Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bees and Pollinating Flowers: Craft and Experiment Together

While outside this spring we have noticed that our blueberry bushes have a regular visitor - a friendly bumble bee.  He is there all the time and the girls have even named him Buzzy.  Since we spend so much time watching him it was a great opportunity to explore what happens when he visits the flower - in particular what his role is in pollination.  Of course any experiment involving Cheetos is also a win!

To learn more about bees and pollination we started by making our own bee sock puppets.  This took us a few days (hence the outfit changes) as we would have to wait for the paint to dry.  We started by each girl painting a sock yellow.

Little Bear (2) really enjoyed the painting and wanted a super yellow bee and so we had to leave our socks overnight to dry.

The next morning we painted black stripes onto our bees.

They were all dry later that afternoon and so we glued on the googly eyes and wings (made of cardstock).   I then poked small holes through the socks for the antenna.  This was easy to do as the sock was stiff from all the paint.  We slid black pipe cleaners into the holes and shaped them to look like antenna.

Again we left everything to dry overnight so that the eyes and wings did not fall off.   The girls were so excited when I setup the bees for the experiment the next day.  It had been hard for them not to play with their new puppets up until now.   We setup flowers that I had drawn on cardstock.   In the middle of each flower I put a pile of crushed Cheetos!   The girls put on their sock puppets and flew the bees onto their flowers.

When the bees took off we looked under the bees and saw that some of the "pollen" had stuck to the bees.

Our bees then flew to the other flower carrying the pollen from the first flower with them!  In this way the bees could cross-pollinate flowers.

Of course we wanted to look at how this could work in a real flower.  So we bought some lillies at the store.  These flowers were wonderful to see all the parts involved in pollination.   Our little bees landed on the lillies and when they took off they had been covered in pollen. 

We could also see how the bees knocked the pollen off the anther and onto the stigma of the flower that we had discovered when learning about the parts of a flower.  {Warning: After doing this activity I discovered that lillies can be poisonous.  Please don't use them if your child will put them in their mouth and make sure you wash hands afterwards.  A better option may be to use a tulip}.

This was a really fun way for the girls to make something (their bees) to use in an experiment and to introduce the words pollination and cross-pollination.  The girls favorite part was eating the leftover Cheetos!

  • sock
  • yellow paint
  • black paint
  • paper plate
  • paint brush
  • googly eyes
  • cardstock 
  • glue
  • black pipecleaner (cut into quarters)
  • sharp scissors
  • ziplock bag
  • cheetos
  • tulip/lillies (optional - see warning about lillies above)

  1. Paint one side of a sock yellow and leave it to dry.
  2. Paint black stripes on your yellow paint and leave to dry.
  3. Cut out wings from cardstock and glue to the back of your bee.
  4. Glue on googly eyes.
  5. Take sharp scissors and poke two small holes between the eyes and wings.
  6. Slide the pipecleaners into the holes and bent towards the front of the sock to secure (towards the front means that they won't poke little fingers when they go into the sock).
  7. Leave the bee for the glue to dry.
  8. Draw a flower on a piece of cardstock.
  9. Crush cheetos in a ziplock bag and pour into the middle of the flower.
  10. Put your sock puppet bee on and have it land in the middle of the flower.  Lift the bee and see how the pollen is stuck to the bottom of the bee.  Have the bee fly away taking the pollen to a new location or flower.
  11. Optional: have the bee land on the lilly and show how it knocks the pollen onto the stigma and carries the flower pollen away.


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