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Colour Call

In this activity, students practice identifying which colour flowers each pollinator is most likely to pollinate.

Pollinators prefer flowers of a specific colour range. The colour that a pollinator is attracted to is dependent on their visible colour spectrum, the shape of their tongue, and their food sources. This preference of colour, shape, and smell of a flower is called a pollination syndrome.

Scientists have found that bees that visit yellow, violet or blue flowers are the most successful in finding nectar. Flies prefer brown or purple flowers, butterflies prefer pink flowers, moths prefer white flowers and birds are attracted to flowers that are red. These are general colour preferences because pollinators can still pollinate a range of colours as they visit flowers for a nectar meal.

Objectives

  • Describe the importance of pollinators in nature.

  • Describe the importance of biodiversity for both pollinators and plants.

Materials

  • Per Class:
    20 pieces of foam sheets or paper in the following colours:
    Brown
    Purple
    Blue
    Yellow
    White
    Pink
    Red

    Teacher Tip: Articial flowers or pre-cut flower shapes can be used in place of the coloured foam/paper pieces.

Key Questions

  • Why do different pollinators prefer different flowers?
  • What kind of things can we do to ensure that we have enough flowers for all the pollinators?
  • What coloured flowers are different pollinators attracted to?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Have students sit in a large circle.
  2. Spread the coloured pieces of foam sheets around the middle of the circle.
  3. Assign each student with a pollinator name and review which colour flower each pollinator prefers:
  • Flies: brown and purple
  • Bees: blue and yellow
  • Butterflies: pink
  • Moths: white
  • Birds: red

Activity

  1. Call out the name of a pollinator. Those pollinators jump up, run to the scattered pile and find as many pieces that match the preference of that pollinator as they can.
  2. After they find all the pieces of paper, they have to find a new spot in the circle to sit.
  3. Count the pieces of paper to see who managed to find the most “flowers”.
  4. Return the papers to the pile in the centre of the circle.
  5. Continue calling the other pollinator names until each group has had a turn.

Variation

  1. Separate students into three even groups.
  • Group 1 will be the pollinators. Place them in the middle of the room.
  • Group 2 will be flowers with anthers and pollen. Place them on one side of the room.
  • Group 3 will be flowers with a pistil and eggs. Place them on the opposite side of the room as Group 2.
  • ​Group 1 should now be in between Groups 2 and 3. Since flowers can’t move, Groups 2 and 3 should stay on their respective sides of the room. Ask the flowers to stay standing, like really tall flowers.
  1. Assign each student in Group 1 with a pollinator name.
  2. ​Give each student in Groups 2 and 3 a single piece of foam. Attempt to make the number of each different colour even between the two sides and equal to the number of their respective pollinators.
  • ​Ex. If there are two butterflies, there should be two students (anthers) in Group 2 with a pink piece of foam (pollen) and two students (pistils) in Group 3 with two pieces of foam (eggs)
  1. Have students from Group 1 go to Group 2 and find the correct pollen (foam) from the anther (student) that is related to their assigned status. Once they have their pollen, they must go to Group 3 and find the pistil (student) with the matching egg (foam) and give them the pollen (foam).
  2. As soon as students (pistils) receive their matching foam (pollen), they may sit down. This represents that they have been pollinated and will create a seed!
  3. ​Continue until all or most students in Group 3 are sitting.

Teacher Tip: Ensure the students that this is not a race, but it is important to remember that life is competitive and the seeds that are made first have a slightly better chance at growing sooner. It may be important to highlight that those who are left standing at the end (if any) have a lower chance of creating successive generations.

Extensions

  • What kind of things can we do to ensure that we have enough flowers for pollinators?
  • Why do the different pollinators prefer different flowers?
  • What happens if a disease eliminates all the flowers of a particular colour?
  • What happens if someone picks all the flowers of the same colour?
  • Assign one student to assume the role of a “disease” and to collect all of one colour of flower. How could the outcome of the game change?