Bee vision flower UV pattern matching game

Students match pairs of flower picture cards that have visible and ultra-violet light images of the same flower. Learn how a bee is guided to the centre of a flower.
Science content
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Food Webs, Ecosystems, Biomes (3, 4)
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Physics: Light and Sound (1)
  • flower picture pairs: 6 (or so) the same flower taken in both visible and UV light (see references below for ideas)
  • transparent copy of the UV light patterns

Before the lesson:
Gather images of the same flower taken in visible light and UV light, and print with permission, or use from a webpage.
Link suggestions:
1. (permission needed for printing).
The following images have a "strong bulls eye pattern" or are described as "strong" in the description:
Arnica angustifolia (Arctic sunflower)
Oenothera biennis
Potentilla reptans
Rudbeckia hirta
Sow thistle (looks like a branching dandelion), Sonchus arvensis
Tripleurospermum maritimum

If prints of the flowers are available, make a transparency copy of the UV patterns.

Students are asked to pair the images, first by shape only (as the colours are different).
Tell them that the pairs are the same flower photographed in two different ways. One of each pair is photographed in visible light, the same as how we see the flower. The second is taken with a camera that can see ultra violet light. We cannot see ultraviolet, but a bee can.
Ask students to lay the UV pattern over the visible pattern - this is what a bee sees - both the visible and the UV patterns together. Students should take apart and rematch the pairs, to explore what we see and what a bee sees.
Discussion: The UV pattern circles or highlights the centre of the flower, where the pollen and nectar are, so the bee is guided by the UV pattern to the nectar and pollen. UV patterns are also called 'nectar guides'.

Other colours seen by animals which humans cannot see:
Snakes can see well in infra red, which is heat, to help them catch (warm) prey.
Reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects can all see more colours than humans.


Other animals' colour vision:
Cats have green and blue opsins (not red) - protanopia.
Activity idea: use cyan filter to start, then add colours to play with.

Grades taught
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4