Friday, August 16, 2013

Bee Pheromone Game and Bee-Dance Treasure Hunt

To help us understand the role of pheromones in a colony of bees, we played an identification game. One pheromone, called Queen Substance, helps the bees identify which bees are from their same colony, and also lets them know that the queen is alive and well. Each colony's queen has a slightly different scent which her own bees will recognize. 

So, for this game, I put a drop of one of four scents on a cotton ball: mint, lemon, almond and vanilla extracts. I put the scented cotton balls around the room (these were the "bees"). Then I gave each child another cotton ball with one of the four scents on it. So, for example, Abe would get almond, Daisy would get lemon, Seb would get mint, and Ky would get vanilla. I had them smell their scent and try to memorize what it smelled like.

Then, they had to go around the room finding and collecting the cotton ball "bees"---but only the ones that matched their own scent. They had to recognize which "bees" were their hive-mates by scent alone. The object of the game was to gather up all of your own-scented "bees," and none of the other "bees."

It was surprisingly hard to do, actually, because your scent receptors become kind of fatigued after a while, and things start to smell the same. And, Sebby had a cold, so he was pretty much just guessing the whole time. :) But it was still a fun way to learn about pheromones, we thought.

The next game was our very favorite. The children kept asking me to play it again, even on later days. It is a bee-dance nectar hunt. We used two of the bee dances, the round dance and the waggle dance, to convey information about the hidden "nectar." Just like with real bees, the round dance signaled that the nectar was close, in the same room as we were in. The waggle dance could convey information about two different places, depending on which direction we did it. If we did the waggle dance while facing east during the waggle, it meant the nectar was outside our current room, to the east (the dining room). If we did the waggle dance facing west, it meant the nectar was outside our current room, to the west (the front living room).

(Video showing a bee dance is here)

So, one child was chosen to be the "scout bee." He or she would take the "nectar" (a Starburst candy leftover from Seb's birthday) and hide it somewhere in one of the three rooms. Then he or she would perform either a round or a waggle dance to help the other bees zero in on the nectar. Once the bees knew which room the nectar was in, they would hunt for it until someone found the nectar. The finder would become the next Scout Bee.

It was super funny to watch everyone doing the Bee Dances, and the Nectar-hunting got quite intense. We loved this game!!

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