Academic journal article Science and Children

Honeybees, Butterflies, and Ladybugs: Partners to Plants: Help Students Recognize the Mutually Beneficial Relationships Honeybees, Butterflies, and Ladybugs Share with Plants

Academic journal article Science and Children

Honeybees, Butterflies, and Ladybugs: Partners to Plants: Help Students Recognize the Mutually Beneficial Relationships Honeybees, Butterflies, and Ladybugs Share with Plants

Article excerpt

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Honeybees, butterflies, and ladybugs all have fascinating mutually beneficial relationships with plants and play important ecosystem roles. Children also love these creatures. But how do we teach children about these symbiotic interactions and help them appreciate their vital roles in our environment? One must is to give children direct experience observing and exploring living things in the world around them. According to the National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996), "children build understanding of biological concepts through direct experience with living things, their life cycles, and their habitats." Direct experiences excite children about science, but Louv notes that "most children today are hard-pressed to develop a sense of wonder" (2005, p. 95). With that in mind, my science methods students and I developed this series of experiences with living things that encourage this kind of wonder in students.

Honeybees

Due to colony collapse disorder (CCD), we are hearing more and more about the importance of honeybees (Apis mellifera) in the world. Colony collapse disorder is essentially the breakdown of a beehive-the queen and immature bees may still be present, but worker bees never return. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, CCD may be caused by pesticides, a new parasite or pathogen, or multiple stresses impacting the hive. This problem was first observed in 2006 when beekeepers reported a significant honeybee decline. The possible ramifications of CCD are huge. According to the National Honey Board (2001), "about one-third of the total human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants" (p. 34). In addition, almost "80 percent of insect crop pollination is accomplished by honeybees" (p. 34).

Obviously, bees play an important role in the pollination of plants, but the benefit is reciprocal. Bees collect nectar from plants and use it to make honey, and they also feed on pollen. Without an ample supply of bees, the production of certain crops such as nuts, berries, and various other fruits could be threatened. Thus, CCD provides a real-world example of the importance of learning about honeybees and their connection to our food supply.

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The following suggestions are learning opportunities that can help students recognize the importance of these and other small but essential contributors to the environment.

Visit a transparent observation beehive.

Check with the entomology or biology department at a local university, local beekeepers, or botanical gardens in your area for the availability of a transparent observation beehive to visit.

These structures allow you to observe the activity inside a hive, behind a glass window, so students can observe the bees without the chance of getting stung. However, if the hive is outdoors, the surrounding area will have more than the normal number of bees, so it is better avoided if you have hypersensitive students who require epi-pens. Always notify parents in advance to check for allergies.

Figure 1.

Resources for honeybees, butterflies,
and ladybugs.

Honeybees

Print

Cole, J., and B. Degen. 1996. The magic school bus:
Inside a beehive. New York: Scholastic.

Echols, J.C. 1996. Buzzing a hive, Great Explorations in
Math and Science (GEMS) guide. 1996. Berkeley, CA:
University of California, Lawrence Hall of Science.

Micucci, C. 1995. The life and times of the honeybee.
Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Milton, J. 2003. Honeybees, all aboard science reader.
New York: Grosset and Dunlap.

Internet

Honeybees Life Cycle Video Clip
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5680939
657481787929

NOVA Online: Tales from the Hive
www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bees/

The National Honey Board
www.honey.com/consumers/honeyinfo/varietals.asp

Butterflies

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