Most of us are aware of the hive mind – the power of bees as an amazing collective. But do we know how uniquely intelligent bees are as individuals? In The Mind of a Bee, Lars Chittka draws from decades of research, including his own pioneering work, to argue that bees have remarkable cognitive abilities. He shows that they are profoundly smart, have distinct personalities, can recognize flowers and human faces, exhibit basic emotions, count, use simple tools, solve problems, and learn by observing others. They may even possess consciousness.
Taking readers deep into the sensory world of bees, Chittka illustrates how bee brains are unparalleled in the animal kingdom in terms of how much sophisticated material is packed into their tiny nervous systems. He looks at their innate behaviours and the ways their evolution as foragers may have contributed to their keen spatial memory. Chittka also examines the psychological differences between bees and the ethical dilemmas that arise in conservation and laboratory settings because bees feel and think. Throughout, he touches on the fascinating history behind the study of bee behaviour.
Exploring an insect whose sensory experiences rival those of humans, The Mind of a Bee reveals the singular abilities of some of the world's most incredible creatures.
Lars Chittka is a professor of sensory and behavioural ecology at the Queen Mary University of London. He is the coeditor of Cognitive Ecology of Pollination.
"A thorough and thoughtful primer on the interiority of bees."
– Mike Welch, Scientific American
"The book's bees astound; so too the clever humans who study them."
– Robert Eagan, Library Journal, starred review
"The knowledge on offer here is as entertaining as it is edifying. Readers won't look at bees the same way again."
– Publishers Weekly
"Lars Chittka's The Mind of a Bee is a mind-blowing presentation of scientific evidence and insight showing beyond any reasonable doubt that bees have awareness, memories, basic emotions, intelligence, and personalities – and that what we are doing to them and their world has not just practical but moral implications."
– Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words and Becoming Wild
"The time that insects were seen as little machines, incapable of complex thought, emotions, and learning, is far behind us. We can wish for no better guide than Lars Chittka for an accessible introduction to the wonders of bee intelligence."
– Frans de Waal, author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
"Thanks to Lars Chittka's captivating account of bees' thinking and feeling, I now look with fresh eyes at these small animals. They plan ahead, feel pain, and express their very own personalities. The ingenious experimental evidence Chittka offers in support of these and many other points is as convincing as it is fascinating."
– Barbara J. King, author of Animals' Best Friends: Putting Compassion to Work for Animals in Captivity and in the Wild
"Lars Chittka is an ideal guide to the rich sensory world of bees and to their surprisingly sophisticated powers of cognition. Beautifully illustrated and filled with insights from decades of research, The Mind of a Bee combines scholarship and storytelling in nothing less than a tour de force. Highly recommended for any serious bee enthusiast!"
– Thor Hanson, author of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees
"Intensely detailed, meticulously researched, and always illuminating, The Mind of a Bee is as enjoyable as it is intellectually stimulating. This book takes a fascinating deep dive into bees' lives and minds, raising critical new questions for us as a species."
– Helen Jukes, author of A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings