Lesson 4.1

Africanized Honey Bees and Society

Grades: 9-12

Essential Skills: Social Studies, Language Arts, Science

Duration: 2 class periods


Students investigate how information is disseminated about honey bees and other insects.


Teacher Preparation:

Curriculum Support Materials:

1. Africanized and European honey bees in plastic

Other Materials:

  1. Obtain relevant videos or movies (see list).
  2. Copy four information bulletins (Appendix ).

Information Sheets:

Activity Sheets

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (40 minutes)

Give the students the pre-test to evaluate their level of understanding about Africanized honey bees. Do not return the tests to the students until the end of the lesson.

Ask the students to write down some words that come to mind when they think of insects in general, and bees in particular. Compile a list of words and short phrases to be used later on in concluding activities. Ask the students whether it would be a good idea to try to eradicate all honey bees with pesticides. What effects would this have? What about all insects? Also make a list of the ways a person gathers information about insects, such as learned from parents, learned from peers, or read about them in a book.

Activity 2 Insects in the movies (45 minutes)

One way that people receive information about insects is through television and movies. Have students investigate how Africanized honey bees or related insects have been por trayed in the entertainment industry. Such movies as The Swarm and Killer Bees have cre ated myths about Africanized honey bees that survive for years. For example, in one movie a single sting from a "killer bee" was deadly. This misconception has survived into the present.

View the sci-fi movie Arachnophobia. Contrast style and content with documentaries on insects, such as a National Geographic special.

Other science fiction arthropod movies:

Bees in Paradise 1944 (British)

The Monster from Green Hell 1958 (Giant Wasps)

The Deadly Bees 1967 (British, aka Killer Bees)

The Hellstrom Chronicle 1971

It Happened at Lakewood Manor 1977 (TV aka Panic at Lakewood)

Killer Ants

Terror Out of the Sky 1977 (TV)

A Swarm in May 1983 (British)

The Swarm 1987

The Bees 1987

Empire of the Ants 1987

Candyman 2 (1995)

Have the students make a list of key words and phrases, or even write a brief summary of their impressions of insects and their relatives after viewing the movie.

Activity 3 Learn about Africanized honey bees (30 minutes)

Another way people find out about insects is through books, newspapers and articles. Pro vide students with the four information bulletins and show them the sample of AHB and EHB in plastic. Read Information Sheet 17 and discuss the differences between Africanized honey bees and European honey bees.

AHB Note: Africanized honey bees do not behave in the same way as European honey bees. African ized bees are provoked more easily to defend their colonies. Once the worker bees are aroused, a greater number come to the defense of the hive, and they take longer to settle down afterwards.

Have the students prepare a report contrasting the information they received in the four information bulletins with what they observed from the movies.

Activity 4 Insect economics (50 Minutes)

Have the students name as many benefits of insects as possible (see Information Sheet 12 Insects Are Beneficial).

Encourage the students to investigate the importance of honey bees to agriculture. Have the students find out how much honey is produced in their state, which state produces the most honey and what is the dollar value of that product. Also, ask the students to investigate the crop plants that are pollinated by honey bees. Have them list the five most important crops in Arizona and find out which are pollinated by honey bees. Some crops, such as melons, must be pollinated by honey bees to set fruit, whereas others like citrus have improved yields if pollinated by bees.

Break the students into teams and have them create lists of other ways bees might be beneficial. Honey bees are not only important to agriculture, they also help pollinate wildflowers, native shrubs and trees, and other flowering plants. Some types of wildlife use honey bees and/or honey as food.

After thinking of all the ways honey bees may be beneficial, have the students make lists of ways honey bees may have a negative economic impact. For example, have the students find out how many people are stung each year by bees and how many people are killed.

According to a survey of 73 Poison Control Centers from 41 states in 1991, of 1,837,939 calls received, 23,224 were for bee or wasp stings. Of those calls, 3,986 people required medical attention and there were four fatalities. How does that compare with recent figures? For example, in Arizona alone two people were killed in 1995.

As indicated by the four information bulletins, pets and livestock are often the target of honey bee defensive behavior. What about wild animals that might be stung? Remind the students that honey bees were not native to North America and were initially brought over by European colonists. What impact might the honey bee have had on native insects, particularly native bees such as bumble bees, carpenter bees, or leafcutter bees?

Conclusion (30 minutes)

Give the students the post-test from Activity Sheet 35. Ask them how much they have learned about honey bees and other insects. Return to the list of words and phrases compiled in the first activity. Ask whether they would change or add any terms. Ask the students again whether it would be a good idea to try to eradicate all honey bees with pesticides. What about all insects?

Discuss how their ideas have changed, if they have.



Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Africanized honey bee
  2. European honey bee
  3. Pollination


Life on a Little Known Planet, by H. E. Evans. Published by University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL., 1984.

Living with Killer Bees, by G. Flakus. Published by Quick Trading Co., San Francisco, CA., 1993.

The African Honey Bee, by M. Spivak, D. Fletcher and M. Breed. Published by Westview Press, Boulder, CO., 1991.

The Africanized Honey Bee in the Americas, by M. L. Winston. Published by Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1992.

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