In the late spring and early summer, as a bee colony becomes overcrowded, a third of the hive stays behind and rears a new queen, while a swarm of thousands departs with the old queen to produce a daughter colony. Seeley describes how these bees evaluate potential nest sites, advertise their discoveries to one another, engage in open deliberation, choose a final site, and navigate together--as a swirling cloud of bees--to their new home. Seeley investigates how evolution has honed the decision-making methods of honeybees over millions of years, and he considers similarities between the ways that bee swarms and primate brains process information. He concludes that what works well for bees can also work well for people: any decision-making group should consist of individuals with shared interests and mutual respect, a leader's influence should be minimized, debate should be relied upon, diverse solutions should be sought, and the majority should be counted on for a dependable resolution.
An impressive exploration of animal behavior, Honeybee Democracy shows that decision-making groups, whether honeybee or human, can be smarter than even the smartest individuals in them.
Seeley explains how one finds a patch of flowers humming with honey bees, captures and sumptuously feeds the bees, and then releases and follows them, step-by-step in whatever direction they fly, back to their secret residence in a hollow tree, old building, or abandoned hive. The bee hunter's reward is a thrilling encounter with nature that challenges mind and body while also giving new insights into the remarkable behavior of honey bees living in the wild.
Drawing on decades of experience as a bee hunter and bee biologist, Seeley weaves informative discussions of the biology of wild honey bees with colorful historical anecdotes, personal insights, and beautiful photos. Whether you're a bee enthusiast or just curious about the natural world, Following the Wild Bees is the ideal companion for newcomers to bee hunting and a rare treat for armchair naturalists.
Originally published in 1985.
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