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
The 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.