Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

by Rachel Payne

Although this article is geared toward teaching kids about bees, some of these ideas may also be suitable for teaching adults.

Sooner or later, you will be presented with the opportunity to talk to a group of kids about honey bees. Don’t pass it up! It can be a lot of fun to share the magic of honey bees with children. I’ve compiled a list of resources and ideas you might find helpful. This is by no means an exhaustive list but, if you’ve never done a presentation for kids, this should give you at least a starting point.

Many times, the teacher or organizer will have a particular focus in mind. Perhaps it’s the life cycle of a bee or pollination. This helps to narrow down what you’ll do for your presentation. If you’re left to your own devices, think about what you could teach them that they might not learn elsewhere. Schools are doing a pretty good job of teaching about pollination, the body parts and life cycles of insects, and the different members of a honey bee colony and their jobs. Ask the teacher/coordinator what the students already know about honey bees.

The ages of your audience members and the time allotted to you will dictate, to some extent, what you can do. In general, the younger the child, the shorter the attention span. Try not to drone on and on. If you have a lot of information to share, break it up with an activity or two. Combining lecture with posters or other visual aids will also help you retain your audience’s attention.

Demonstrations are good, but hands-on activities are better, particularly with younger children. It’s a good idea to do a test run at home. See how long the demo or activity takes. Did you find you needed other supplies that you hadn’t anticipated? Did you end up with as much lip balm or bee nutty choco-chip cookies as the recipe indicated, or should you triple the recipe instead of doubling it so every child gets some?

Use age-appropriate language. It’s ok to tell 5-year-olds that a bee has a proboscis, but explain what it is in terms they’ll understand. Something like, “A bee has a proboscis. It’s a mouthpart, kind of like a straw, that she uses to suck nectar from flowers, and she’ll turn the nectar into honey.”

The number of kids will also be a factor. If you’re speaking to a group of 50, you might not be able to do any crafts or activities. You might need to show some posters, disseminate facts, and let everyone file past your observation hive. This is not the ideal situation, but sometimes it’s what you get.

Here are some resources, in no particular order, you may find useful.

The Honey Files: A Bee’s Life Teaching Guide for Grade Levels 4-6

This book was created by the National Honey Board. It contains glossaries, diagrams, crossword puzzles, worksheets, activities, and recipes. It’s targeted at grade levels 4-6, but some things could be used for older or younger students.

Download PDF

The Honey Files – A Bee’s Life by the National Honey Board

This is a short video, about 16 minutes, of how honey is made, interviews with a commercial beekeeper and a hobbyist beekeeper, round and waggle dances, and pollination. The narrator is goofy and older kids will make fun of him, but it provides a good overview of quite a few topics.

Beekeeper’s Lab

by Kim Lehman

This book contains a nice assortment of 52 activities, experiments, and recipes. Some require that you have bees (or at least have a good friend with bees). For others, you need hive products such as honey, wax, or propolis. There are several that use items you probably already have around your house.

The Life and Times of the Honeybee

by Charles Micucci

This is a beautifully illustrated book full of good information about honey bees. Among other things, it includes descriptions of the members of the colony, the life cycle of a honey bee, jobs of workers, how honey is made, the round dance and waggle dance, and historical notes.

The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive

by Janna Cole and Bruce Degen

As is typical in the Magic School Bus series, Ms. Frizzle and her class take a field trip, this time to an apiary. They shrink into bees and are allowed into a hive by the guard bees. They learn about pollination, pheromones, the different bees in the colony, round and waggle dances, nest arrangement, and swarming.

Kids and Bees Resource Booklet: Ideas and Inspirations for Teaching Kids About Bees

by Sarah Red-Laird

A guidebook for anyone who is interested in teaching kids about bees.


Props, crafts, and activities

Observation hive – If I were told I could take only ONE item to a bee talk, it would be an observation hive. People are fascinated by honey bees when they’re confined within a windowed box. Most people ask about the queen, so it’s nice to have her upstairs. You can mark her or not. A lot of students attend Bugs, Bees, Butterflies, & Blossoms each year at Stephen F. Austin State University. PBA stocks several observation hives for that event, frequently with marked queens. Kids will usually tell you about it, especially if your queen’s dot is a different color. It’s not uncommon for people to ask what makes the queen the queen, or whether the queen is born with a dot on her back. If you can’t find your queen, that’s ok. I’d rather take an observation hive full of workers than not take one at all. I try to pick a frame that has brood of various ages, as well as nectar and/or capped honey. If the queen isn’t on the frame you’d like to take, use your finger to “herd” her onto it.

