Introduction: (Initial Observation)
Bees are insects and share the insect characteristics of possessing six legs, and one pair of antennae. Bees, like ants and wasps have four membranous wings, chewing or sucking mouthparts and complete metamorphosis. The body is divided into a head, thorax and abdomen.
To get more information about bees, click on any of the following links. You may also find books about bees in your local library. You can also search the Internet using the words in your questions.
The purpose of this project is to learn more about bees, beekeeping and honey as a valuable sweet food. Some of the questions that you may have are:
What do bees eat?
- How do bees reproduce?
- Where does honey come from?
- What weather conditions are good for bees?
- Are bees dangerous?
- What are killer bees?
- Do bees have hair?
This is a research and display project, so you don’t need to identify variables. However if in future you want to study on something like the effect of weather temperature on honey production, then temperature will be your test variable.
Think about an answer to any of the questions that you may have. That answer will be your hypothesis. Hypothesis is an educated guess based on your collected information. Sample hypothesis are:
- Bees eat flowers.
- Bees lay egg.
- Honey comes from bees mouth.
- Warm weather is good for bees.
- Bees are not dangerous, but their sting is painful.
- Killer bees are bees who are more dangerous.
- Bees do not have hair.
Remember that hypothesis does not need to be true. But it should be testable by further studies or experiments. You may come up with your own hypothesis. Further studies will show if our hypothesis are right or wrong.
During this project you will perform some or all of the following tasks.
- Experiment 1: Use a butterfly net to capture a honey bee (with the help of an adult). transfer it to a small clear glass or plastic container. Use a magnifier for close observation and try to identify different sections of bees body (Head, abdomen, Antennae, legs, mouth, wings, sting, compound eyes, … ). Write your observations in your report.
- Experiment 2: Place the bee in a larger clear jar and place samples of leafs, flowers and other food samples that you think may be good. See which one is the most favorite food for your bee.
- Experiment 3: Make a large drawing of bee’s body parts and use it for your display.
- Get sample of raw honey (with wax) and use it for your display. Chew some of this honey and separate the wax. Use the wax for your display.
- Make a display using 2 or 3 sturdy board. Mount your drawing and writings on that. Samples of wild flowers and bee’s specimen (Dead bee, dry or in alcohol) can also be mounted on the board.
- Take step toward conservation of native bees: Some of our native desert bees are endangered by the habitat-fragmenting activities of humans as we build homes, shopping malls and cultivate agricultural lands that were formerly desert wild lands. Since many bees nest shallowly, their nests are disturbed or destroyed by these activities. Garden and agricultural pesticides take a further toll on these flower-visiting insects when used improperly or at the wrong time of day. Never apply pesticides to blooming plants so that you can avoid killing off your essential pollinators.
- You can become a bee rancher by doing a few simple things in your backyard or garden and help restore native bee populations to our urban desert landscapes. Design and build “bee condos”, small nesting sites for native bees made from drilled wooden blocks or paper/plastic soda straws inserted into a tin can or paper milk carton. With some scrap lumber, drill holes (1/8 to 5/16 inch diameter (7 – 8 mm) and 3 to 6 inches deep) into some scrap lumber. Don’t drill all the way through the block and don’t drill holes too close to the edges. Nail or hang these nesting blocks up on a tree or under the eaves of your house or garden shed in the early spring. Nesting female leafcutter and mason bees (like the Orchard Mason Bee) will find your “bee condos” and take up residence. These new tenants will provide you with many hours of fascinating entertainment.
Making a bee condo can be an addition to your project and your display.
How do Bees Make Honey?
(Lansing State Journal, July 30, 1997)
Honeybees use nectar to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In fact, if you have ever pulled a honeysuckle blossom out of its stem, nectar is the clear liquid that drops from the end of the blossom. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes and fruit tree blossoms. They use their long, tubelike tongues like straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and they store it in their “honey stomachs”. Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach. The honey stomach holds almost 70 mg of nectar and when full, it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honeystomachs.
The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive. The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it a thicker syrup. The bees make the nectar dry even faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.
Materials and Equipment:
After you complete your project, make a list of material that you used.
