The Sweet Connection


Author: Unknown

Organization: United States Department of Agriculture

Topic: Pollination

Grade Level: 5th

Time Frame: Not specified

Overview: Students will use maps to find what crops are dominant in areas where honeybees are raised and discuss possible correlations.

Purpose: At the end of this activity the student will have a new understanding of the partnership between bees and plants. The students will understand how bees help the production of crops throughout the U.S.


  • Large wall map of the U.S.
  • Colored chalk
  • Cotton balls
  • Two or three small jars of honey (different brands)

Getting Ready: Terms to know: partnership, apiculture, pollination

Motivate (Engage): Write the word “partnership” on the chalkboard and ask for definitions. Have students name some famous partners. (Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly, etc.) What makes them partners? What does each partner contribute? Is one partner more important than the other? Give students time to describe partnership in which they have participated- on sports teams, scouting activities, class projects, etc. Ask students to name some partnerships in nature (worms and soil, cattle and egrets). Focus attention on the partnership between bees and flowers.

Activity (Explore): Demonstrate pollination by drawing the outline of two large flowers on the chalkboard. Fill in one of the flowers with colored chalk. Roll a cotton ball around in the colored chalk and then rub the cotton ball on the other flower. Explain that the fine hairs on the bee's legs and body act like the fine fibers on the cotton ball to pick up pollen from one flower and deposit it on another as it moves from flower to flower gathering nectar. Ask students where we get the honey we buy in stores. Does it grow on honey farms? Bring three or four jars of honey to class and have students look at the labels on the jars to find where the honey was produced. Based on their findings, have students locate the honey's origins on a US map. Have students go to the library or the Internet to research where honey is produced in the US. (See list of resources for additional information). As a class, have students mark the top ten honey-producing states on a US map. Is honey produced in your state? Where does your state rank nationally?

Safety Tips: No special safety tips

Going Further (Extensions): Tell students they will form a partnership to research the top honey- producing states and find out why more honey is produced in those states than anywhere else. Have the students start by brainstorming to find what conditions would be necessary. What kind of climate is best for bees? What kinds of flowers provide the nectar that produces the best honey? What flower helps bees produce the most honey? Hand out student worksheets for students to use as a study guide.

Closure: Have students report their findings. On the chalkboard, have students write the climate conditions in each state where honey is produced and the top crops. Have students look for patterns and see if they can draw conclusions about what climates are best for bees and what plants provide them with the best food.


Language Arts:

Have students write stories about the early European settlers who carried bees over on ships to this continent. Have students imagine they are coming someplace far away like the settlers who came here from Europe. The settlers liked honey so much they were willing to carry beehives with them on a long and crowded ocean voyage. Ask students what food they like so much they would go to great trouble to take it with them across the ocean. Have students write stories about their voyages with their favorite food source.


Have a water relay to help students understand how much work it takes for a bee to gather enough nectar to make honey. Students should use teaspoons or eyedroppers to transfer one cup of water from one container to another one some distance away. Use a stopwatch to keep accurate time. To add suspense, play a recording of Rimski-Korsakov's “Flight of the Bumblebee” as students race.

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