Honeycomb Science

Hi –

With Rosh Hashanah coming up, this week in Science we thought a lot about honey.

(After our weekly card game, of course…

Slinky, blocks, baseball, bottle — which three do you think go together?)

We know that honey has something to do with bees – but do they eat it or make it?

Do they get the honey from flowers? How does all that work exactly?

Today we found out the answers.

First we met a bee

and learned what to do if we meet a real one in the future. (Stay still and say, "I am not a flower.")

We practiced doing that:

The bee flew around the room looking for a flower.

Yum – Lunch!

It collected pollen and nectar from the flower to bring back to the hive.

Once our bee found a good food source, it flew back to the hive to spread the word – but how does a bee give directions?

In order to explain the food’s location with respect to the hive, the returning bee danced for its family and friends.

If the food is close by, a bee does the Round Dance.

We tried it out and were really good at it!

The bee’s relatives followed the directions and went to collect nectar and pollen.

Meanwhile, our bee went out to look for more flowers. This time it found flowers that were much farther away. Dinner!!

In order to explain where these flowers were, the bee did the Waggle Dance back at the hive.

We practiced our waggling

and then we tried that dance too:

That one was a lot more complicated, but we did a great job.

So – the bee’s fellow workers went out and collected more pollen and nectar.

The workers flew back home to the hive – but what’s inside the hive?

Hives are made of wax and are like closets with many cubbies (‘cells’).

To find out more, we opened up Morah Elaine’s ‘beehive.’

(As you can see, to do this, one must be properly dressed.)

We all got to take a close look at a ‘honeycomb’:

All of the cubbies in the honeycombsare shaped like hexagons.

Next, we made our own honeycomb model.

Everyone got two items from a bag.

The cubbies in the middle of the comb are the cribs (brood comb) – that’s where the queen lays eggs.

We added eggs to our comb.

Larvae hatch out of the eggs. Bee larvae look like rolled up socks!

We put the bee larvae in the center cells too.

Next, we placed blue hexagons around the cribs. (Note: These hexagons are blue because I only had two colors to work with. Pollen is not actually blue.)

The blue hexagons represent cells filled with pollen. Some of the worker bees mix the pollen and nectar to make ‘beebread.’ This is what they feed to the larvae.

Next we talked about pollen.

Here are pictures of bees in Morah Elaine’s backyard.

This bee is covered in pollen. The pollen sticks to the bee as it moves around in the flower.

It will clean itself off and store the pollen in its pollen baskets. The orange balls on this bee’s legs are full pollen baskets:

The bee also stored nectar in its ‘honey stomach.’ When it returns to the hive with nectar, it passes nectar to a house bee.

We placed yellow hexagons around the outer edge of the pollen-filled cells.

The house bee mixes the nectar with enzymes and deposits the mixture into the honey cells (the yellow ones that we just added).

House bees fan the cells with their wings to evaporate much of the water in the fluid.

Eventually the nectar and enzymes thicken and form honey. The bees then cap the honey-filled cells with wax. The bees eat the honey during bad weather when they can’t leave the hive.

So, here are the answers to our questions:

We know that honey has something to do with bees – but do they eat it (yes, in bad weather) or make it? (yes)

Do they get the honey from flowers? (no – they get pollen and nectar from flowers)

How does all that work exactly? (bees add enzymes to the nectar and that is what eventually turns into honey).

See you next week,

Morah Elaine

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