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Honeybee Democracy Kindle Edition

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Length: 280 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Entomologist E. O. Wilson calls honeybees �humanity�s greatest friend among the insects.� Cornell professor and ardent beekeeper Seeley (The Wisdom of the Hive, 1995) examines how bees make decisions on where to found a new hive. Beekeepers have known for years that overcrowded hives will swarm�the majority of the hive�s workers will take off with the old queen and move into a new home, while the remaining bees will rear a new queen in order to perpetuate the parental colony. How the homeless swarm of bees decides where to live, and the settling of the debates among the scout bees who have found potential homesites, forms the basis of this intriguing look at how social insects arrive at a consensus. Seeley takes the reader through the research process, discussing the findings of earlier scientists, the process of field research on bee swarms, and the understanding of what the resulting data means in the lives of the bees. Forager bees become scout bees who, after returning to the swarm, perform a �dance� to show where and how far away the potential site is. Other scouts check out these locations and join in the dance for whichever site is preferred. This �arguing� over the best site eventually results in all the scouts agreeing and the whole swarm then moving to its new abode. Now if we humans could only make decisions so democratically. --Nancy Bent

Review

[S]plendid.

Product Details

  • File Size: 6612 KB
  • Print Length: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 20, 2010)
  • Publication Date: September 20, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046A9M68
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,189 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Dr. Thomas D. Seeley is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, where he teaches courses in animal behavior and does research on the functional organization of honey bee colonies.

He grew up in Ithaca, New York. He began keeping and studying bees while a high school student, when he brought home a swarm of bees in a wooden box. He went away to college at Dartmouth in 1970, but he returned to Ithaca each summer to work at the Dyce Laboratory for Honey Bee Studies at Cornell University, where he learned the craft of beekeeping and began probing the inner workings of the honey bee colony. Thoroughly intrigued by the smooth functioning of bee colonies, he went on to graduate school at Harvard University where he studied under two ant men (Drs. Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson), began his research on bees in earnest, and earned his Ph.D. in 1978. After teaching at Yale for six years, he worked his way home to Ithaca/Cornell in 1986, where he has been ever since. In recognition of his scientific work, he has received the Senior Scientist Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His research focuses on the internal organization of honey bee colonies and has been summarized in three books: Honeybee Ecology (1985, Princeton University Press), The Wisdom of the Hive (1995, Harvard University Press), and Honeybee Democracy (2010, Princeton University Press).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Robert MacKimmie on November 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not only is the research completely sound and refreshing, the graphic representation of compelling information is truly revelatory.

If you are going to be shipwrecked on an island, even if that island has no honeybees, you should take this one book. It just seems that Thomas Seeley has compiled a most fascinating explanation of one of the bees' most curious and intelligent behaviors - and the graphic illustration and charts lend insight in clean, straight-forward, "ahh-hah" kind of ways, less understandable until now given the new, brilliant and powerfully simple conveyance.

The Epilogue should be read first because it provides the most fitting setup: Martin Lindauer observed a clustered swarm of bees on a bush and noticed that the waggle-dancing bees were covered in black soot, red brick dust and grey soil. Calling them dirty dancers, a multiple of them were obviously attempting to convince others regarding the merits of a nearby chimney. That started his research into bee group decision making, and thus, Thomas Seeley's remarkable treatise on the subject.

This would be a fascinating coffee table book, with insighful information for any curious book-flipper. For seasoned beekeepers, the photos, illustrations and information presented solidifies and exemplifies many of the things that we already know. Best example: on page 38, Figure 2.12 is a photo illustrating the underside of some house bees and shows how the wax chips are produced from the abdomens of the worker bees. I know this but had never seen it before. To see the photos is to gain much deeper understanding, and that quality of knowledge shared is represented throughout the entire book.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By mnomalley on October 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tom Seeley shares his 30+ years of work with honeybees to reveal how these beautiful creatures, living in dense societies, are able to make collective, speedy, and accurate decisions. This is a remarkable book that showcases both the creativity of researchers who have uncovered the secrets of bees as well as the success of one of Earth's most adaptive inhabitants. This book clearly contains lessons on how groups can make better decisions, but you don't need the lessons to appreciate and enjoy what Seeley has to say about these little marvels. I happen to like reading about the logic behind the research and some of the experiments that Seeley and others have conducted, but if that isn't for you, you can browse sections and get to the nice summaries the author provides at the end of most sections. In the end, you will see that democracy really works.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James O. Martin on October 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is destined to be a modern classic. It is a blend of the very best science and inspired, eloquent writing. In 230 beautifully illustrated pages Seeley, a Cornell U professor, tells the complete story of a nearly perfect representational democracy. Bees have developed a decision making process that allows them to make a rational decision about a live or die choice they must make: where to make their next home. Seeley has deciphered all of the elements of this annual process and lets us in on the secrets of the bees. He is careful to show scientific verification to all of his ideas and documents the painstaking observations that back up his assertions. Before reading this book I was an admirer of the evolved social community that makes up a bee hive. Now I am in awe of these wonderful creatures. I thank Thomas D. Seeley for sharing his love and enthusiasm as well as his remarkable expertise.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brett A. Fishwild on July 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a scientist by nature and trade, though I am a geologist with no level of expertise or knowledge in regards to insects. After hearing another story about colony collapse disorder on NPR, I researched the available books on honeybees at Amazon (was surprise at how few there are) and settled on Dr. Seeley's book. Great read! I found the structure of the book well thought out, each chapter leading into subsequent chapters. Each chapter also dealt with a discrete topic and flushed out the details thoroughly. Also - I enjoyed the fact that his writing style was easily accessible for the laymen. Some books of this ilk get caught in up what level of jargon or detail to use, but Dr. Seeley found a very reasonable position on this. Being an analytical type person, I really enjoyed how each theory was tested and described. The reader will see for example the criteria bees use for siting new hives, how they test some of those criteria, and of course the main topic - how the scouts tell the colony about their searches for new homes and then how the colony reaches a consensus amongst the various choices the scouts bring back.

The reader should understand that this is not an all-encompassing book on bees, there is not much in here on hive construction or life cycles or how foragers do their thing. But there was enough on those topics for a novice like me to understand the context of what Dr. Seeley was writing about. At the end, I was not entirely convinced of using the bees "democratic" style in real life human situations. But it was good that Dr. Seeley gave real anecdotal examples from his university meetings and from New England town hall meetings to discuss it - other authors may have simply made the theoretical premise and left it at that.
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