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

Burr comb, processed beeswax, honey, small measuring spoon – If you have any burr comb laying around, let the kids feel it and smell it, but caution them to hold it gently. Or, if you’re concerned, you could let them see and smell, but not touch. They might enjoy seeing wax that you’ve cleaned up from cappings before it’s made into candles or lip balm. Most kids are delighted to sample your honey. You can order small tasting spoons from Amazon. It’s a good idea to take a small bucket with a lid for disposal of the sticky spoons if it’s an outdoor event (neighborhood bees are attracted by the smell of honey). If you’re indoors, a trash can is fine. It’s also a good idea to have a damp rag handy. It’s impossible to not get sticky when you’re handing out honey samples. You may be wondering why I listed a small measuring spoon. Sometimes I take a ¼-teaspoon with me; it’s the smallest I have. A bee will produce about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. I like to share this with the kids, show them the ¼-teaspoon, and explain that it’ll take 3 bees their entire lives to make enough honey to fill that spoon. They’re impressed, and rightfully so!

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

Dress the part. It’s not necessary, but I think it’s a nice touch. I have what I call my “bee dress” with black and yellow stripes. Kids love it. Adults have complimented me on it, too. I found antennae at Goodwill and made wings with coat hangers and pantyhose. Don’t have a bee dress? Wear black and yellow or wear your bee suit.

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

Coloring sheets – Google “honey bee coloring sheets” to find a variety. Some are cartoonish; some are more realistic. Some have the body parts labeled; others don’t. For really young kids, you might prefer a simpler drawing with solid lines and not much detail, like the bee on the left. It’s easy to see the bee’s head, thorax, and abdomen. The three legs on this side are visible. It’s not so cartoonish to be inaccurate; this bee doesn’t have a smiley face or hands and feet. The bee on the right is better for older kids who can use crayons or colored pencils with more finesse. You could have junior high or high school students, who might find coloring childish, draw a bee.

Have students “help” you count to 6. This is great for young children, maybe up to about grade 2 or 3. I’m usually wearing my “bee dress” with antennae and wings. I like to ask the students if they can help me count. There’s usually an enthusiastic “Yeah!” I’ll start them off with 1 and ask what they think a bee has 1 of. The answer I’m looking for is proboscis. They usually don’t get that one, so I’ll tell them, then explain what it is. I’ll then ask what comes after 1 (“Two!”) and ask what they think a bee has 2 of. A common answer is “wings.” They might say “eyes.” You can tell them a bee has 2 compound eyes, and that you’re thinking of something different. I might reach up to my antennae and repeat the question. Again, I’ll talk about the antennae. We work up through 3 body regions (I remind the kids that bees are insects and all insects have 3 main body regions), 4 wings (that can act like 2 wings), 5 eyes (usually surprising to them), and 6 legs (again, bees are insects). I like to distribute coloring sheets with these parts labeled for reinforcement. The one I use doesn’t have the ocelli, so I tell the kids they can add those 3 little eyes to their bees.

Mock hive inspection – Take an empty hive and your protective gear. Explain the importance of each item and tool as you “smoke” your bees and “inspect” your hive. Show the kids how you gently manipulate the frames, what you look for, how you find the queen.

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

Mock honey extraction – If you have a group of students over to your apiary, you can do a real honey extraction. If, on the other hand, you’re talking to an elementary school garden club or 7th grade science class, a mock extraction is the way to go. You can go through the motions of pulling honey frames, brushing off the bees, uncapping the honey, and extracting and bottling it. If the group isn’t too large, you can let them help. I did this with a summer camp group and they loved it! A couple of kids used hive tools to remove “honey frames” from the hive. A couple more gently brushed imaginary bees off the frames. Then a kid or two “uncapped” them. We put them in my extractor and everyone had a turn at cranking the handle. The honey they tasted was real, though!

Make origami bees.



Life cycle craft – Younger kids might enjoy constructing a 3D representation of a bee’s life cycle. Use white rice for eggs, rice crispy cereal for larvae, spiral pasta for pupae, and peanuts for adults (the kids can add black stripes with markers and draw wings on their papers or cardstock).

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

Worker bee jobs – Collect props to illustrate the different jobs of worker bees. You might have baby dolls and bottles for nurse bees, brooms and dusters for cleaner bees, and shopping bags for foragers. Set up different stations for different jobs and let the students cycle through them. This can get a little loud and chaotic, so make sure you have a way to get their attention when it’s time to change stations.

Beehive artwork – Use bubble wrap to paint a beehive drawing. The kids can make thumbprint bees around their hives, using markers to add stripes when the paint dries. (You’d want to do this craft with a sink nearby.)

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees

Paint hive boxes – These are my kids painting nuc boxes, but you might consider letting a group of kids paint your hive boxes. This would take a little planning – the kids would need to have painting clothes and you’d need a place for them to paint and the boxes to dry. You could turn it into an art contest and have another class vote on their favorite box (or the 9th grade teachers, science teachers, bus drivers, etc.). You could award the winner a jar of honey! Be sure to send them pictures of their boxes in your apiary!

 Teaching Kids About Honey Bees