Results of Experiment (Observation):
Write down the result of your experiment and create a project report using the information that you collect. The bee’s body parts (Anatomy) can be something like this but in larger size and details.
For example this may be good.
A bee’s head is dominated by two large compound eyes. Between the compound eyes are three small simple eyes which register light levels. The vision of a bee is different from human vision and what bees actually may see is also different.
The antennae sit almost in the center of the face. Each is composed of a basal stalk or scrape and a longer segmented flagellum. In drones, the scrape is shorter but the flagellum has 12 segments. In workers and the queen, the scrape is longer but the segmented flagellum only has 11 sections. The antennae are controlled by four muscles and basically function as specialized sense organs. A large proportion of the communication among bees in the the hive is done by antennae touching.
Bees Found in a Colony
Queen Worker (female) Drone (male)
The Queen bee lays up to 2,000 eggs per day. These run the cycle from egg to larva, larva to pupa, pupa to bee. Once the worker bees are fully developed and leave the cells, they move from duty to duty as they grow older. They start with the lowly job of cell cleaning, graduate to being nurses, become honey-makers, wax-makers, and finally guards, before they are ready to leave the hive as foragers, or scouts.
What is drone? Drone is a male bee, especially a honeybee, that is characteristically stingless, performs no work, and produces no honey. Its only function is to mate with the queen bee.
The mouth parts of a bee are complex. The mandibles (jaws) are suspended from the head at the sides of the mouth. They are used in handling objects, manipulating pollen and in contact with other bees. Above the mandibles is the mandibular gland which secretes a substance once thought to be used to soften wax. It’s now known that the mandibular gland of the queen secretes QUEEN SUBSTANCE, the pheromone responsible for maintenance of the social organization of the colony. The mandibular glands are almost completely reduced in the drone.
A bee’s tongue is covered by rings of cartilage bearing hairs and separated by smooth membranous intervals. The tip of the tongue is a small spoon shaped lobe or flabellum that is smooth on the underside, but covered with branched spines along the edges and top. Muscles associated with the tongue allow the bee to “lap” at fluids. A sucking pump also assists in feeding. The pump is a large muscled sac in the head. Dilator muscles suck liquid up the proboscis in a way similar to the way a turkey baster bulb works. Compressor muscles then close the mouth and food goes into the pharynx then the esophagus. Since bees both ingest and egest food, the pump working in reverse also serves in the feeding of developing larvae. Salivary glands to moisten food, mandibular glands for the production of queen substance and brood food glands which produce royal jelly are also located in the head. The brood food glands have a special opening into the mouth area, and nurse bees discharge this nutritious food to developing larvae through partially opened mandibles.
The thorax is the middle portion of the bee’s body where the legs and wings are attached. Each pair of legs are specialized in structure for performing different activities. The front legs are used to clean the head, eyes and mouth and also have a special cleaning apparatus for grooming the antennae. The middle pair of legs are used to clean the body, loosen pollen from the pollen baskets, clean the wings and move wax plates that are secreted from glands on the abdomen. The hind legs are specialized for pollen collection. Each leg is flattened, and on workers are covered with long fringed hairs that form the pollen basket. Pollen grain which adhere to the hairs of the body are brushed back to the inside of the hind leg where they are stored in the pollen basket for carrying back to the hive. Propolis is also carried back to the hive in the pollen baskets.
The two sets of wings are also attached to the thorax. The wings are membranous, and strengthened by veins. Large flight muscles in the thorax power the wings in flight, and at rest the wings are folded back along the body. The forewings which are longer, are kept in unison with the beat of the hind wings by a Velcro style set of hooks that keep the two wings connected.
The abdomen contains the digestive, and reproductive organs of the bee. There are several abdominal segments, each composed of an upper tergum, and a lower sternum with the lower portion overlapping the segment behind it. Some of the sterna are covered with wax producing glands, and during the 12th to 18th day of life, these are most developed and are used in the production of wax scales used for comb building. As the bees age, the wax producing glands degenerate and disappear.
On the upper abdomen at segment seven are the scent producing glands. The Nasanoff gland produces a pheromone used at the entrance to the hive or in a swarm to guide other workers to the proper location.
