Following the Wild Bees is a delightful foray into the pastime of bee hunting, an exhilarating outdoor activity that used to be practiced widely but which few people know about today. Thomas Seeley, a world authority on honey bees, vividly describes the history and science behind this lost pastime and how anyone can do it.
Following the Wild Bees is both a unique meditation on the pleasures of the natural world and a guide to the ingenious methods that compose the craft of the bee hunter. Seeley explains how one finds a patch of flowers humming with honey bees, captures and sumptuously feeds the bees, and then releases and follows them, step-by-step in whatever direction they fly, back to their secret residence in a hollow tree, old building, or abandoned hive. The bee hunter's reward is a thrilling encounter with nature that challenges mind and body while also giving new insights into the remarkable behavior of honey bees living in the wild.
Drawing on decades of experience as a bee hunter and bee biologist, Seeley weaves informative discussions of the biology of wild honey bees with colorful historical anecdotes, personal insights, and beautiful photos. Whether you're a bee enthusiast or just curious about the natural world, Following the Wild Bees is the ideal companion for newcomers to bee hunting and a rare treat for armchair naturalists.
1. Introduction 1
2. The Bee Box and Other Tools 30
3. Bee-Hunting Season 44
4. Establishing a Beeline 57
5. Timing Bees to Estimate Distance to Home 79
6. Making Moves Down the Beeline 99
7. Finding the Bee Tree 118
8. On Not “Taking Up” the Bee Tree 138
Illustration Credits 161
"Seeley has been studying honeybees in the wild for decades and in the course of his research has made something of an art of finding – and leaving undisturbed – feral colonies. That he's had a grand time doing so is abundantly clear in this slim volume [...] [Seeley] shares his research accessibly and generously along with his enthusiasm."
"This charming story will pull you into the action and make you feel like an intrepid bee hunter without ever leaving your living room chair."
"Following the Wild Bees introduced me to a new activity. If you've ever wondered how beekeepers find new wild hives, this book explains it all. This is a must-have book for all beekeepers and bee lovers."
– Scott Shalaway, Youngstown (OH) Vindicator
"In addition to serving as a primer on the behavior and biology of honeybees, Following the Wild Bees just might give readers an intellectually (and physically) stimulating new outdoor activity."
– The Scientist
"Following the Wild Bees is scientific natural history at its very best: original, authentic, and exciting. It is at the same time science, science history, adventure, sport, and treasure hunting."
– Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
"As charming a book as I've read in ages, Following the Wild Bees engages with the natural world in precisely the same way that dozens of generations of bee hunters have done before. My advice would be, make a beeline for the bookstore."
– Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey
"Great adventure, true science, lost art. Bee hunting is older even than beekeeping, yet has never been described in such careful detail. Seeley draws from his whole life of honey bee study to simply and eloquently describe the bee hunter's craft, and the honey bee's foraging behavior. He fully shares the skills you'll need – capturing, baiting, releasing, marking, timing, and moving a company of bees – to pursue the fascinating outdoor sport of finding the secret homes of wild honey bee colonies."
– Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine
"This unique book is about using the art of bee lining to find honey bee colonies living in hollow trees, something the author has done for forty years. It is also about honey bees, the pleasure of connecting with nature, the sport given by hunting, and how a hunt need not end in a kill to be exhilarating. The chase is enough."
– Francis L. W. Ratnieks, University of Sussex
"This inspiring, elegantly written book is much more than a riveting set of instructions for finding wild honey bee colonies nesting in tree cavities. It is a prescription for what ails us. Seely leads us on a hunt for sanity, and the best part is that the hunt ends in reverence rather than destruction. This book is a gift to humanity and a homage to bees."
– Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota
"A special delight. There is no better guide to bee hunting than Seeley. Here, he draws on his extensive groundbreaking research into bee behavior, both in the lab and in the field. Following wild honey bees is Seeley's passion, and also his scientific reward – and it shows on every page of this wonderful book."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration
"Like Thoreau, Seeley advises us to slow down, take our time, and enjoy the natural world through a calm and contemplative approach. This is a lovely book, beautifully written and filled with Seeley's usual clarity and enthusiasm for bees."
– Mark L. Winston, author of Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive