Drink like a bee

Drink like a bee - Activity

drink like a bee equipment photo

Drink like a bee experiment equipment

What you need:

  • 5 cups or bowls of different shapes and sizes e.g. tall and thin/ flat and open. Label each container 1-5. These will be your ‘flowers’
  • Drinking straws. These will be your ‘bee tongues’
  • Scissors
  • A jug of fruit juice, squash or water
  • Piece of paper & pen to draw a table

What to do:

  • Fill the containers halfway with your preferred liquid. Fruit juice & squash are sugary like nectar but water works fine.
  • Cut the straws into 5 different lengths.
  • Draw out a table like the one below onto a piece of paper to record your results.
  • Now try and drink some of the liquid from each container using the different length straws. If you can drink from a container with a straw write ‘Yes’ in the table, if not write ‘No’.

Download the experiment pages

Meet Ellen Baker, a University of Oxford PhD student

ellen baker photo

Hi, my name is Ellen and I’ve always been interested in insects. I’m currently a PhD student at the University of Oxford working at the Oxford Bee Lab. I look at the nutrition of different UK pollens for bumblebees.

One of the reasons bees visit flowers is to drink the sugary nectar they produce as it helps give them energy for their intensive flight. Bees feed from flowers by poking their tongue, known as a proboscis, into the flower and lapping up the nectar. In some flowers the nectar is easy to reach so can be collected by lots of different insects. But some flowers want to restrict the number of different insects that take their nectar by hiding it deeper inside. The foxglove below has tall thin flowers, which means only bees with long tongues can reach the nectar. These long-tongued bees are more likely to visit other foxgloves. This increases the flowers' chances of pollination with the same species.