Humans have kept honey bees in hives for millennia, yet only in recent decades have biologists begun to investigate how these industrious insects live in the wild. The Lives of Bees is Thomas Seeley's captivating story of what scientists are learning about the behaviour, social life, and survival strategies of honey bees living outside the beekeeper's hive – and how wild honey bees may hold the key to reversing the alarming die-off of the planet's managed honey bee populations.
Seeley, a world authority on honey bees, sheds light on why wild honey bees are still thriving while those living in managed colonies are in crisis. Drawing on the latest science as well as insights from his own pioneering fieldwork, he describes in extraordinary detail how honey bees live in nature and shows how this differs significantly from their lives under the management of beekeepers. Seeley presents an entirely new approach to beekeeping – Darwinian Beekeeping – which enables honey bees to use the toolkit of survival skills their species has acquired over the past thirty million years, and to evolve solutions to the new challenges they face today. He shows beekeepers how to use the principles of natural selection to guide their practices, and he offers a new vision of how beekeeping can better align with the natural habits of honey bees.
Engagingly written and deeply personal, The Lives of Bees reveals how we can become better custodians of honey bees and make use of their resources in ways that enrich their lives as well as our own.
Thomas D. Seeley is the Horace White Professor in Biology at Cornell University. He is the author of Following the Wild Bees, Honeybee Democracy, and Honeybee Ecology (all Princeton) as well as The Wisdom of the Hive. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
"[...] Many books have told the story of how domestic honey bees live day by day, but the story of how their wild cousins exist has for a long time remained untold. In The Lives of Bees Professor Thomas Seeley, a leading authority on honey bee biology, offers a snapshot into how wild honey bee colonies live outside the practices of modern beekeeping. [...] Seeley's research is accessible to nonspecialists but also contains detailed information that will be of interest to other honey bee biologists. The Lives of Bees will appeal to both beekeepers and biologists interested in how feral honey bee colonies live outside of beekeeping practices."
– Dr Harry Siviter, The Biologist 67(1), Feb/Mar 2020
"[...] The Lives of Bees sounds a fresh note, providing a new perspective on the roots of the crisis and a provocative proposal for how to deal with it. [...] very few biologists beyond Seeley have the vision and tenacity to conceive of and perform a long-term study of the type that underpins this book. That 40-year systematic project aims to illuminate the honeybee's natural life. [...] the research is expertly synthesized by Seeley to give us a vivid glimpse of how honeybees live when left to their own devices[...] a highly technical but eloquent book on the bee that will also appeal to those interested in sustainable agriculture."
– Gene Robinson, Nature 571(7763), July 2019
"A wealth of information about honeybees based on decades of scientific research."
"[The Lives of Bees] both celebrates and chronicles the natural history of the honey bee."
– Barry Silverstein, Foreword Reviews
"This book is a surprise and one heck of a good read."
– Scott Shalaway, WV News
"This is a first class work that should be read by anyone concerned with the alarming decline in pollinators of all taxa, but is especially important for bee keepers and their future as honey producers, and for biologists and landowners anxious to preserve habitat for wild honey bees."
– David M. Gascoigne, Travels with Birds
"Thomas Seeley is the great detective of the bee world, unearthing clues that make this fascinating creature even more compelling. This is science at its most congenial!"
– Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
"In a patch of forest near Ithaca, New York, Thomas Seeley has spent decades studying the behavior of honey bees that have thrived in the wild without human intrusion. Those feral bees have much to teach us about how to manage the struggling domesticated colonies that pollinate much of our crops. The Lives of Bees is an absorbing, meticulous, and important book, exploring an unseen corner of the natural world."
– Hannah Nordhaus, author of The Beekeeper's Lament
"This remarkable book eloquently explains how to be a better partner with honey bees, using nature as a guide. Seeley draws on insight and wisdom gleaned from a lifetime of research and hard work – and provides plenty of instructions and illustrations. The Lives of Bees is for everyone who has, or wants to have, honey bees in their lives."
– Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine
"Using beautifully crafted arguments, Seeley challenges us to let bees be bees. Drawing from his life study of colonies in the wild, Seeley provides a timely reminder of all the amazing strategies that honey bees have evolved to survive on their own."
– Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota
"Honey bees have had a close relationship with humans for thousands of years, but they are endangered due to over-domestication. Seeley gives a view of many still living free in the wild, providing a model of their healthy lives. A must-read for anyone interested in the fascinating social behavior of this species, and for those who keep honey bees for fun or profit."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of The Hot-Blooded Insects
"Thomas Seeley gives us the knowledge we need to rethink beekeeping. He deftly articulates how honey bees survive – and thrive – living naturally inside trees. Meanwhile, within vast beekeeping industries, honey bee mortality remains at an all-time high. This marvelous book enables the thinking beekeeper to learn from the natural life systems of resilient and healthy honey bees."
– Nicola Bradbear, Director of Bees for Development
"The Lives of Bees answers the complex question that has bugged beekeepers for decades: Why do some wild colonies thrive while their managed brethren collapse? Seeley meticulously guides us through the natural history of honey bees while examining the tension between what is best for the bees versus what is best for their keeper. You and your bees will benefit from this compelling work."
– Rusty Burlew, HoneyBeeSuite.com
"Thomas Seeley's lifetime of work, study, and love of honey bees has given us the inspiration we need to stop inventing temporary solutions to honey bee problems, and just listen to what the bees are telling us by example. They've been shouting to us for hundreds of years, but only with Seeley's help have we been able to hear."
– Kirk Webster, Champlain Valley Bees and Queens