Bees as well as other flying insects develop a positive charge on their bodies as they fly through the air. This happens because as they fly, the friction between their bodies and air molecules rubs off electrons.
To understand the significance of losing electrons, kids need to know that matter is made up of atoms with an equal number protons and electrons. Protons are positive (+) charges contained in the nucleus of atoms and electrons are negative (-) charges outside the nucleus.
When materials are rubbed against each other, electrons are brushed off of one materials and collected by the other. The material losing electrons becomes positively charged and the material gaining electrons becomes negatively charged.
Flowers have a negative charge, thus pollen grains on flowers have a negative charge. The bee shown is covered by pollen because of the attraction of the negative charged pollen and the positively charged surface of the bee.
Static electricity is the build up of an electric charge on the surface of an object. Both the bee and the flower have static charges. The bee has an excess of positive charges on its surface and the flower has an excess of negative charges.
A lightning bolt is the most demonstrative example of the discharge of static charges. A less dangerous static discharge is when you rub your feet on a carpet and touch a metal doorknob.
But let’s get back to why the bee in the picture is so covered with pollen.
Discover Electrostatic Attraction for Yourself
Model the leaping of pollen from a flower to the charged surface of a bee.
1. Tear tiny pieces from a sheet of paper. Separate the paper pieces on a flat surface, such as table.
2. Inflate and tie a 9 inch round balloon.
3. Rub the inflated balloon back and forth on your hair 4 or 5 times.
Trouble Shooting: Your hair must be clean and dry. Instead of your hair, you can use a piece of fur, a wool scarf, or a polyester material.
4. Immediately hold the balloon near but not touching the paper pieces.
ZAP!!! The paper pieces leap to the balloon and stick to its surface much like pollen grains can leap to and stick to the body of a bee.
All materials have an equal number of positive and negative charges, thus they have no net charge and are said to be neutral. When two material move against each other, the friction of this motion causes electrons to be brushed off of one material giving it a positive static charge. The other material gains the electrons, thus giving it a negative static charge.
Rubber is a material that tends to gain electrons while human hair animal fur, wool, and polyester are materials that more easily loose electrons. Thus, when you rub the balloon on your hair, the balloon becomes negatively charged leaving your hair positively charged.
The pieces of paper have no charge, but the nearness of the negatively charged balloon repels the electrons near the surface of the paper. This leaves the surface with a positive charge. This is called an induced charged. The paper has not lost nor gained electrons, i
nstead the negative electrons are just repelled by the negative charges on the balloon.
Flowers are pollinated as the pollen coated bee flies from one flower to another drinking the flowers nectar (a sugar solution).
For more information about bees, see Janice VanCleave’s Awesome, Magical, Bizarre & Incredible Experiments.