BUZZ: The Science and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson

Scientific American     By Andrea Gawrylewski     August Issue

The Irreplaceable Bee, an Epic Physics Experiment, and Other New Science Books

Book recommendations from the editors of Scientific American

Credit: Getty ImagesThe Science and Necessity of Bees
by Thor Hanson

Bees have been in the spotlight since the emergence about a decade ago of a mysterious bee ailment dubbed “colony collapse disorder,” now responsible for the loss of millions of U.S. hives. The crisis brought attention to the benefits bees bring to humans, but long before they received such notice, the insects were vital to our own species. Through his engaging first-person narrative, biologist Hanson tells the full story of bees: They evolved from carnivorous wasps during the time of dinosaurs, opting for the protein-rich pollen of flowers with which they coevolved. Bees developed fuzz to better trap and transport pollen from flower to flower, and the structure of many flowers evolved to suit specific pollinators. The insects' honey has been an essential food source since the dawn of humankind and has been adapted to everything from alcohol to medicine.

Scientific American August 2018 Issue

The Spiritual Foundations of Beekeeping

The Natural Beekeeping Trust

The Natural Beekeeping Trust is honoured to present an English translation of Iwer Thor Lorenzen’s "The Spiritual Foundations of Bee Husbandry. 

The honey bee has lived in close association with human beings for millennia. Tragically, however, humanity’s once intimate connection with this unique creature has been harmed by our increasingly utilitarian and exploitative dealings with the natural world. We are now in urgent need of re-establishing a deeper relationship, not just for the sake of the bees themselves but for the whole of nature – and of course for ourselves. 

Lorenzen – a true master beekeeper – provides numerous insights to enable a more fruitful engagement with the living world. Offering an enrichment of the knowledge and practice of beekeeping, he discusses the origins of the honey bee, its relationship to the floral kingdom, the digestion of the bee, the treatment of bee diseases as well as appropriate beekeeping techniques. He also develops subtle spiritual concepts such as the idea of the bee colony as an ‘individuality’ and ‘group-soul’, providing new depth and wisdom to our understanding of how bees live and work. 

This small book, a hidden gem that has never before appeared in English, is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of the honey bee and the future of humanity.

The World's Mantra

Natural Beekeeping Trust - The World's Mantra  By Carol Ann Duffy

"Where the bees live, such places are holy places, whole and sound. Look out for them and tell the bees that we love them. Ask them what came first, the banishing of the spirits from the living world or the crushing of our own, they surely will have an answer. And if you offer them a hive, in summer time, be sure that it is a beautiful hive, in a beautiful place. Let the hive proclaim the beneficence of the being that inhabits it. Let them face the rising sun. Go there often. Go in peace. If that’s not possible because your soul is in turmoil, tell it to them, but don’t breathe on them as you will make them afraid. Bees will make all things better. Each day we can be born again among the bees; without the bees we are nothing." ~ From: Poetry: Hive & The Bees, Carol Ann Duffy, Picador

To enjoy in its entirety visit:

Darwinian Beekeeping: An Evolutionary Approach to Apiculture

Darwinian Beekeeping:  An Evolutionary Approach to Apiculture
By:  Thomas D. Seeley, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

The original of this article first appeared in the American Beekeeping Journal, March 2017. The images and text are reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

Above: Tom Seeley talking about Darwinian Beekeeping at Bee Audacious

Evolution by natural selection is a foundational concept for understanding the biology of honey bees, but it has rarely been used to provide insights into the craft of beekeeping.  This is unfortunate because solutions to the problems of beekeeping and bee health may come most rapidly if we are as attuned to the biologist Charles R. Darwin as we are to the Reverend Lorenzo L. Langstroth. 

Adopting an evolutionary perspective on beekeeping may lead to better understanding about the maladies of our bees, and ultimately improve our beekeeping and the pleasure we get from our bees.  An important first step toward developing a Darwinian perspective on beekeeping is to recognize that honey bees have a stunningly long evolutionary history, evident from the fossil record.  One of the most beautiful of all insect fossils is that of a worker honey bee, in the species Apis henshawi, discovered in 30-million-year-old shales from Germany (Fig. 1).  There also exist superb fossils of our modern honey bee species, Apis mellifera, in amber-like materials collected in East Africa that are about 1.6 million years old (Engel 1998). 

We know, therefore, that honey bee colonies have experienced millions of years being shaped by the relentless operation of natural selection.  Natural selection maximizes the abilities of living systems (such honey bee colonies) to pass on their genes to future generations.  Colonies differ genetically, therefore colonies differ in all the traits that have a genetic basis, including colony defensiveness, vigor in foraging, and resistance to diseases.  The colonies best endowed with genes favoring colony survival and reproduction in their locale have the highest success in passing their genes on to subsequent generations, so over time the colonies in a region become well adapted to their environment. 

This process of adaptation by natural selection produced the differences in worker bee color, morphology, and behavior that distinguish the 27 subspecies of Apis mellifera (e.g., A.m. mellifera, A. m. ligustica, and A. m. scutellata) that live within the species' original range of Europe, western Asia, and Africa (Ruttner 1988).  The colonies in each subspecies are precisely adapted to the climate, seasons, flora, predators, and diseases in their region of the world. 

