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  • Subject:
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Bees use the pollen from flowers as food.
2. When they land on flowers to collect pollen, they spread pollen from one flower to another.
3. Many plants cannot grow unless they are cross-pollinated by insects such as bees.
4. Because bees cross-pollinate so many fruit and vegetable plants, they play a vital role in food production all over the world.


Research materials on bees
Computer with Internet access
Five healthy young patio tomato plants in pots (plants must have no blossoms)
Cotton swabs


1. Review with your students what they have learned about bees. Make sure they understand that bees use the pollen from flowers as food, and that, when bees land on flowers to collect pollen, they spread pollen from one flower to another.
2. Tell the class that bees play a very important role in food production all over the world, and ask students if they can explain this fact. Tell students they are going to perform an experiment that will help them find the explanation or confirm the one they have given.
3. Display the five plants for the class, telling students that they are tomato plants that have not yet blossomed. Make sure students understand that each fruit of a plant, in this case, each tomato, grows from the base of the blossom. Students should also know that many vegetables, such as squash, cucumbers, and peppers, are really considered fruits, since they grow from the blossoms of plants.
4. Divide your class into groups, challenging each group to use the five plants to design an experiment that will answer the question, "How do bees aid in the production of fruits and vegetables?" After reminding students of the requirements for a valid scientific experiment, have groups write up their experimental designs.
5. Have groups share the experiments they have designed. Then help students refine their experimental designs until you and the class arrive at the following steps:
  1. Label the pots numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
  2. Place plants 1, 2, 3, and 4 near or in a south-facing window.
  3. Separate plant 5 from the rest, but be sure it gets the same amount of light as the others. (Plant 5 will be the control.) Don't let any of the plants get too hot or too cold.
  4. After a few weeks, when all the plants have a fair number of flowers, use the same cotton swab to gently tease open all the flower tips on plants 1, 2, and 3.
  5. Gently rub the swab over the tip of each flower. (The cotton swab represents a bee moving from flower to flower.)
  6. Use a separate swab for plant 4, being sure to tease all the flowers.
  7. Don't do anything to plant 5—the control plant.
  8. Continue teasing plants 1, 2, 3, and 4, observing the plants daily until you see marked changes.
  9. Describe the similarities and differences between the control plant (plant 5) and the pollinated plants (plants 1, 2, 3, and 4). Are there any differences between the three cross-pollinated plants (plants 1, 2, and 3) and the plant that was pollinated only with its own flowers (plant 4)?
6. Have all students participate in carrying out the experiment.
7. When the experiment is complete, have each student write up a "lab report," describing the results of the experiment and explaining the conclusions that can be drawn from the experiment regarding the importance of bees in the growing of fruits and vegetables.

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Have students research plant structure. Each student should draw a diagram of the "anatomy" of a tomato blossom, labeling each part. Students should accompany their diagrams with written explanations of how pollination works and why pollination is necessary to produce fruit.

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Discussion Questions

1. Describe a beeless Earth.
2. How is a bee society like a human society?
3. Explain the process of replacing an African queen bee with a gentler variety.
4. What do you think would have happened if the killer bees hadn't escaped?
5. Develop a method to reduce the likelihood of a killer bee attack.
6. Is increased honey production worth the risk of importing potentially dangerous insects?

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You can evaluate groups on their lab reports using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: clearly and completely describes each step of the experiment; clearly and completely describes the results of the experiment; includes well-written and well-reasoned conclusion regarding the importance of bees in fruit and vegetable production

  • Two points: adequately describes each step of the experiment; adequately describes the results of the experiment; includes a satisfactory conclusion regarding the importance of bees in fruit and vegetable production

  • One point: unclear and/or incomplete description of the experiment; unclear and/or incomplete description of the results of the experiment; conclusion vague or missing
You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining the number of experimental steps to be described.

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Bee Society
Have students research and describe in writing the social structure of a bee colony. Students should include a comparison of bee society with human society.

2 Bee or Not 2 Bee
Tell students that the most prolific honey makers of all bees are also the most deadly. They are called "killer bees." In fact, a colony of African killer bees can produce five times the amount of honey as a colony of South American bees. Go on to explain that an attempt to crossbreed African bees with South American bees in order to produce a gentler bee with greater honey production went wrong when some of the African killer bees escaped. Challenge students to devise a plan for safely importing a potentially dangerous animal or plant to accomplish the goal of increasing production of a product. The plan should include ways to safeguard people and the environment.

Spread the Honey
Instruct students to research killer bees and then use a map of South America and North America to plot the spread of African killer bees from S?o Paulo, Brazil, to Tucson, Arizona. Students should draw concentric circles on the map to show five-year migration distances. Have them project the year in which killer bees will invade Seattle, Washington.

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Suggested Readings

Living with Killer Bees: The Story of the Africanized Bee Invasion
by Greg Flakus, Quick Trading Company, 1993
Explains why the phrase "killer bees" is regarded disdainfully by entomologists and beekeepers as a misnomer, and gives an account of the efforts of North American scientists to control the bees as they migrated from South America.

"Honey, They're Here: Learning to Cope with Africanized Bees"
by Mark L. Winston, Sciences, March 1992
This article attempts to mitigate the near-hysteria generated by the popular media regarding the influx of Africanized honeybees into North America. Illuminates the real nature of the bees as well as likely methods for dealing with them.

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Killer Bees" - Africanized Honey Bees
This article recounts the history of the invasion and explains what to do in case of attack.

AgNews -- Africanized Honey Bees
bBee facts and myths. And learn how to identify the Africanized honey bee on sight.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    crossbreed
Definition: To cross (two varieties or breeds) within the same species.
Context: Kerr proposed crossbreeding bees. This could lead to bees with gentler characteristics and high honey production.

speaker    queen
Definition: The fertile, fully developed female of social bees, ants, and termites whose function is to lay eggs.
Context: The queen rules the colony. She has a four year life span and can lay up to 3,000 eggs a day.

speaker    drone
Definition: The male of a bee (as the honeybee) that has no sting and gathers no honey.
Context: Drones are larger, male bees.

speaker    swarm
Definition: A great number of honeybees emigrating together from a hive in company with a queen to start a new colony elsewhere.
Context: When the hive gets too crowded, the queen goes with half the workers to set up a new colony. This is called a swarm.

speaker    royal jelly
Definition: A highly nutritious secretion of the pharyngeal glands of the honeybee that is fed to the very young larvae in a colony and to all queen larvae.
Context: Larvae are fed special food called royal jelly, that turns them into queens.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
understands the genetic basis for the transfer of biological characteristics from one generation to the next.
knows that reproduction is a characteristic of all living systems; since no individual organism lives forever, reproduction is essential to the continuation of species.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
knows that for sexually reproducing organisms, a species comprises all organisms that can mate with one another to produce fertile offspring.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
knows that behavior is one kind of response an organism may make to an internal or environmental stimulus and may be determined by heredity or from past experience; a behavioral response requires coordination and communication at many levels including cells, organ systems and whole organisms.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
knows that all species ultimately depend on one another; interactions between two types of organisms include producer/consumer, predator/prey, parasite/host and relationships that can be mutually beneficial or competitive.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: life science
understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
knows that the number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support depend on the resources available and abiotic factors such as quantity of light and water, range of temperatures and the soil composition; limitations of resources and other factors such as predation and climate limit the growth of populations in specific niches in the ecosystem.

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Summer Productions, Inc.

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