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Pollinator Syndromes Relay

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

Each group of pollinators prefers 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 coloured flowers as they obtain nectar meals.. 

Objectives

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

  • List a few characteristics of common pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies).

Materials

  • Per Class:
    20 pieces of false flowers or paper in the following colours:
    Brown
    Purple
    Blue
    Yellow
    White
    Pink
    Red
    Starting-area markers (Cone pylons work well)

Key Questions

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

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Mark out starting areas for two to five possible teams. Separate students into those teams. Starting points can be either next to one another in a row, or in a large circle around a central ‘flower field’.

Teacher Tip: If using two to four teams, change the team names partway through in order to help the students recognize all colours of the pollination syndromes they have learned about.

  1. Spread coloured foam/paper sheets out in the center of play area in order to create our flower field.
  2. Assign each team a pollinator:
  • Flies: Brown and Purple
  • Bees: Blue and Yellow
  • Butterflies: Pink
  • Moths: White
  • Birds: Red

Activity

  1. The game is played as a relay, after ‘Go’ is called, one person from each team runs to the center of the flower field to collect one foam tile of their own teams colour, after returning with that flower, the next player from their team can run.
  • Using the bird team as an example, imagine that every player from the team represents the same bird. Every time it leaves its nest to feed, it goes to a new flower. Each coloured tile a team member brings back represents one pollinated flower.
  1. Run through the relay a few times, changing teams as necessary, in order to have all students participate.
  2. After the game is finished, you can do a single extra round where players are only allowed to walk. In this round, all players can go at once, and all pollinators can collect any colour, and as many tiles as they can possibly carry.
  3. This extra round highlights that pollinators can pollinate other flowers. However, as pollen must come and go from the same type of flower, flowers are only pollinated in this round if students happened to collect a pair of the same colour with this is mind which method sucessfully pollinated the most flowers? As a bonus, it’s also an easy way to clean up all the tiles!

Extensions

  • What happens if a disease wipes out 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 does the outcome of the game change?

Other Resources

Pollinator Resources

Xerces Society | Pollinator Conservation Resources