Moreover, within the geographical range of each subspecies natural selection produced ecotypes, which are fine-tuned, locally adapted populations.  For example, one ecotype of the subspecies Apis mellifera mellifera evolved in the Landes region of southwest France, with its biology tightly linked to the massive bloom of heather (Calluna vulgaris L.) in August and September.  Colonies native to this region have a second strong peak of brood rearing in August that helps them exploit this heather bloom.  Experiments have shown that the curious annual brood cycle of colonies in the Landes region is an adaptive, genetically based trait (Louveaux 1973, Strange et al. 2007).

Modern humans (Homo sapiens) are a recent evolutionary innovation compared to honey bees.  We arose some 150,000 years ago in the African savannahs, where honey bees had already been living for aeons. The earliest humans were hunter gatherers who hunted honey bees for their honey, the most delicious of all natural foods.  We certainly see an appetite for honey in one hunter-gatherer people still in existence, the Hadza of northern Tanzania.  Hadza men spend 4-5 hours per day in bee hunting, and honey is their favorite food (Marlowe et al. 2014). 

Bee hunting began to be superseded by beekeeping some 10,000 years ago, when people in several cultures started farming and began domesticating plants and animals.  Two regions where this transformation in human history occurred are the alluvial plains of Mesopotamia and the Nile Delta.  In both places, ancient hive beekeeping has been documented by archaeologists.  Both are within the original distribution of Apis mellifera, and both have open habitats where swarms seeking a nest site probably had difficulty finding natural cavities and occupied the clay pots and grass baskets of the early farmers (Crane 1999). 

In Egypt's sun temple of King Ne-user-re at Abu Ghorab, there is a stone bas-relief ca. 4400 years old that shows a beekeeper kneeling by a stack of nine cylindrical clay hives (Fig. 2).  This is the earliest indication of hive beekeeping and it marks the start of our search for an optimal system of beekeeping.  It also marks the start of managed colonies living in circumstances that differ markedly from the environment in which they evolved and to which they were adapted.  Notice, for example, how the colonies in the hives depicted in the Egyptian bas-relief lived crowded together rather than spaced widely across the land.

Wild Colonies vs. Managed Colonies

Today there are considerable differences between the environment of evolutionary adaptation that shaped the biology of wild honey bee colonies and the current circumstances of managed honey bee colonies.  Wild and managed live under different conditions because we beekeepers, like all farmers, modify the environments in which our livestock live to boost their productivity.   Unfortunately, these changes in the living conditions of agricultural animals often make them more prone to pests and pathogens.  In Table 1, I list 20 ways in which the living conditions of honey bees differ between wild and managed colonies, and I am sure you can think of still more.

Difference 1:  Colonies are vs. are not genetically adapted to their locations.  Each of the subspecies of Apis mellifera was adapted to the climate and flora of its geographic range and each ecotype within a subspecies was adapted to a particular environment.  Shipping mated queens and moving colonies long distances for migratory beekeeping forces colonies to live where they may be poorly suited.  A recent, large-scale experiment conducted in Europe found that colonies with queens of local origin lived longer than colonies with queens of non-local origin (Büchler et al. 2014). 

Difference 2:  Colonies live widely spaced across the landscape vs. crowded in apiaries.  This difference makes beekeeping practical, but it also creates a fundamental change in the ecology of honey bees.  Crowded colonies experience greater competition for forage, greater risk of being robbed, and greater problems reproducing (e.g., swarms combining and queens entering wrong hives after mating).  Probably the most harmful consequence of crowding colonies, though, is boosting pathogen and parasite transmission between colonies (Seeley & Smith 2015).  This facilitation of disease transmission boosts the incidence of disease and it keeps alive the virulent strains of the bees' disease agents.

Difference 3:  Colonies live in relatively small nest cavities vs. in large hives.  This difference also profoundly changes the ecology of honey bees.  Colonies in large hives have the space to store huge honey crops but they also swarm less because they are not as space limited, which weakens natural selection for strong, healthy colonies since fewer colonies reproduce.  Colonies kept in large hives also suffer greater problems with brood parasites such as Varroa (Loftus et al. 2016).

Difference 4:   Colonies live with vs. without a nest envelope of antimicrobial plant resin.  Living without a propolis envelope increases the cost of colony defense against pathogens.  For example, worker in colonies without a propolis envelope invest more in costly immune system activity (i.e., synthesis of antimicrobial peptides) relative to workers in colonies with a propolis envelope (Borba et al. 2015).

Difference 5:  Colonies have thick vs. thin nest cavity walls.  This creates a difference in the energetic cost of colony thermoregulation, esp. in cold climates.  The rate of heat loss for a wild colony living in a typical tree cavity is 4-7 times lower than for a managed colony living in a standard wooden hive (Mitchell 2016).

Difference 6:  Colonies live with high and small vs. low and large entrances.  This difference renders managed colonies more vulnerable to robbing and predation (large entrances are harder to guard), and it may lower their winter survival (low entrances get blocked by snow, preventing cleansing flights).

Difference 7:  Colonies live with vs. without plentiful drone comb.  Inhibiting colonies from rearing drones boosts their honey production (Seeley 2002) and slows reproduction by Varroa (Martin 1998), but it also hampers natural selection for colony health by preventing the healthiest colonies from passing on their genes (via drones) the most successfully. 