At the end of the abdomen is the sting, which when not in use is completely retracted into the abdomen. The sting is made of an upper stylet and two lower lancets. The stylet has a wide bulb at the upper end and connects with the poison sac. When the bee stings, the entire apparatus works its way into the wound, continually discharging venom. Since muscles associated with the poison sac continue to pump venom as the stinger enters the wound, any delay in removing the sting can allow additional venom into the victim.
No calculations are required for this project.
Summary of Results:
Summarize what happened. This can be in the form of a table of processed numerical data, or graphs. It could also be a written statement of what occurred during experiments.
It is from calculations using recorded data that tables and graphs are made. Studying tables and graphs, we can see trends that tell us how different variables cause our observations. Based on these trends, we can draw conclusions about the system under study. These conclusions help us confirm or deny our original hypothesis. Often, mathematical equations can be made from graphs. These equations allow us to predict how a change will affect the system without the need to do additional experiments. Advanced levels of experimental science rely heavily on graphical and mathematical analysis of data. At this level, science becomes even more interesting and powerful.
When studying bees as suggested in this project guide, you will not have a data table with numeric values. Also students in grades 1 to 4 are usually not required to collect data. More advanced students may try other studies about bees so that they will have data tables with numeric values.
For example If you try to study the life cycle of bees, you will need to record the number of days for egg period, the number of days for larva period, the number of days for pupa period,… Such numbers are the data.
Also when you study on the favorite flowers for bees, you will have numeric data. For example you may place 3 different types of flowers near a beehive and count the number of bees on each type of flowers. Such numbers are data.
Using the trends in your experimental data and your experimental observations, try to answer your original questions. Is your hypothesis correct? Now is the time to pull together what happened, and assess the experiments you did.
Related Questions & Answers:
What you have learned may allow you to answer other questions. Many questions are related. Several new questions may have occurred to you while doing experiments. You may now be able to understand or verify things that you discovered when gathering information for the project. Questions lead to more questions, which lead to additional hypothesis that need to be tested.
If you did not observe anything different than what happened with your control, the variable you changed may not affect the system you are investigating. If you did not observe a consistent, reproducible trend in your series of experimental runs there may be experimental errors affecting your results. The first thing to check is how you are making your measurements. Is the measurement method questionable or unreliable? Maybe you are reading a scale incorrectly, or maybe the measuring instrument is working erratically.
If you determine that experimental errors are influencing your results, carefully rethink the design of your experiments. Review each step of the procedure to find sources of potential errors. If possible, have a scientist review the procedure with you. Sometimes the designer of an experiment can miss the obvious.
Bees Communication notes:
Bees are four-winged, flower-feeding insects. They have enlarged hind feet, branched or feathered body hairs, and generally a stinger. Honeybees and bumblebees are the most common. Bumblebees are larger and stronger than honeybees. Bees are beneficial insects because they produce honey and pollinate crops.
Honeybees live in hives or colonies. A small hive contains about 20,000 bees, while some larger hives may have over 100,000 bees. Hives include one queen, hundreds of drones, and thousands of worker bees. The worker bees are female, but they do not breed. The queen bee is female and creates all the babies for the hive. She can lay 1500 eggs in one day. The drone bees are male and do not have stingers. Some bees communicate with each other about food sources using dances. The sounds from the movement of the bees is picked up by the tiny hairs on the bee’s head. Bees use the sun in navigation. Some other bees communicate the location of food by leaving a scent trails from the food source to the nest.
Bees have two types of dance for their communication.
- The Waggle or Wag-Tail Dance – In this dance, the bee moves in a figure-8 pattern. The straight line down the middle of the figure-8 tells the direction the nectar is found in relation to the sun. Then the bees count how many times the bee dancer repeats the waggle dance. This is how far away the flowers are!
- The Circular, or Round, Dance – This is when the flowers are very close. Then the bee just dances in a circle, first one way and then the other way. The bees know that they should circle the hive until they find the nectar.
You may experiment the above two methods and communicate with your friends about the location of an object. See if they can find it.