What is pollination? Why are bees so important? How can we support bees? This lesson has the answers!
What is pollination?
This lesson is an extra from our Sunflower School surriculum.
In our lessons about bees we learned that they play a very important role in pollinating plants. But what is pollination, and why are bees important for pollination? Let’s find out!
In this lesson you will learn:
:: what pollination is
:: how bees help with pollination
:: which food are pollinated by bees
:: why are bees in danger
:: how we can protect bees
The lesson includes great videos to show children how bees transfer pollen.
What is pollination?
In our lesson about bees we learned that they play a very important role in pollinating plants. But what is pollination, and why are bees important for pollination? Let’s find out!
If you take a close look at a flower you might be able to see its pollen. The pollen is the fine powder that is often in the centre of the flower. It’s usually yellow.
Each grain of pollen is produced by the male part of the plant. Pollen from one flower needs to be taken to another flower to fertilize the female egg cells of the second flower. This is transfer of pollen from one flower to another is called pollination and it’s what plants need to make seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
One in every three mouthfuls of all the food you eat needs pollination from bees!
How do bees help with pollination?
Pollination – the transfer of the pollen from one flower to another – can be done by the wind, bees, birds, butterflies, moths and bats.
Bees play a very important role in pollination. Without them we would not have many of our favourite foods.
Bees collect nectar and pollen from plants to eat. You can sometimes see the pollen on a bee’s body as they fly from plant to plant.
As bees visit many plants, the pollen the bees carry rubs off on the next plant they visit. This is how the bees help the pollen to spread, and give the plants the male pollen cells they need to make their fruits and seeds.
Bees especially like flowers that are bright blue and violet, and they are attracted by the flower’s colour and smell.
Watch these bees as they fly from sunflower to sunflower, transporting pollen.
Which foods are pollinated by bees?
Without bees some of our most-eaten foods wouldn’t grow. Plants that are pollinated by bees include apple, potato, mango, onion, plum, cauliflower, almond, peach, watermelon, pear, orange, coffee, cucumber, pumpkin, and carrot.
Which bee-made food is your favourite?
Watch this video from Smithsonian to see a bee collecting pollen. Can you see the pollen released into the air? Can you see it collecting on the bee’s body?
Bees in danger!
Unfortunately bees are in danger, and the number of bees in the world is getting smaller. Things that are harming bees include:
:: pesticides that gardeners and farmers use to improve their crops, which are deadly to bees
:: monoculture farming, which is when farmers grow only one crop instead of a mixed variety of plants. Bees need a mix of flowers to gather their food
:: change of land use, such as when gardens, wildflowers, parks, and meadows are swapped for roads and buildings. This takes away a lot of the bees’ food sources
:: climate change, which effects where plants can grow, and winter temperatures
How can we help bees?
The good news is that we can make a difference and can support bees. One thing we can do in our own backyard is to grow plants that bees love, to give them an important source of food. Plants that bees love include sunflowers, marigolds, comfrey, red clover, nasturtiums, buddleia, lavender, honeysuckle, cosmos, and verbena.
By being part of our Sunflower School, you are already helping bees. Imagine if every single garden in the world included plants for bees!
Other things you can do to support bees are:
:: respect them. Don’t harm any bees you see – let them buzz along undisturbed
:: in the spring, when some bees are emerging from the winter, they might be low on energy. You can put out sugar water for them to drink, to give them an energy boost. Sometimes a dozy, slow bee that you find on the ground can benefit from a teaspoon of sugar water
:: buy organically-grown fruit and vegetables, and grow some of your own, so you know they haven’t used harmful pesticides
Thank you for looking after our friends, the bees!
Sunflower School curriculum and printables
The Sunflower School curriculum matches a full programme of learning to the natural growing cycle of sunflowers.
It gives you six units of learning:
:: In the spring we’ll focus on planting and watching our plants grow.
:: In the summer we’ll learn about bees and pollination, and celebrate the gorgeous blooms through art.
:: In the late summer and early autumn we’ll turn our attention to harvesting, sustainability, and closing of the growing year.
Bonus sunflower printables
Our Sunflower School curriculum comes with 30 pages of bonus printables that you can use with your children to enrich their learning, including:
- My Sunflower Journal printable
- Lined, plain, and half-and-half journal pages
- Sunflower poems printable
- Sunflower sticker sheet
- Printable plant labels
- Sunflower counting mat
- Sunflower addition mat
- Sunflower subtraction mat
- Sunflower word mats
- Bee number cards
- Bee writing and scissor skills pages
- Garden Creatures page
- Honeycomb alphabet
- Printable seed packets