Difference 8:   Colonies live with vs. without a stable nest organization.  Disruptions of nest organization for beekeeping may hinder colony functioning.  In nature, honey bee colonies organize their nests with a precise 3-D organization:  compact broodnest surrounded by pollen stores and honey stored above (Montovan et al. 2013).  Beekeeping practices that modify the nest organization, such as inserting empty combs to reduce congestion in the broodnest, hamper thermoregulation and may disrupt other aspects of colony functioning such as egg laying by the queen and pollen storage by foragers.

Difference 9:  Colonies experience infrequent vs. sometimes frequent relocations.   Whenever a colony is moved to a new location, as in migratory beekeeping, the foragers must relearn the landmarks around their hive and must discover new sources of nectar, pollen, and water.   One study found that colonies moved overnight to a new location had smaller weight gains in the week following the move relative to control colonies already living in the location (Moeller 1975).

Difference 10:  Colonies are rarely vs. frequently disturbed.  We do not know how frequently wild colonies experience disturbances (e.g., bear attacks), but it is probably rarer than for managed colonies whose nests are easily cracked open, smoked, and manipulated.  In one experiment, Taber (1963) compared the weight gains of colonies that were and were not inspected during a honey flow, and found that colonies that were inspected gained 20-30% less weight (depending on extent of disturbance) than control colonies on the day of the inspections.

Difference 11:  Colonies do not vs. do deal with novel diseases.  Historically, honey bee colonies dealt only with the parasites and pathogens with whom they had long been in an arms race.  Therefore, they had evolved means of surviving with their agents of disease.  We humans changed all this when we triggered the global spread of the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor from eastern Asia, small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) from sub-Saharan Africa, and chalkbrood fungus (Ascosphaera apis) and acarine mite (Acarapis woodi) from Europe.  The spread of Varroa alone has resulted in the deaths of millions of honey bee colonies (Martin 2012).

Difference 12:  Colonies have diverse vs. homogeneous food sources.  Some managed colonies are placed in agricultural ecosystems (e.g., huge almond orchards or vast fields of oilseed rape) where they experience low diversity pollen diets and poorer nutrition.  The effects of pollen diversity were studied by comparing nurse bees given diets with monofloral pollens or polyfloral pollens.  Bees fed the polyfloral pollen lived longer than those fed the monofloral pollens (Di Pasquale et al. 2013).

Difference 13:  Colonies have natural diets vs. sometimes being fed artificial diets. Some beekeepers feed their colonies protein supplements ("pollen substitutes") to stimulate colony growth before pollen is available, to fulfill pollination contracts and produce larger honey crops.  The best pollen supplements/substitutes do stimulate brood rearing, though not as well as real pollen  and may result in workers of poorer quality (Scofield and Mattila 2015). 

Difference 14:  Colonies are not vs. are exposed to novel toxins.  The most important new toxins of honey bees are insecticides and fungicides, substances for which the bees have not had time to evolve detoxification mechanisms.  Honey bees are now exposed to an ever increasing list of pesticides and fungicides that can synergise to cause harm to bees (Mullin et al. 2010).

Difference 15:  Colonies are not vs. are treated for diseases.  When we treat our colonies for diseases, we interfere with the host-parasite arms race between Apis mellifera and its pathogens and parasites.  Specifically, we weaken natural selection for disease resistance.  It is no surprise that most managed colonies in North America and Europe possess little resistance to Varroa mites, or that there are populations of wild colonies on both continents that have evolved strong resistance to these mites (Locke 2016).  Treating colonies with acaracides and antibiotics may also interfere with the microbiomes of a colony's bees (Engel et al. 2016).

Difference 16:  Colonies are not vs. are managed as sources of pollen and honey. Colonies managed for honey production are housed in large hives, so they are more productive.  However, they are also less apt to reproduce (swarm) so there is less scope for natural selection for healthy colonies.  Also, the vast quantity of brood in large-hive colonies renders them vulnerable to population explosions of Varroa mites and other disease agents that reproduce in brood (Loftus et al. 2016).

Difference 17:  Colonies do not vs. do suffer losses of beeswax.  Removing beeswax from a colony imposes a serious energetic burden.  The weight-to-weight efficiency of beeswax synthesis from sugar is at best about 0.10 (data of Weiss 1965, analyzed in Hepburn 1986), so every pound of wax taken from a colony costs it some 10 pounds of honey that is not available for other purposes, such as winter survival.  The most energetically burdensome way of harvesting honey is removal of entire combs filled with honey (e.g., cut comb honey and crushed comb honey).  It is less burdensome to produce extracted honey since this removes just the cappings wax.

Difference 18:  Colonies are vs. are not choosing the larvae used for rearing queens.  When we graft day-old larvae into artificial queen cups during queen rearing, we prevent the bees from choosing which larvae will develop into queens.  One study found that in emergency queen rearing the bees do not choose larvae at random and instead favor those of certain patrilines (Moritz et al. 2005).

Difference 19:  Drones are vs. are not allowed to compete fiercely for mating.  In bee breeding programs that use artificial insemination, the drones that provide sperm do not have to prove their vigor by competing amongst other drones for mating.  This weakens the sexual selection for drones that possess genes for health and strength. 

Difference 20:   Drone brood is not vs. is removed from colonies for mite control.  The practice of removing drone brood from colonies to control Varroa destructor partially castrates colonies and so interferes with natural selection for colonies that are healthy enough to invest heavily in drone production.

