Lesson 3.3

Mimicry: Other Insects That Resemble Bees

Grades: 7-8

Essential Skills: Science

Duration: 1 class period


Students will learn about mimicry in nature.


Teacher Preparation:

Curriculum Support Materials:

  1. Poster 4. Common bees and wasps

Other Materials:

  1. Gather pictures, books, films or videos of insects and other creatures to show
  2. examples of mimicry.

Information Sheets:

Lesson Plan

Introduction activity (30 minutes)

Place pictures of mimics and models around the room. Show slides and/or films to demonstrate how closely a mimic may resemble a model. Discuss what it means to mimic.

Is it a bee? Is it a wasp? No, it's a moth

Have the students define the term mimicry. Discuss the advantages of "looking tough" or resembling another organism that is better defended.

Make a list on butcher paper of insects that resemble bees and wasps. Show Poster 4.

Activity 2 Mimicry experiment (30 minutes)

Take the students on a field trip. Have them look for and investigate examples of mimics, such as grasshoppers that blend with grass or rocks, or moths that look like tree bark. Look for orange dog caterpillars that resemble bird droppings on young citrus tree leaves.

Ask the students to also observe animals that have bright or contrasting colors that stand out, for example brightly colored male birds, milkweed bugs, or brilliantly colored butterflies. Have the students record their observations.

Back in the classroom, ask the students to design a conceptual experiment to test whether mimics actually benefit from the fact they resemble other organisms or objects.

Example of a conceptual experiment: Obtain a live toad or frog. Train the frog or toad to accept a bee or wasp mimic as food. A common bee fly found around dairy barns would be a good choice. Record how many bee flies the animal will eat and how long it takes to capture one. Then present the frog or toad with a live honey bee. What happens? Does the frog or toad eat the bee? The next day, present it with a bee fly. What does it do?

Activity 3 Mimicry in plants (20 minutes)

Have the students examine examples of mimicry found in the plant Kingdom, such as orchid flowers that resemble female wasps. What is the advantage of this? What about stone plants (Lithiops sp.) that resemble stones? Have them write a report about mimicry in nature.



Words with special meanings:

(for understanding only, not to be tested)

  1. Mimicry
  2. Batesian Mimicry
  3. Mullerian Mimicry
  4. Wasmannian Mimicry
  5. Mimic
  6. Model
  7. Speed Mimicry


How Insects Live, by W.M. Blaney. Published Elsevier Pahon, Oxford , Great Britain. 1976. Especially page 143.

Colors for Survival: Mimicry and Camouflage in Nature , by Marco Ferrari. Published by Thomasson-Grant, Charlottesville, V.A., 1993.

Animals and Their Colors: Camouflage, Warning Coloration, Courtship and Territorial Display, Mimicry, by M. Fogden. Published by Crown Publishers, N.Y., 1974.

Africanized Honey Bee Curriculum, developed by Betsy A. Leonard, H. Steven Dasher, and Karen L. Robb. Published by the University of California Cooperative Extension Farm and Home Advisor's Office, San Diego, C.A., 1994.

Animal and Plant Mimicry, by D. H. Patent. Published by Holiday House, N.Y., 1978.

Animal Camouflage: A Closer Look, by Joyce Ann Powzyk. Published by Bradbury Press, N.Y., 1990.

Mimicry in Plants and Animals, by Wolfgang Wickler. Published by McGraw-Hill, N.Y., 1968.