Lesson 2.3

Honey Bee Senses

Grades: 4-6

Essential Skills: Health, Science, Language Arts, Math

Duration: 1 - 2 Class Periods


Students will learn about our human senses and how they compare to that of a honey bee.


Teacher Preparation:

Other Materials:

  1. Cotton balls
  2. Vanilla or peppermint extract
  3. Lemons
  4. Bananas
  5. Flower scented perfumes and/or bath oils

Information Sheets:

Activity Sheets:

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (30 minutes)

Introduce the students to the following information: Although honey bees have a number of different senses, they often don't perceive their environment the same way as humans. For example, bees can see many colors but they do not see red. On the other end of the spectrum, we can't see ultraviolet and honey bees can.

One of the big differences between humans and bees is how we perceive odors. We use our nose to smell, honey bees use their antennae. Discuss the many things that bees "smell." Guard bees "smell" any bees entering the hive, and if the bees don't have the correct odor of that particular hive then they are expelled (see Lesson 1.7). The new queen bee produces a special odor to attract drones called a sex pheromone. Bees also use odors to help locate their hive. To humans this pheromone smells lemony. Finally, when a bee stings, it gives off an odor that smells like bananas called an alarm pheromone . It attracts other bees to come to the defense of the hive. Read Information sheet 28.

AHB Note: Africanized honey bees are sensitive to odors and may be more easily aroused than European honey bees. For example, the odor of newly cut grass has been known to arouse bees. Stay alert when you or others are mowing the lawn. Bees also may respond to lemony or other citrus scents. Avoid using perfumes or aftershaves while hiking. If horseback riding, avoid using fly control products on your horse that have a lemony odor.

Activity 2 Human sense of smell (45 minutes)

Have students investigate their sense of smell. Divide students into groups. Have one member of the group close their eyes while others test his or her ability to discriminate between different odors. Place an example of an odor under the person's nose, and record whether he or she is able to correctly identify the odor. See if their ability to identify a scent changes over time (it usually decreases). See if certain odors interfere with the ability to smell other odors. Switch to another member of the group as the person. Record his or her accuracy. Later return to the original person to see whether his or her sense of smell has returned.

You may want to tie in how the sense of taste and smell are related. Have students taste lemons or bananas while blindfolded and holding their noses. Can they guess what they are tasting?



Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Pheromone
  2. Alarm pheromone
  3. Communication


Beastly Behaviors: A Watcher's Guide to How Animals Act and Why, by J. M. Benyus. Published by Addison-Wesley, 1992.

Bees Dance and Whales Sing: The Mysteries of Animal Communication , by M. Facklam and P. Johnson. Published by the San Francisco Sierra Club, 1992.

Pheromones of Social Bees, by J. B. Free. Published by Chapman and Hall, London., 1987.

The Honeybee, by J.L. Gould and C.G. Gould. Published by W. H. Freeman, 1988.

The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honeybee, by K. Von Frisch. Published by Harcourt, Brace, 1953.