Suggestions for Darwinian Beekeeping

Beekeeping looks different from an evolutionary perspective.  We see that colonies of honey bees lived independently from humans for millions of years, and during this time they were shaped by natural selection to be skilled at surviving and reproducing wherever they lived, in Europe, western Asia, or Africa.  We also see that ever since humans started keeping bees in hives, we have been disrupting the exquisite fit that once existed between honey bee colonies and their environments.  We've done this in two ways:  1) by moving colonies to geographical locations to which they are not well adapted, and 2) by managing colonies in ways that interfere with their lives but that provide us with honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen, royal jelly, and pollination services.

What can we do, as beekeepers, to help honey bee colonies live with a better fit to their environment, and thereby live with less stress and better health?   The answer to this question depends greatly on how many colonies you manage, and what you want from your bees.  A beekeeper who has a few colonies and low expectations for honey crops, for example, is in a vastly different situation than a beekeeper who has thousands of colonies and is earning a living through beekeeping. 

For those interested, I offer 10 suggestions for bee-friendly beekeeping.  Some have general application while others are feasible only for the backyard beekeeper.

1.  Work with bees that are adapted to your location.  For example, if you live in New England, buy queens and nucs produced up north rather than queens and packages shipped up from the south.  Or, if you live in a location where there are few beekeepers, use bait hives to capture swarms from the wild colonies living in your area.  (Incidentally, these swarms will build you beautiful new combs, and this will enable you to retire old combs that could have heavy loads of pesticide residues and pathogen spores/cells.)  The key thing is to acquire queens of a stock that is adapted to your climate. 

2.   Space your hives as widely as possible.   Where I live, in central New York State, there are vast forests filled with wild honey bee colonies spaced roughly a half mile apart.   This is perhaps ideal for wild colonies but problematic for the beekeeper.   Still, spacing colonies just 30-50 yards apart in an apiary greatly reduces drifting and thus the spread of disease.

3.  House your bees in small hives.   Consider using just one deep hive body for a broodnest and one medium-depth super over a queen excluder for honey.  You won't harvest as much honey, but you will likely have reduced disease and pest problems, particularly Varroa.  And yes, your colonies will swarm, but swarming is natural and research shows that it promotes colony health by helping keep Varroa mite populations at safe levels (see Loftus et al 2016).

4.  Roughen the inner walls of your hives, or build them of rough-sawn lumber.  This will stimulate your colonies to coat the interior surfaces of their hives with propolis, thereby creating antimicrobial envelopes around their nests.

5.  Use hives whose walls provide good insulation.   These might be hives built of thick lumber, or they might be hives made of plastic foam.  We urgently need research on how much insulation is best for colonies in different climates, and how it is best provided.

6.  Position hives high off the ground.  This is not always doable, but if you have a porch or deck where you can position some hives, then perhaps it is feasible.   We urgently need research on how much entrance height is best in different climates.

7.  Let 10-20% of the comb in your hives be drone comb.  Giving your colonies the opportunity to rear drones can help improve the genetics in your area.  Drones are costly, so it is only the strongest and healthiest colonies that can afford to produce legions of drones.  Unfortunately, drone brood also fosters rapid growth of a colony's population of Varroa mites, so providing plentiful drone comb requires careful monitoring of the Varroa levels in your hives (see suggestion 10, below).

8.  Minimize disturbances of nest organization.  When working a colony, replace each frame in its original position and orientation.  Also, avoid inserting empty frames in the broodnest to inhibit swarming.

9.  Minimize relocations of hives.  Move colonies as rarely as possible.  If you must do so, then do so when there is little forage available.

10.  Refrain from treating colonies for Varroa.  WARNING:  This last suggestion should only be adopted if you can do so carefully, as part of a program of extremely diligent beekeeping.  If you pursue treatment-free beekeeping without close attention to your colonies, then you will create a situation in your apiary in which natural selection is favoring virulent Varroa mites, not Varroa-resistant bees.  To help natural selection favor Varroa-resistant bees, you will need to monitor closely the mite levels in all your colonies and euthanize those whose mite populations are skyrocketing long before these colonies collapse. By preemptively killing your Varroa-susceptible colonies, you will accomplish two important things:  1) you will eliminate your colonies that lack Varroa resistance and 2) you will prevent the "mite bomb" phenomenon of mites spreading en masse to other colonies.  If you don't perform these preemptive killings, then even your most resistant colonies, living near the collapsing one(s) could become overrun with mites and die.  If this happens, then there will be no natural selection for mite resistance in your apiary.  Failure to perform preemptive killings can also spread virulent mites to your neighbors' colonies and even to the wild colonies in your area that are slowly evolving resistance on their own.   If you are not willing to euthanize your mite-susceptible colonies, then you will need to treat them to kill the mites and then requeen them with a queen of mite-resistant stock.

Two Hopes

I hope you have found it useful to think about beekeeping from an evolutionary perspective.  If you are interested in pursuing beekeeping in a way that is centered less on treating a bee colony as a honey factory, and more on nurturing the lives of honey bees, then I encourage you to consider what I call Darwinian Beekeeping.  Others call it Natural Beekeeping, Apicentric Beekeeping, and Bee-friendly Beekeeping (Phipps 2016).  Whatever the name, its practitioners view a honey bee colony as a complex bundle of adaptations shaped by natural selection to maximize a colony's survival and reproduction in competition with other colonies and other organisms (predators, parasites, and pathogens).  It seeks to foster colony health by letting the bees live as naturally as possible, so they can make full use of the toolkit of adaptations that they have acquired over the last 30 million years.  Much remains to be learned about this toolkit—How exactly do colonies benefit from better nest insulation?  Do colonies tightly seal their nests with propolis in autumn to have an in-hive water supply (condensate) over winter?  How exactly do colonies benefit from having a high nest entrance?  The methods of Darwinian Beekeeping are still being developed, but fortunately, apicultural research is starting to embrace a Darwinian perspective (Neumann and Blacquiere 2016.

