Being among bees is a full-body experience, Mark Winston writes – from the low hum of tens of thousands of insects and the pungent smell of honey and beeswax, to the sight of workers flying back and forth between flowers and the hive. The experience of an apiary slows our sense of time, heightens our awareness, and inspires awe. Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive presents Winston's reflections on three decades spent studying these creatures, and on the lessons they can teach about how humans might better interact with one another and the natural world.
Like us, honeybees represent a pinnacle of animal sociality. How they submerge individual needs into the colony collective provides a lens through which to ponder human societies. Winston explains how bees process information, structure work, and communicate, and examines how corporate boardrooms are using bee societies as a model to improve collaboration. He investigates how bees have altered our understanding of agricultural ecosystems and how urban planners are looking to bees in designing more nature-friendly cities.
The relationship between bees and people has not always been benign. Bee populations are diminishing due to human impact, and we cannot afford to ignore what the demise of bees tells us about our own tenuous affiliation with nature. Toxic interactions between pesticides and bee diseases have been particularly harmful, foreshadowing similar effects of pesticides on human health. There is much to learn from bees in how they respond to these challenges. In sustaining their societies, bees teach us ways to sustain our own.
"In this personal and scientific journey into the history we share with bees, [Winston] ranges over neonicotinoid pesticides and colony collapse, the control of African 'killer' bees and more. The charismatic social insects emerge as both icons of societal cohesion and symbols of nature's paradoxically mingled power and fragility."
– Barbara Kiser, Nature
"[Winston] writes lovingly of the rhythms and quiddities of the apiary [...] In a highly personal style, Winston steps between reportage, scientific exactitude and a deep, poetically expressed love of bees, beekeeping and the cultural forms that bees inspire. People and bees have been working together for millennia – synergy that Winston, sensitized by his work as a communications specialist, clearly feels brings out the best and the worst in humanity. His take on the situation makes Bee Time an insightful delight."
– Adrian Barnett, New Scientist
"Winston wants to acquaint his readers with the fascinating complexity of the bee world, and he also wants to alert readers to the fact that the bee world is drastically endangered. He brings to this hybrid task a very smooth ability to simplify the complex bee-literature he's obviously mastered, providing engaging glimpses into the world of the hive – and usually presenting them in parallel context of the human world [...] Considering the enormous ripple-effects that would happen in the wake of the disappearance of these key pollinators, Winston's wake-up call takes on an urgency that's belied by its friendly, approachable tone. That clarion call makes Bee Time an important book, even if you by chance suffer from a touch of apiphobia."
– Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly
"[Winston] presents a stark picture of how much we expect from, and rely on, bees."
– Kristin Treen, Literary Review
"Thoughtful and eloquent [...] Winston is an inspired cross-pollinator, who uses the 'full-body experience' of being with bees to draw lessons for human hives."
– Sarah Murdoch, The Toronto Star
"Like the beekeeper he is, paying careful attention to what's going on in his colonies, Winston has done a fine job with this book. Bee Time is beautifully written and rich in the detail, evoking emotions without being overly maudlin."
– Jeff Lee, The Vancouver Sun
"[Winston's] lyricism inspires awe of these necessary insects."
– Temma Ehrenfeld, The Weekly Standard
"A recap of what's been going on in beekeeping over the past 10 years or so [...] Winston has left no hive unturned in this work, documenting all the good, and the bad that has occurred [...] There are indeed lessons to learn from a bee hive. This work will share some of them with you."
– Kim Flottum, Bee Culture
"Winston combines beekeeping work/research, philosophical musings, and his personal memories in this enjoyable book."
– J. M. Gonzalez, Choice
"No other book celebrates the long relationship between humans and honeybees as powerfully, thoughtfully, and enchantingly as this one. Written in lyrical prose, Bee Time is a delightful and inspiring read."
– Thomas D. Seeley, author of Honeybee Democracy
"Bee Time is a unique book: in turn a touching memoir, a warm paean to the honey bees that have fueled Winston's impressive scientific career, and an insightful analysis of some of the serious environmental problems facing us today."
– Gene E. Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Prologue: Walking into the Apiary
1. Beginning with Bees
3. Killer Bees
4. A Thousand Little Cuts
5. Valuing Nature
6. Bees in the City
7. There’s Something Bigger than Phil
8. Art and Culture
9. Being Social
11. Lessons from the Hive
Epilogue: Walking out of the Apiary
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Mark L. Winston is Academic Director of the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University, and Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.