All course information is listed within this syllabus.

ENT 222N: Honey Bees and Humans (3 credits). The intimate association between honey bees and human societies dates back over 8,000 years, which has fostered a rich, nuanced, and complex history binding the two through the ages and across the globe. In this class, you will learn about honey bee biology and colony organization, and the many cultural, political, and ethical implications of beekeeping that have shaped historical and current perspectives on honey bees worldwide.

Prerequisites: None

ENT 222N fulfills a general education requirement for natural sciences (GN) as well as for social and behavioral sciences (GS).


Instructor for ENT 222N

Natalie Boyle
Assistant Research Professor

Department of Entomology
W105 Millennium Science Complex
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox or

Office Hours: By appointment

Course Overview

Among more than 1,000,000 known insect species, honey bees are truly unique. No other insect has been harnessed so effectively to benefit humankind: Honey bees provide critical pollination services for agricultural crops, and the wax and honey they produce are valuable commodities. Furthermore, their fascinating social life-style has intrigued individuals from hobby beekeepers to scientists studying complex questions about the evolution of sociality.

This course will provide students with a strong understanding of (1) honey bee behavior (particularly their complex and sophisticated social systems), biology, and health, (2) the important contributions honey bees and their pollination services make to maintaining natural ecosystems and increasing productivity of many of our key agricultural crops; and (3) the global history of humans' interactions with honey bees, and how people from many cultures have managed bees to provide honey, wax, and pollination services. Grades will be based on quizzes, discussion forum entries, homework assignments, a midterm, and a final exam.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand how bees are related to other insects, understand what features differentiate bees from other insects.
  • Compare and contrast the biology/behavior of eusocial honey bees to that of primitively social bumble bees and solitary bee species.
  • Understand the unique characteristics of honey bee behavior (reproductive and worker division of labor, chemical communication, dance language, etc.), morphology, physiology, and genetics.
  • Describe how the keeping of honey bees has changed over time and across cultures and articulate the pros and cons of "modern" bee husbandry.
  • Describe the role and importance of pollinators in society and their economic importance worldwide.
  • Understand that pollinator species are in decline, the factors responsible for this decline, and the response of the scientific and beekeeping community to address these challenges.
  • Develop approaches for assessing the scientific validity of the information presented in popular media.
  • Communicate effectively to the public your knowledge of honey bee biology, management, their importance as pollinators, and the challenges they face.
  • Develop an appreciation for the scientific method and research.

Course Outline

Module 1: The Origin of Insects, Bees, and Honey Bees

Module 2: Honey Bees of the World

Module 3: Sociality and Honey Bee Biology

Module 4: Family Matters

Module 5: Altruism

Module 6: Honey Bee Morphology and Physiology

Module 7: Honey Bee Nutrition

Module 8: Honey Bee Communication

Module 9: What Bees Do for Us

Module 10: Bees in Ancient Culture

Module 11: Bees as a Model for Scientific Inquiry

Module 12: Bee Breeding and Management

Module 13: Are Bees in Decline? Declining Forces

Module 14: Pollination

Module 15: News, Politics, and Solutions

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Course Materials

Most World Campus courses require that students purchase materials (e.g., textbooks, specific software, etc.). To learn about how to order materials, please see the Course Materials page. You should check the World Campus Course Catalog approximately 3–4 weeks before the course begins for a list of required materials.


ISBN: 978-0674074095
Winston, M. L. (1987). The Biology of the Honey Bee. Harvard University Press.

You may purchase course materials from Barnes & Noble College (the bookstore used by Penn State's World Campus). For pricing and ordering information, please see the Barnes & Noble College website. Materials will be available at Barnes & Noble College approximately three weeks before the course begins. Alternatively, you may obtain these texts from other favorite bookstores. Be sure you purchase the edition/publication date listed.


Each week you will be expected to complete one homework assignment or post and respond to two peer-submitted discussion topics. Homework and discussion assignments will alternate throughout the semester depending upon the material introduced in class that week.

Weekly Assignments
Assignment Due
Post Initial Discussion Response Wednesdays
Post at Least Two Discussion Responses to Peers Sundays
Homework Assignments Sundays
Weekly Quiz/Exam/Final Exam Sundays

Weekly quizzes will cover material introduced from each module. Each module presents many opportunities to 'check your knowledge' through a mix of interactive questions. Some of the questions posed in these ungraded self-evaluations will appear in your weekly quiz, so please pay attention to these sections as you learn the material. For weekly contributions to discussions, homework assignments, and quizzes, no credit will be given if submitted after the due date.

There will be a written midterm and cumulative final exam. Questions will be T/F, multiple-choice, and short-answer. The date of the final will be announced. If you have a conflict, be sure to inform Dr. Boyle at least a week in advance. If you miss a quiz or exam because of unexpected injury or illness be sure to e-mail me within 24 hours of the quiz or exam to request a make-up. Documentation will be required and make-ups may take any form including written essay or oral examination.

Grading Policy

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value Weight
Weekly Quizzes 307 20%
Weekly Assignments 300 30%
Midterm 60 20%
Final Exam 90 30%
TOTAL: 757 100%

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 94%
A- < 94% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 84%
B- < 84% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Undergraduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Remote Learning

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Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

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Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

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Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

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Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

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Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

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Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

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Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

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