I hope too that you will consider giving Darwinian Beekeeping a try, for you might find it more enjoyable than conventional beekeeping, especially if you are a small-scale beekeeper.  Everything is done with bee-friendly intentions and in ways that harmonize with the natural history of Apis mellifera.  As someone who has devoted his scientific career to investigating the marvelous inner workings of honey bee colonies, it saddens me to see how profoundly—and ever increasingly—conventional beekeeping disrupts and endangers the lives of colonies.  Darwinian Beekeeping, which integrates respecting the bees and using them for practical purposes, seems to me like a good way to be responsible keepers of these small creatures, our greatest friends among the insects.

Acknowledgements (From Thomas D. Seeley)

I thank Mark Winston and David Peck for many valuable suggestions that improved early drafts of this article.  Attending the Bee Audacious Conference in December 2016 is what inspired my thinking on Darwinian Beekeeping, so I also thank Bonnie Morse and everyone else who made this remarkable conference a reality.


Borba, R.S., K.K. Klyczek, K.L. Mogen and M. Spivak. 2015. Seasonal benefits of a natural           propolis envelope to honey bee immunity and colony health.  Journal of Experimental Biology 218: 3689-3699.

Büchler, R, C. Costa, F. Hatjina and 16 other authors. 2014. The influence of genetic origin and its interaction with environmental effects on the survival of Apis mellifera L. colonies in Europe.  Journal of Apicultural Research 53:205-214.

Crane, E. 1999.  The world history of beekeeping and honey hunting. Duckworth, London.

Di Pasquale, G., M. Salignon, Y. LeConte and 6 other authors. 2013. Influence of pollen nutrition on honey bee health: do pollen quality and diversity matter?  PLoS ONE 8(8): e72106.

Engel, M.S. 1998.  Fossil honey bees and evolution in the genus Apis (Hymenoptera: Apidae).           Apidologie 29:265-281.

Engel, P, W.K. Kwong, Q. McFrederick and 30 other authors. 2016. The bee microbiome: impact on bee health and model for evolution and ecology of host-microbe interactions. mBio 7(2): e02164-15.

Hepburn, H.R. 1986. Honeybees and wax. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Locke, B. 2016. Natural Varroa mite-surviving Apis mellifera honeybee populations. Apidologie 47:467-482.

Loftus, C.L., M.L. Smith and T.D. Seeley. 2016. How honey bee colonies survive in the wild:  testing the importance of small nests and frequent swarming.  PLoS ONE 11(3):  e0150362.

Louveaux, J. 1973. The acclimatization of bees to a heather region. Bee World 54:105-111.

Marlowe, F.W., J.C. Berbesque, B. Wood, A. Crittenden, C. Porter and A. Mabulla. 2014. Honey, Hadza, hunter-gatherers, and human evolution.  Journal of Human Evolution 71:119-128.

Martin, S.J. 1998. A population model for the ectoparastic mite Varroa jacobsoni in honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Ecological Modelling 109:267-281.

Martin, S.J., A.C. Highfield, L. Brettell and four other authors. 2012. Global honey bee viral landscape altered by a parasitic mite.  Science 336: 1304-1306

Mitchell, D. 2016. Ratios of colony mass to thermal conductance of tree and man-made nest enclosures of Apis mellifera: implications for survival, clustering, humidity regulation and Varroa destructor.  International Journal of Biometereology 60:629-638.

Moeller, F.E. 1975. Effect of moving honeybee colonies on their subsequent production and consumption of honey. Journal of Apicultural Research 14:127-130.

Montovan, K.J., N. Karst, L.E. Jones and T.D. Seeley. 2013.  Local behavioral rules sustain the cell allocation pattern in the combs of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera). Journal of Theoretical Biology 336:75-86.

Moritz, R.F.A., H.M.G. Lattorff, P. Neumann and 3 other authors. 2005. Rare royal families in honey bees, Apis mellifera. Naturwissenschaften 92:488-491.

Mullin, C.A., M. Frazier, J.L. Frazier and 4 other authors. 2010. High levels of miticides and agrochemicals in North American apiaries:  implications for honey bee health. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9754.

Neumann, P. and T. Blacquiere. 2016.  The Darwin cure for apiculture?  Natural selection and managed honeybee health.  Evolutionary Applications 2016: 1-5.  DOI:10.1111/eva.12448

Phipps, J. 2016. Editorial. Natural Bee Husbandry 1:3.

Ruttner, F. 1988. Biogeography and Taxonomy of Honeybees.  Springer Verlag, Berlin.

Scofield H.N., Mattila H.R. 2015. Honey bee workers that are pollen stressed as larvae become         poor foragers and waggle dancers as adults. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121731.

Seeley, T.D.  2002.  The effect of drone comb on a honey bee colony’s production of honey.  Apidologie 33:75-86.

