Lesson Plan

Day 1 of Biodiversity Bee Week: External Observation of a Honeybee

A close up head shot of a leaf-cutting bee with brown eyes.

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Additional Standards:
Next Generation Science Standards:
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems (MS-LS2-1)
LS4.C: Adaptation (MS-LS4-6)
Thinking Skills:
Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.


What adaptations do bees have to be effective pollinators and to survive?

Students will
• observe and dissect the external structural adaptations of honey bees
• compare the form of the structural adaptations of honey bees to their functions
• explain how the adaptations allow honey bees to be effective pollinators and survivors


In the mid to late 2000’s, beekeepers noticed a problem with their bees. Bees were leaving the hives during the day and not returning. Their hives were not thriving. Thousands of bees were dying, threatening the livelihood of many beekeepers and the pollination of thousands of plants, including crops upon which we rely for food. Scientists investigated the die-off of the bees, calling the problem “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). Unsure of the cause(s), scientists collected data on the numbers of bees being lost each year. The numbers were staggering: 2006-07 saw a 32 percent decline in bee numbers, 2007-08 saw a 36 percent decline in bee numbers, and 2008-09 saw a 29 percent decline in bee numbers. There has been an overall decline or leveling off in the percent of bee losses through the years, with the losses at 23.2 percent for winter 2013-14. Beekeepers consider 18.9 percent as a level that is acceptable for bee loss each year in order to sustain their populations (Kaplan, 2014).

We are dependent upon bees for our own survival. Members of the Apidae family (honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, etc…) are the “pollinators of the agricultural world.” Bees are vital to the health of our food supply and also wild plant pollination. Their bodies are covered with hair which allows them to pick up pollen and transfer it from plant to plant to promote pollination. Bees are responsible for pollinating one third of the food that we consume on a daily basis; their loss would mean that our food supply would be dramatically reduced. Also, pollinators are very important for maintaining and creating our wild plant populations, basic habitat for wildlife, and to support crops that feed grazing animals, such as cows (Michigan, 2014; Tucker, 2014).

Currently, bee decline appears to have leveled off, but the causes still remain unknown. There are many theories about the reasons for the decline in bee populations. Ideas include global warming, causing flowers to bloom at different times; loss of habitat and diversity in pollen sources due to development; pesticide use on farms; parasites, such as mites; or perhaps a combination of these factors (Sass, 2011).

This one-week module is designed to expose middle-school students to the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder and to give them background knowledge to help understand this problem. Knowledge is the first step towards understanding and becoming an agent of change to help solve this problem.


For the lab, you will need dried honey bees, along with the observation lab worksheet. Before starting the lab, the instructor should ask if any students are allergic to bees and take the appropriate cautionary measures.

Download lesson plan, then print out and copy the worksheet for each student. 


Students will conduct an external observation lab using dried honey bees to look at the different structural components that allow honey bees to be effective pollinators and survivors.

Download Day 1 Worksheet: External Observation of Honey Bee

Printer-friendly lesson plans for all days of Biodiversity Bee Week (a middle school curriculum and activity guide for Bee Awareness).

Download Biodiversity Bee Week Curriculum

Lesson Hook/Preview

Show the video Flight of the Bumble (Honey) Bee which shows pictures of honey bees set to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” (1:06). Video is one of a series by Backyard Beekeeping.

As the video is being shown, the instructor will point out different structures that students will observe in their external observation lab of the honey bee


External Bee Observation Lab

Students will become familiar with the external structural adaptations of the honey bee that help the insect to be an efficient pollinator and survivor. Bees need nectar and pollen for their survival and the survival of their broods. Nectar is gathered by honey bees and deposited in honeycomb cells in the hive to be used as a food source. Nectar provides energy (carbohydrate) and pollen provides proteins and fats for honey bee broods. As bees collect pollen to take to their hive, they are also pollinating different plants with pollen that has become attached to hairs on their bodies. 


structural adaptation, honey bee brood, forewings, hindwings, pollinator

Assessment Materials


Think—Teacher poses question to whole class: “What is the most important adaptation that a honeybee has to survive and function as a pollinator?”
Pair—Students discuss their opinions related to the question with a partner from another lab group.
Share—Students share their opinions with the whole class.

Additional Resources

Download the lesson plan for additional resources and links. 

For other education resources, webcasts, and webinars, Pollinator LIVE: a distance learning adventure is a great website, and is sponsored by federal and private partners. 

Related Lessons or Education Materials

This is Day 1 of 5 in the Biodiversity Bee Week curriculum for middle school students. 

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Last updated: June 30, 2015