Flower shapes - Stage 1

Have fun and learn about flowers, insects and pollination in this Plant2pollinator Stage 1 activity.

Bee pollinating flower

Bee pollinating flower
Photographer: M Batley © M Batley

Focus question:

Does the shape of a flower influence the insect visitor?

Fast Fact:

The nectar in some flowers can only be accessed by certain insects. For example, some legumes have a closed flower that can only be opened by leaf cutter and resin bees.

Concepts and Key Words:


Insect visitor








Support Material

Getting started

1. Pose the focus question Following on from the previous activity, do you think the shape of the flower influences the insect visitor? Yes, because insects have different mouth parts that mean they can only take the nectar from certain flower shapes (see previous activity).

2. Engage What insects do you think pollinate flowers? Discuss different insect types, have you seen insects on flowers? Which ones? What insects do you think have long straw-like tongues? Butterflies, moths and some bees. What insects do not have long straw-like tongues? Flies, wasps and some bees. What insects can pollinate tube shaped flowers? Ones with long tongues e.g. butterflies, moths and bees. What insects mostly pollinate dish shaped flowers? Ones with short tongues e.g. bees, flies

3. Explore

  • Collect 10 cardboard boxes
  • Label 5 boxes TUBE shaped and 5 boxes DISH shaped
  • Place them around the room, outside in the playground, in the corridor etc
  • Have a central person with 10 laminated cut outs of each insect (10 butterfly, 10 bee etc)
  • Divide class into 6 groups – the bees, the butterflies, the moths, the wasps, the flies and the bees
  • Each student gets their first laminated insect to match their group
  • Each person has to find a flower (labelled box) that their insect can pollinate (the students need to match up the pictures of the insects on the boxes with the cut outs).
  • Once the student has matched the insect to the one of the box they must ‘post the insect visitor’ into the slot in the box.
  • Once they have delivered one insect to the correct flower, they can get another insect cut out, but have to deliver it to a different box (flower) than the last one they picked.
  • Once all the insects have been delivered into their correct flowers (boxes), we will tip out the insects and discuss.

4. Explain/ Elaborate /Evaluate What insects did you find in the tube flower boxes? Are they all correctly matched? What insects did you find in the dish flower boxes? Are they all correctly matched? Which insect can pollinate both tube and dish shaped flowers? Which insects prefer to pollinate tube shaped flowers? Which insects prefer to pollinate dish shaped flowers? Why? Discuss different feeding parts.

Underlying science

Flowers have modified their shapes, colours and scents to attract certain pollinators. The shape of a flower will make pollination by a particular insect easier or more attractive and in return the pollinator will most likely visit that flower.

Phoebe Meagher , Project Officer, Bugwise for Schools
Last Updated:

Tags plant2pollinator, bugwise, insect, flower, pollinator, stage 1, education, learning, activity, mini-worlds, environment, environmental science, living things, NSW Science and Technology syllabus,