Seeley, T.D. and M.L. Smith. 2015. Crowding honeybee colonies in apiaries can increase their vulnerability to the deadly ectoparasite Varroa destructor. Apidologie 46:716-727.

Strange, J.P., L. Garnery and W.S. Sheppard. 2007. Persistence of the Landes ecotype of Apis       mellifera mellifera in southwest France:  confirmation of a locally adaptive annual brood cycle trait.  Apidologie 38:259-267.

Taber, S. 1963. The effect of disturbance on the social behavior of the honey bee colony.             American Bee Journal 103 (Aug):286-288.

Weiss, K. 1965. Über den Zuckerverbrauch und die Beanspruchung der Bienen bei der     Wachserzeugung. Zeitschrift für Bienenforschung 8:106-124.

Find Thomas D. Seeley's Following the Wild Bees - The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting on Amazon and on Facebook:

Video Link to Darwinian Beekeeping:


Backyard Bees of North America

Backyard Bees of North America. This poster is 24" x 36" and details 130 bee species (enlarged 5x).
Available now from Dr. Joe Wilson, author of 'The Bees In Your Backyard. A Field Guide to the Bees of North America' (2015) Princeton University Press. Think about and learn about native bees everyday with this poster on your wall, in your classroom, etc. The book is highly recommended.

All the Buzz: The Hive and the Honey Bee

Bug Squad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey  November 3, 2015

It's out.

The newly published edition of The Hive and the Honey Bee edited by American Bee Journal editor Joe Graham, is now a reality.

This is the bible of the beekeeping world, and rightfully so. It was first published in 1853--which, by the way, happens to be the same year that the European honey bee arrived in California.

Apiarist, minister, and teacher L. L. Langstroth (1810-1895), “The Father of American Beekeeping,” wrote the first edition, then called Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey Bee. 

The Hive and the Honey Bee, last updated in 1992, is a massive effort. Published by Dadant, the 1057-page book is the work of dozens of national and international icons in beekeeping science and the beekeeping industry. The book traces the global history of beekeeping to modern day apiculture and spotlights the progress, problems and achievements along the way. European colonists brought the honey bee to America (Jamestown colony) in 1622. 

Three bee specialists with ties to UC Davis each wrote a chapter: Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology; Eric Mussen, Extension apicuturist emeritus; and bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, now with Washington State University. (Yours truly provided several dozen bee photos.)

Gary wrote a chapter on “Activities and Behavior of Honey Bees"; Mussen, “Injury to Honey Bees by Poisoning"; and Cobey, “Instrumental Insemination of Honey Bee Queens.”

“It has taken us until the 21st Century to realize just how important these hardworking insects are and their significance in the integrity of the environment is, at least, beginning to be fully understood,” wrote Richard Jones, director emeritus of the International Bee Research Association, Cardiff, United Kingdom, in the first chapter. “There are many threats to honey bees and the possibility of their demise has sharpened interest in them and in turn led to further investigating, scientific research and the dissemination of more material on their management and well-being.”

Gary opened his chapter with “The activities and behaviors of honey bees haven't changed significantly in thousands of years! What has changed is our understanding of how and why bees behave as they do.”

Gary, who retired in 1994 from UC Davis after a 32-year academic career, specialized in research in honey bee behavior, especially mating, foraging, stinging and communication. A noted bee wrangler., he trained bees to perform action scenes in movies, television shows and commercials. Among his credits: 18 films, including “Fried Green Tomatoes”; more than 70 television shows, including the Johnny Carson and Jay Leno shows; six commercials, and hundreds of live Thriller Bee Shows in the Western states.

Mussen began his chapter with “Honey bees have been exposed to naturally occurring intoxicants and poisons for tens of millions of years. Their exposure was limited mostly to toxicants that were components of nectar and pollen or naturally occurring gases such as methane from anaerobic breakdown of organic wastes.”

“While flying as many as four miles from the hive in their quest for water, nectars, pollens and propolis, a fifty-square mile potential area of coverage, forages are likely to encounter many different chemicals and organisms,” Mussen wrote.

Mussen, who retired in 2014, served 38 years as the Extension apiculturist, headquartered in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.  During his academic career, he conducted a program focused primarily on his role as a liaison between the academic world of apiculture and real world beekeeping and crop pollination.  Known as a "honey bee guru," Mussen continues to share his bee expertise from his Briggs Hall office.

In her chapter on instrumental insemination, Cobey wrote: “The ability to control honey bee mating is essential for stock improvement and a valuable research tool.  Instrumental insemination provides complete control of the random honey be mating behavior.”

Cobey noted that queens “mate in flight with an average of 10 to 20 drones in congregating areas consisting of 10,000 to 30,000 drones from diverse genetic sources.”

Former manager of the Harry H.Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, Cobey served UC Davis from 2007 to 2012 when she joined the WSU Department of Entomology. With a strong background in practical bee breeding for the commercial industry, she developed a collaborative honey bee stock improvement and maintenance program, partnering with the California queen producers. She coordinated a project to develop techniques for the international transport of honey beegermplasm. Under a permit from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS),  germplasm collected from Old World European honey bees was successfully imported and incorporated into domestic breeding stocks to enhance U.S. honey bees. Cobey developed information and outreach programs to assist beekeepers in honey bee breeding methods, providing instructional material and workshops in queen rearing and instrumental insemination,  presented locally  and internationally.

