Lesson 1.6

Bee and Wasp Identification

Grades: K-3

Essential Skills: Science, Language Arts, Art

Duration: 1 - 2 class periods


Students study the differences between the honey bee, bumble bee, paper wasp and yellow jacket. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify a honey bee and differentiate between a bumble bee, a paper wasp and yellow jacket.

Teacher Preparation:

Curriculum Support Materials:

  1. Poster 1. Honey bee collecting pollen from a red maids flower
  2. Poster 2. Honey bee swarm in a tree
  3. Poster 4. Common bees and wasps
  4. Poster 5. Honey bee nest in a tree
  5. Poster 6. Beekeeper wearing a bee veil and holding a hive frame

Other Materials:

1. Be on the look out for supporting materials such as rose leaves with holes (leafcutter bees), paper wasp nests (make ABSOLUTELY SURE THEY ARE EMPTY), dead wasps and bees to show students.

Information Sheets:

Activity Sheets:

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (45 minutes)

Show Poster 1 of the honey bee on a flower, pointing out the pollen covered hairs on the bee's body and the filled pollen baskets on the hind leg. Discuss or review the characteristics of honey bees learned in previous activities.

Show Poster 2, swarm of bees on a tree. (Note: This poster may be scary to some students, so use your judgment about how to best use it.) It is important to show and discuss how honey bees are social insects, living in a large family of up to 60,000 workers. Not all bees do this.

Show Poster 5 (honey bee nest in tree) and Poster 6 (beekeeper managing a hive). Discuss the beekeeper's equipment (hat and veil, smoker used to calm the bees, and hive tools used to pry out the frames). Talk about the difference between a managed colony and a wild (also called feral) colony. Point out that the bees in Poster 5 are living in the wild and the ones in Poster 6 are living in a wooden box. With a few exceptions, most bees and wasps are wild.

Activity 2 Bee and wasp identification (30 minutes)

Read the Holly Honey Bee Story ( Information Sheet 22) to your students. Afterwards ask them to share some of the things they learned about insects from listening to the story.

Show Poster 4 (common bees and wasps). Relate the pictures to names Kimi, Yasmeen and Juanita from the Holly Bee story. Discuss the similarities and differences among these insects, such as all have bright colors, bees are hairy, wasps are smooth, all have a head thorax and abdomen and wings, etc. Use Information Sheet 20 (Stinging Insect Identification Tips) to lead the discussion.

If appropriate for your students, discuss why insects are beneficial, using Information Sheet 12 (Insects are Beneficial) to lead the discussion. Even paper wasps and yellow jackets may be beneficial because they feed on caterpillars, and other pest insects.

Conclusion (30 minutes)

Have students color the honey bee, paper wasp and bumble bee coloring sheets.



Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Bumble bee
  2. Paper wasp
  3. Yellow jacket


The Bee, by Beth Norden. Published by Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1991.

Discovering Bees and Wasps, by C. O'Toole. Published by the Bookwright Press, NY, 1986.

Bees and Wasps, by K. Petty. Published by Gloucester Press, NY, 1987.

Bees and Wasps, by H. Pluckrose. Published by Franklin Watts, Inc., NY. 1987.

Coloring Fun With Insects, published by the Entomological Society of America,

9301 Annapolis Road, MD.

Check "Focus on Nature" column in Arizona Highways . Example "Carpenter Bees: Building for the Next Generation" by John Alcock, June 1993, pp. 38-39.