Questions for ‘Bees and butterflies struggle to find flowers in polluted air’

a close-up photo of a grey and white butterfly sipping nectar from yellow flowers

This butterfly is sipping nectar from flowers on a black mustard plant. Pollution makes it harder for butterflies and bees to find nectar and pollinate flowers.

Philip Stewart/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany Bees and butterflies struggle to find flowers in polluted air


Before Reading:

  1. Imagine you enter a room blindfolded. Fresh-baked cookies lie before you, but you can’t see them. How likely would you be to guess the cookies are there? What senses might allow a student to detect the cookies’ presence? Now consider this exact scenario, except this time, the room is pumped full of perfume. And pet mice live here, too — in a cage that hasn’t been cleaned for weeks. Would the extra smells make it harder or easier for you to identify the cookie smell correctly? Explain your answer.
  2. What is your favorite insect? Why do you like it? Other than vision, list other physical senses that this insect uses. For what purpose might this insect use these other senses?

During Reading:

  1. What body parts allow insects to detect scents?
  2. What question did James Ryalls and his team want to answer with their new study? 
  3. Name the plant species this team studied. How wide was the diameter of the rings the team crafted in meters? Which two pollutants did the team choose to study?
  4. How did pollutants affect insect activity? To what did the team compare insect activity in the polluted rings?
  5. How many insect groups did the researchers study? Name four specific groups. 
  6. In addition to air pollution, what other changes have led to falling insect populations, according to the story? 
  7. What steps can individuals take to help pollinators?

After Reading:

  1. Besides finding flowers, what other uses do insects have for their sense of smell? Research different ways insects use their sense of smell. Pick a specific example. Based on your research, list a series of steps that a particular insect may carry out using its ability to sense scents. What does this insect achieve after completing these steps? Now consider how pollutants might affect these steps. Circle one step with which pollution might interfere and briefly explain why you chose it.
  2. “Blind as a bat.” You may have heard that before. Actually, bats aren’t blind at all. But they do rely on different senses to get around. Research the term echolocation. (You have a number of resources on Science News for Students that might help you.) Next, explain what echolocation means using only one or two sentences. How might humans make changes in a bat’s environment that affect the bat’s echolocation? How exactly could this environmental change cause harm to the bat? How is this bat scenario similar to the air pollution scenario from this story?