Norm Gary, Eric Mussen, Susan Cobey--three UC Davis scientists who made a difference in the beekeeping world and are sharing their expertise.

The "bee bible" belongs on the bookshelf of every bee scientist, beekeeper, and bee enthusiast. 

(Editor's Note: The price for the new edition is $54.50 plus shipping, and the books can be ordered now from the Dadant web site: or purchased at any of the Dadant branches. The toll-free order line for the Hamilton, Ill., home office is 1-888-922-1293.)

Plants can eavesdrop. They can sense danger.

BugSquad   By Kathy Keatley Garvey   July 22, 2015

Plants can eavesdrop. They can sense danger.

So says ecologist Richard 'Rick' Karban, professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and author of the newly published book, Plant Sensing and Communication (University of Chicago Press). Over the past several years, we've heard Karban speak about plant communication...


The Reason For Flowers

On sale - NOW! Stephen Buchmann’s The Reason for Flowers “will carry you through gorgeous terrain” (Kirkus). "Stephen Buchmann reminds us that flowers exist for more than just beauty and fragrance. They are miniature chemical factories, wireless signal stations, inspiration for artists, and–of course–sustenance for the most important creatures living on the planet. In short, flowers run the world.” – Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Flower Confidential. Order yours:


Bees 'n Blooms

Bug Squad     By Kathy Keatley Garvey   October 21, 2014

Add "California" to it and you have California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.

It's a book that's well-planned, well-executed, well-written and well-photographed.

Bees are hungry. What plants will attract them? How can you entice them to your garden and encourage them not only to visit but to live there?

The book, the first of...


A Sting in the Tale review - A Book to Make You Bee-Conscious

The Guardian   By  Nicholas Lezard               4/22/14

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees  (By Dave Goulson)

Dave Goulson presents an entertaining, fascinating and important study of the plight of the bumblebee.

It was Peter Cook who first formally identified the comic potential of the bee; there is something funny about them (such as Cook's Holy Bee of Ephesus, who buzzed around Our Saviour on the cross). They may sting (not the males, though, I was pleased to learn), but they also have charm, and, literally, sweetness. The bumblebee is the most charming of the lot; even its Latin name, Bombus, is amusing, and in the way Professor Goulson tells its story, we are never far from a smile, however clearly he states their grave predicament. It would appear their charm has rubbed off on him.

I noticed the words "bestseller" on the cover of this book, and thought "Come off it," but Goulson is particularly gifted at transmitting his enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, these flying balls of fur, so it shouldn't be a surprise. Experts in animal behaviour do tend to be, to a hugely engaging degree, oddballs. (Cf Hugh Warwick's A Prickly Affair, about hedgehogs, which I reviewed four years ago.)

It might be best, though, if you read this book in solitude. Right from the start, anyone near me was at risk of being bombarded with Fascinating Facts I'd picked up. For instance... 


Nurturing Bees With a View

The New York Times     By Hannah Olivennes      4/3/14

LONDON — The honeybees on the roof of the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason are living the life.

The four hives, which overlook Piccadilly, have sweeping views from the Shard to Big Ben. They were made of English oak by the Welsh carpenter Kim Farley-Harper, painted in the famous Fortnum “eau de nil” turquoise and topped with gold leaf-covered finials shaped like traditional bee skeps.

Most important of all, since they arrived in 2008 the bees have had the attention of their keeper, Steve Benbow.

Mr. Benbow, 45, is an urban beekeeper who clearly loves what he does. “I live my life by my bees,” he said, his expression conveying his enthusiasm. “I get grumpy when I don’t see my bees for a while.”

On this particular day atop Fortnum & Mason, he is wearing a waistcoat over an orange shirt, jeans and a flat cap — a dapper outfit nothing like the veiled hats and gauntlet gloves used by some beekeepers.

“It’s nice to beekeep without gloves because you can be more tactile — and you can make sure you don’t squash anyone,” he noted. “You get stung quite a bit but only when you’re clumsy.”

Although, he added, “you become immune to it, and you don’t really notice it most of the time.”

Mr. Benbow opened the hives carefully and removed the 10 or so frames inside each one, taking a look at how the bees’ early efforts at creating honeycombs were coming along. Bees are very sensitive creatures, he noted. “You’ve got to be quite gentle with them, you don’t want to be banging around.”


Order: THE URBAN BEEKEEPER: A Year of Bees in the City

Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee (Biopolitics)

BUZZ: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee (Biopolitics)
By Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut
"Buzz is a fascinating reminder of the interconnections between humans and animals, even in that most urban of environments, New York City."
--Gary Alan Fine, author of Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction

Pollinator Protection: A Bee & Pesticide Handbook

Wicwas Press 

Authors or Editors: Carl A. Johansen; Daniel F. Mayer
Ideal For: All Beekeepers; Farmers; Scientists; Educators; Pesticide Applicators

Back by popular demand, Pollinator Protection: A Bee & Pesticide Handbook is a summary of extensive laboratory research and field testing of insecticides and other pesticides on honey bees and other bee pollinators. The authors review miticides and other chemicals used by beekeepers, as well as those commonly used in the agricultural industry. This is a faithful reprint and, though the chemicals used may have changed since its original publication in 1990, the lessons and protection techniques described herein are well applied to current practices.

