Lesson Tutor: Honey, Wax and Dancing: Unit study on Bees

Honey, Wax and Dancing!
by Lisa Hawkins

Bees do have natural predators. Some of these include the bear and the skunk.

How is honey made? A scout bee goes out and finds a nectar/flower site. She comes back and does a dance to tell the other bees where the nectar is. Other bees follow and they suck up the nectar with their tongues. The nectar is stored in a special stomach called the honeysac. These bees bring the nectar back to the hive and transfer the nectar to the other bees by….sorry….throwing it up into the other workers mouth. That worker takes the nectar and …yes…more throwing up…places it in a honey cell. The honey sac is not the stomach in which the bee digests its food. When the cell is “full” a worker bee fans the nectar to dry it to some degree. Then the cell is capped and the honey is stored for later use. Bee colonies with 100,000 bees can make 10 pounds of honey per day….much more than they need themselves. Usually they make about 100 extra pounds per summer. Now that the kids know that honey is sorta like bee barf, it would be a wonderful time to do the honey taste test described in the “bee activities” article. Yum!

How is wax made? Wax is secreted from glands in the bees body. The bee uses this wax to make honeycomb cells. They use their mandibles (mouths) to shape the wax to form the cells.

There are many parts to a bee dance. When the scout comes back to the hive, if the nectar is nearby the bee will dance in circles, if it is far away it will dance in a figure eight. As the bee dances it wiggles its abdomen. The number of wiggles tells the other bees exactly how far away the nectar is. The direction the bee is moving as she wiggles tells the other bees the location of the nectar as related to the sun.

During the winter, bees keep warm by huddling together to keep warm. The bees in the middle eat and stay warm, then they switch places with the bees on the outside of the huddle so that the outer bees can warm up and get something to eat. Normally drones are kicked out of the hive during the winter…you don’t work…you don’t eat!

In the summer, the hive gets very hot. Workers on one side of the hive fan their wings to force air into the hive….workers on the other side fan air out of the hive. This way they create a cool breeze through the hive and it stays cool. If the hive is still too hot, workers carry in water and sprinkle it on the hive. Now that’s teamwork.

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