Insect Memory Science Experiment

Have you ever wondered how bees remember where to find food? Bees don’t have sharp vision like we do but they do see polarized light (this tells them direction based on the suns location). They also recognize patterns both natural and man-made. Some bee keepers will draw a pattern on a new hive so that the bees know which one is theirs (since all the hives look the same from the outside). Knowing that bees recognize patterns and symbols let’s see if you can fool them or if they truly remember.

What You Need:

5 large index cards
5 small dishes (like petri dishes)
5 zip-lock bags
1/2 cup sugar
A permanent marker
1 cup water


On each of the index cards draw a symbol. This can be a shape or number or anything as long as it is bold and noticeable.
Place the cards inside the zip-lock bags so they do not get ruined outside.
Set the bags outside in a sunny spot in your yard.
Place one dish near each symbol.
Mix up the “nectar” that you will use. To do this you will want to heat the water until it nears the boiling point. This can be done by placing it in the microwave for 60-90 seconds. Now stir the sugar into the water until it all dissolves.

Place the sugar water in one of your dishes. Fill the other four with regular water.
Over the next few days watch and see how long it takes the bees to find the dish with sugar water.
After they have been feeding for a few days move the dish to a different symbol. Take note of the reaction of the bees, how long does it take them to find the right dish again?
Once they have found it and used it for a couple of days try leaving the dish where it is but switching out the symbol near it. How do the bees react to this?

You should see a pattern of sorts developing, it will paint a picture of how bees (and other insects) remember where to find food. It will also tell you what they use more, sight or one of their other senses. Here is another experiment that you may like, teling you how insects may be beneficial.

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