When people work really hard, we say they’re “busy as a bee” — but the bee is probably even busier. These cute, fuzzy bugs do a big job in nature. As they fly among the flowers to feed themselves, they carry pollen from one bloom to the next. This helps fruits and veggies grow. Honey bees also make honey: worker bees gather sticky “nectar” from the flowers, then dry it out by fanning their wings 200 times per second. So our friend Nina J. asked us, how many bees does it take to make one jar of honey? (along with an excellent bee picture!) In its short 6-week life, a bee makes only 1/12 teaspoon of honey. That isn’t a lot, but a hive has so many bees — up to 60,000 by summer — that one hive can make enough honey for itself and an extra 100 pounds for us!
Wee ones: Like all insects, a bee has 6 legs. Is that more or fewer legs than you have?
Little kids: If a bee lands on a yellow tulip, then a pink tulip, then a yellow, then a pink, and keeps repeating, what colors are the next 2 flowers? Bonus: Bees fly about 15 miles per hour. If you can ride your bike 1 mile per hour faster, how fast are you?
Big kids: In early spring a hive has about 10,000 bees, but by summer it can have up to 60,000. Can you count by 10,000s from 10,000 to 60,000? Bonus: If a jar of honey has 20 tablespoons of honey, and each bee makes 1/12 of a teaspoon, how many bees made that jar of honey? (Reminder if needed: A tablespoon has 3 teaspoons in it!)
Wee ones: More legs, since 6 is more than 2.
Little kids: Yellow, then pink. Bonus: 16 miles per hour.
Big kids: 10,000…20,000…30,000…40,000…50,000…60,000. Bonus: 720 bees. There are 60 teaspoons in the jar (20 x 3), and each one needs 12 bees.
Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.