The Native Bee Challenge is a part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, an annual program that challenges young people to apply critical thinking and STEM skills to a real-world agriculture challenge. Developed by National 4-H Council and Bayer, the program helps develop critical workforce skills in young people, and demonstrates how agriculture can be fun! This year's activity is the Native Bee Challenge, created by Iowa State University. More than 5,000 youth across five states will be challenged to learn about native bees, pollination, and the need to work together to be good stewards of the land.
In Iowa, the collaborative, hands-on challenge will help youth learn that:
- Native bees are important pollinators. There are many types of native bees with unique life cycles.
- Native bees impact our food supply and have an economic impact on agriculture. Youth will learn about the process of pollination, how native bees are important to pollination of food crops, and how pollinators are economically significant for agriculture.
- Enhancing habitat for native bees benefits pollinators and other organisms, which in turn promotes broader biodiversity. Challenges that impact native bees include habitat loss, disease, climate change, and pesticide exposure. Increasing the bee population helps crops and flowering plants. Increasing habitat (both natural and artificial) helps native bees and many other species.
Native Bee Challenge
During the challenge, youth will use modeling to understand how native bees contribute to food production and the important relationship between agricultural lands and native habitat in producing enough food and maintaining biodiversity.
- Pollination: Experience life as a bee as you visit flowers to get food for yourself and your young. Learn how pollination happens, how bees are involved, and why we need pollination for crops.
- Habitat: Use a map to look for opportunities to increase habitat while learning about conservation practices in agriculture and in cities.
- Make a bee nest: Get materials to make your own bee nest to take home. Take part in citizen science as you record any nesting bees.