Today’s topic concerns bees and yellow jackets. Hopefully, you will be enjoying a sunny day and will either have some enticing flowers around that are attracting bees like mad or perhaps you can find a yellow jacket nearby or coax one into your yard with something sweet. I certainly won’t suggest trying to capture a bee or a yellow jacket today for observation. I think that if you simply follow one around for a bit that that should be sufficient.
Bees are amazing because they are the number one pollinators! Here in the state of Florida they are super important for our citrus crop and many farmers rent bee hives when it is time for their crops to be pollinated. Bees are social animals, but unless you have a hive nearby, you will only see the worker bee out and about. Most likely that bee will not stay still for very long so it may be handy to have a camera at the ready to snap photos for later observation. There are so many interesting things about bees and you could certainly spend a whole week investigating these amazing insects! For example, beehives have an amazing hexagonal order to them and are made of wax. If possible, visit a beehive some time and learn about the honey-making process.
Yellow jackets are also social animals, but their hives are made of paper (made from scraped wood fibers and mixed with saliva). The term yellow jacket actually refers to several species: some are ground-nesting while others build their nests higher up (aerial nesting). Even though these insects may sting when unprovoked, they are quite beneficial. Yellow jackets are predatory animals that will eat mosquitoes, flies, and other pest insects. However, if you have a hive near your house, it would probably be best to have it removed.
Both honeybees and yellow jackets will swarm in the fall if they have outgrown their current space. I have never seen a honeybee swarm, but I hope that I am privleged enough one day to witness such a fantastic sight.
1. While looking at your subject, notice the 3 body divisions (head, thorax, abdomen) and see if you are able to count all 6 legs.
2. What color is your bee or wasp? Does any part of it appear to be fuzzy?
3. Where do bees carry the pollen that they collect? Do wasps collect pollen?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lE-8QuBDkkw – a short (2:42) PBS clip on the honeybee hive and the bee dance
http://www.homeschoolshare.com/honey_bee_lapbook.php – a lapbook all about bees from the Homeschool Share website
http://www.backyardbeekeepers.com/facts.html – information about honeybees, including current threats to beekeeping
http://www.freshfromflorida.com/pi/plantinsp/apiary/africanbees.html – information on Africanized bees; if these are in your area then remember to teach your children to run as fast as possible to shelter from stinging bees
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXZOKI6Uv9A – a 2:35 video showing a 10 foot tall yellow jacket hive
http://www.diffen.com/difference/Bees_vs_Wasps – a side-by-side comparison of wasps and bees