from the continent of Africa. (Refer to Information Sheet 15, Africanized Honey Bees.) Show students the continent of Africa on the map. Tell them that European honey bees originally came from the continent of Europe. Show students the continent of Europe on the map.

Tell students that many insects are named according to the place where they were first found. Examples of insects named after places where they were discovered or originated are listed in Activity Sheet 8.

Activity 3 Bee safety tips (30 minutes)

Emphasize that the AHB only stings defensively. However, it is important to educate young students about the dangers of the Africanized honey bees. Take care not to scare the stu dents. Explain that these bees do not hang out waiting for unfortunate victims to happen by. They have no weapons other than their sting.

AHB note: Africanized honey bees are extremely protective of their home. AHB's are known to build their nests in a wider variety of locations than other honey bees. They may establish nests in water valve boxes, overturned flower pots, or animal burrows.

Since the AHB is less picky in choosing nesting sites and can nest in hidden places, your students should be cautioned about climbing into junk piles or other unfamiliar areas. If they see a honey bee colony, they should be instructed to tell an adult who will contact the authori ties. Do not try to see how close you can get, make loud noises, or throw stones at honey bee swarms or colonies.

Advise students that if they accidentally get too close to a honey bee colony and they start to sting, they should run as fast as they can and get inside the house, car, school or any en closed building. If they are far from home, run as far and fast as they can. They should try to cover their face as much as possible while running.

Stress that they should not jump into a pool or pond because the bees will not go away. The bees will wait for them to come up for air. Also, do not stand still. That might work with snakes

or other types of bees, but not with honey bees.

Tell students that the strong defensive behavior of the Africanized honey bee can result in more stinging incidents. If they see someone being stung they should run indoors and dial 911. Emphasize that they should not go outside again, but stay indoors!

Inform students that if they are stung, once they have reached a safe place they should tell a responsible adult. Try to relate this to other safety issues such as what to do if strangers approach, what to do in case of a fire, etc.

Conclusion (20 minutes)

Distribute the Africanized Honey Bee Fact Cards ( Activity Sheet 25.) Have the students quiz each other.

Ask students to share what they learned about:

Give students "Where Africanized Honey Bees Might Live" ( Activity Sheet 24) to color at home.

Students should also be given a copy of each of the four tri-fold information bulletins to take home and share with their family.



Examples of scenarios include:

  1. They are playing in their yard. Their father is mowing the lawn. Suddenly, bees appear as if from nowhere. What should they do?(Run quickly and get inside the house or a car.)
  2. They see a swarm of bees on a fence railing. What should they do? (Stay away and tell an adult who can call the authorities.)
  3. When they visit their grandparents, they notice that the yard is cluttered with old boxes,tin cans or tires, and the door of the shed is always ajar. Rocks and old lumber are piled up in the back yard. What should they do? (Inform their grandparents about the nesting habits of Africanized honey bees. Work with their family to clean up the area. Look carefully for bees BEFORE they start.)

Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Africanized honey bee
  2. European honey bee


I'm Afraid of the Dark, by M. Nees. Published by Baker Street Production, 1984.

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

Stay Safe, Play Safe, by B. Seuling. Published by A Golden Book, N.Y., 1985.

The Knight Who was Afraid of the Dark, by B. Shookhazen. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, N.Y., 1989.

On the Safe Side: Teach Your Child to Be Safe, Strong and Street-Smart , by Paula Statman. Published by HarperPerennial, N.Y., 1993.

Honeybees, by G. Tarrant. Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, N.Y., 1984.