Go to and scroll down the page to find this title. In the bar across the top you will find ordering and payment instructions.

Bless the Bees Number One on Amazon Kindle Store for Conservation & Environment

WebWire  9/8/13

Bees are an indicator species as to what is happening with the environment. The bees are sending us a wake up call that seven out of ten biologists say is the sign of a sixth mass extinction.

Los Angeles, California /September 8, 2013/ – Author and Environmentalist Kenneth Eade announced today that his environmental awareness book, “Bless the Bees: The Pending Extinction of our Pollinators and What We Can Do to Stop It”(, achieved number one best seller status on today in the category of environment and conservation.

The beautifully illustrated edition with photos by professional photographer, Valentina Eade, is intended to educate the reader about the potential extinction of the bees as an indicator of a mass extinction, the last one of which was 65 million years ago. It explains what pollination is, who does it, why it’s essential to us, what things are threatening our pollinators and what we, as individuals, can do about it.

Bees have been in existence for over 100 million years, but it has taken us less than 30 years to kill almost all of them off. They are responsible for pollinating 60% of the world’s food supply. Without them, the human race would face starvation. A worldwide epidemic, it has been called the bee apocalypse by Russia’s president, but it is worse in the United States than any other country. Since 1972, feral honey bees in the United States have declined 80% to near extinction, and domestic bees in the United States are down to 60%. Since 2006, the epidemic among honey bee colonies has been referred to as colony collapse disorder, describing the disappearance of entire colonies of bees.

Among the causes of the bees’ demise are parasites, the decrease in abundance and diversity of wildflowers, pesticides and genetically engineered foods (GMO’s) that create their own synthetic pesticides which kill bees as well as other insects. But one thing is for certain-- mankind is responsible for the drastic decline in bee population and the United States government is doing nothing about it. On the contrary, the government has taken measures to make the problem worse.

The book is still in its promotional phase, but 50% of all royalties will go to non-profit,

The Five Habits of Highly Effective Honeybees & What We Can Learn From Them

The Five Habits of Highly Effective Honeybees (and What We Can Learn from Them): From "Honeybee Democracy" (Princeton Shorts)[Kindle Edition]
By Thomas D. Seeley

Studies of animal behavior have often been invoked to help explain and even guide human behavior. Think of Pavlov and his dogs or Goodall and her chimps. But, as these examples indicate, the tendency has been to focus on "higher," more cognitively developed, and thus, it is thought, more intelligent creatures than mindless, robotic insects. Not so! Learn here how honeybees work together to form a collective intelligence and even how they make decisions democratically. The wizzzzdom of crowds indeed! Here are five habits of effective groups that we can learn from these clever honeybees.

Princeton Shorts are brief selections excerpted from influential Princeton University Press publications produced exclusively in eBook format. They are selected with the firm belief that while the original work remains an important and enduring product, sometimes we can all benefit from a quick take on a topic worthy of a longer book.

In a world where every second counts, how better to stay up-to speed on current events and digest the kernels of wisdom found in the great works of the past? Princeton Shorts enables you to be an instant expert in a world where information is everywhere but quality is at a premium. The Five Habits of Highly Effective Honeybees (and What We Can Learn from Them) does just that.

Top-Bar Beekeeping

 A new book on beekeeping - just in time for the Holidays!  Yeah!!!

"Top-Bar Beekeeping, Organic Practices for Honeybee Health" by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell. Pub. 8/2012 by Chelsea Green.

"Top-Bar Beekeeping" is a guide to help people interested in natural or treatment free beekeeping to build a topbar hive, fill it with bees, and manage the hive to produce honey, beeswax, pollination and joyful respect for honeybees.

“As beekeepers, we are intimately tied to our environment and the symptoms of its degradation. … Without pollinators, our current population cannot survive and, similarly, without our support and protection, pollinators cannot survive.” — from Topbar Beekeeping

“This is an excellent guide for hobby beekeepers who wish to keep bees using top-bar hives. Drawing on his more than 30 years of beekeeping experience in New Mexico, author Les Crowder describes in detail the special comb management techniques that this low-cost, but relatively intensive, form of beekeeping requires. Top-Bar Beekeeping also provides an eloquent appeal for beekeepers to make care, respect, and reverence the foundation of their relationships with the bees.”    
—Thomas D. Seeley, Cornell University; author of Honeybee Democracy and the Wisdom of the Hive

To read more reviews and find out more about "Top-Bar Beekeeping" visit the authors' website at: You can also purchase a copy there as well.

The Travelling Beehive

The Travelling Beehive by Elena Garcia and Manuel Ángel Rosado, illustrated by Juan Hernaz

The Travelling Beehive is a new free stunningly beautiful illustrated book that examines in depth the importance of pollination for our current lifestyle.

Halfway between literature and popular science, deeply documented, this book offers a didactic view of the activity of the domestic bee and other pollinators, for children and for adults, beekeepers, biologists and entomologists.

A Teacher's Guide has also been developed to help non-experts to understand in depth the details represented in each of the sheets.

You can read and download The Travelling Beehive for free (in PDF and also epub file for iPad and other tablets) directly from the following links:
1. EPUB files (for iPad and tablets): (teacher's guide)
2. PDF files: (teacher's guide)
3. View on-line book: (teacher's guide)

Read more:

(The above brought to us by Carlen Jupe, CSBA Sec/Treas)