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 behavior, 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.
Awards and Recognition
- Finalist for the PROSE Award in Popular Science and Popular Mathematics, Association of American Publishers
"Cornell University biologist Seeley is one of the most beloved authors in the beekeeping community, and with good reason: his writing elucidates the lives of honeybees with clear science and a sense of joyous discovery. Seeley employs that approach here; even non-keepers will appreciate his bee’s-eye view of life outside managed apiaries."—Gemma Tarlach, Discover
"I was really drawn to Tom Seeley’s The Lives of Bees. He IS the bee keeper’s bee keeper."—Ira Flatow, Science Friday
"Elegantly simple in design, the research is expertly synthesized by Seeley to give us a vivid glimpse of how honeybees live when left to their own devices. . . . It is the most complete picture yet of the honeybee’s natural history. . . . As the biblical Proverbs 6:6 notes of the ant, we need to go to the bee, 'consider its ways and be wise'. Seeley has done that better than anyone."—Gene Robinson, Nature
"A wealth of information about honeybees based on decades of scientific research."—Kirkus
"[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
"Written for experts, beekeepers and biology buffs alike. Seeley’s fifth book on bees illuminates why wild honeybees across the planet are thriving while managed colonies are under threat."—Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell Chronicle
"William Hope narrates this highly informed work with a sharp focus on its scientific language. His clear, frank style helps the listener follow the author's deep dive into the lives of wild honey bees in their natural colonies, as opposed to those raised and kept by beekeepers. . . . This intriguing scientific study . . . elucidates the distinctive methodology of the entomologist and has much to teach."—AudioFile Magazine
"This gorgeous and noteworthy book provides a very different view of honey bees and how they live in the wild and offers important lessons for saving the world’s managed bee colonies. . . . The Lives of Bees will be highly-prized and often referenced by scientists, beekeepers and students of bees, and will fascinate anyone who wishes to learn more about the lives of these amazing insects."—GrrlScientist, Forbes
"Tells you everything about honeybees that has not been told . . . . The Lives of Bees is well-researched and one of the most authentic works on honeybees."—The Washington Book Review
"As one of the great communicators of honey bee science, Tom Seeley has written a superb account . . . This is a book for every beekeeper and anyone interested in the natural world."—Stephen Fleming, Bee Craft
"A remarkable book. It is an essential read for every beekeeper who wishes to understand more fully the natural biology of the bees living in his or her hives."—Ann Chilcott, The Beelistener
"This is a wonderful and original book about honey bees, unlike the numerous 'hand books' which are the staple fare of beekeepers. Professor Seeley has turned the idea of keeping bees on its head, pointing out the many indications that our current methods of exploiting honey bees may be quite harmful to them, or at best, not helpful. . . . so well-researched and presented that I feel it should be basic and essential reading for all beekeepers"—An Beachaire
"A detailed and well-illustrated work that will fascinate both curious scientists and those with a passion for bee keeping. . . . Seeley’s book offers great opportunities to learn about honey bees in the wild . . . a source of inspiration for sustainable beekeeping practices."—Fabrice Requier & Robin M Crewe, Trends in Ecology and Evolution
"Both the layman and general entomologist will enjoy this scientific detective story that is so engagingly and entertainingly told by a preeminent expert in the field."—Angus McCullough, Entomologist's Monthly Magazine
"[A] beautifully written exposition of the fascinating details of honey bee behaviour, physiology, genetics and interplay with the environment."—Peter Neerup Buhl, International Journal of Environment Studies
"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