Buzz, buzz! Have you seen these cool little insects called bees flying around your yard or garden? They’re actually busy working and gathering food for their families (from our flowers). But bees also do a very important job called pollination. That means they help our plants grow and reproduce — putting healthy food on our tables and keeping our gardens blooming. So we need to be nice to bees and help them out too!
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There are all sorts of ways to do good for these fuzzy, buzzy pollinators. Sometimes that just means learning more about them to gain a greater appreciation. Below are just a few ideas — share these with your parents so they can get in on the fun!
- Plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden.Flowers aren’t just pretty to look at; they also provide food for bees. So you can help bees by planting certain flowers that they like. And hey, it’s a great excuse to dig in the dirt! Learn more about gardening for bees.
- Create a bee watering station.Bees get thirsty, just like us. Provide a shallow source of fresh water with safe places for them to land since they can’t swim. Some simple ideas include a pie dish with marbles, a bird bath with rocks, or a plant saucer with seashells. Don’t forget to clean and refill it regularly!
- Go on a bee-spotting nature walk.Visit a local park or botanical garden and look for bees — turn it into a competition for who can spot the most! It’s really neat just to watch bees find food on flowers (this is called foraging). Just remember to let them do their thing, and they won’t bother you. Check out our video about commonly seen bees.
- Be an everyday beekeeper.Not all bees live together in hives or make honey like honeybees do. In fact, most other bee species are solitary (meaning they live alone) and nest in the ground. Welcome these gentle pollinators into your garden by simply leaving patches of bare dirt. For other types of bees that nest in wood tunnels, have your parents help you build a bee house.
- Give potted bee-friendly flowers or herbs as gifts.Spread the Beesponsible word in a thoughtful way — whether it’s welcoming new neighbors, thanking teachers at the end of the school year, celebrating springtime or “just bee-cause.” Go shopping for bee-friendly flowers at your local garden center and then attach a handwritten note.
- Shop at the local farmers’ market.Help pick out your favorite locally-grown produce and other goodies — eating healthier is more fun when you know exactly where your food comes from! (P.S. A lot of the fruits and veggies you see at the market were probably pollinated by bees, too.)
- Get involved in a community garden.It’s the perfect family activity — growing your own food, getting to know your neighbors and supporting bees and other pollinators. Everyone wins!
- Understand the connection between bees, flowers and our food.Did you know that bees help pollinate some of your favorite fruits and veggies? Strawberries, cherries, tomatoes and cucumbers, just to name a few! Learn more about how pollination works.
- Learn about a honeybee’s body.Every part of a bee’s tiny body serves a special purpose. Get a closeup look from your computer with our cool 3D animation. Here’s just a couple things you’ll discover: They have five eyes and special “baskets” on their legs to carry pollen.
- Learn how honeybees make honey.It takes a lot of bees gathering a lot of nectar to make honey. They also make a lot more than they need for their colony, which is why we get to enjoy this sweet treat too. Learn more about the honey-making process.
- Live and work together in a colony like a big family — only there are thousands of them!
- Hatch from tiny eggs and become either girls (worker bees or new queens) or boys (drones).
- Fly faster than you can walk and beat their wings 200 times per second.
- Are shorter in length than an average teaspoon.
- Get their food from the nectar and pollen of flowers.
- Are fed a special substance called royal jelly for a couple days after they’re born (but the queen bee gets to feast on it her whole life).
- Do a waggle dance to communicate with each other about food sources.
- Have hair on their eyes that helps them detect wind direction and speed.
- Store nectar from flowers in their “honey stomach” until they’re ready to turn it into honey.
- Are the only insect that produces food (honey) eaten by humans.
- Include 4,000 different species in the United States and 20,000 worldwide. Most live alone in their own cozy nests (these are known as “solitary” bees).
- Build their nests beneath the ground, under leaf piles, in wood or other abandoned holes.
- Include bumblebees, who also produce honey but in much smaller quantities than honeybees.
- Have lots of special skills. Bumblebees, for example, can do something called buzz pollination — a powerful vibration that makes them better at pollinating certain foods like blueberries and tomatoes.
- Include leafcutter bees, who use their jaws to cut perfectly round circles from leaves to bring back to the nest and build protective cocoons for their babies.
- Can be generalist or specialist pollinators — so, they’re either picky eaters or enjoy a wide range of food!
- Include the largest native bee in the U.S., the carpenter bee. They look a lot like bumblebees but have a shiny, hairless stomach (instead of fuzzy and striped).
- Most are stingless or very gentle unless directly threatened. Generally they just want to visit pretty flowers and feed their young.
- Come in a wide variety of colors including green, orange and purple!
- Range in size from 2 mm to 39 mm.
BEESPONSIBLE SCAVENGER HUNT
Head outside with this all-season scavenger hunt to learn more about bees and nature. Bring along your parents or siblings for a family activity — or make it a fun competition with friends to see who can finish first!