The Lives of Bees

The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild
Narrated by: William Hope
Length: 10 hrs and 31 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (115 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

How the lives of wild honey bees offer vital lessons for saving the world’s managed bee colonies

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 reveals 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 30 million years, and to evolve solutions to the new challenges they face today. He tells 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. 

Engaging 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.

©2019 Thomas D. Seeley (P)2019 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"A wealth of information about honeybees based on decades of scientific research." (Kirkus)

What listeners say about The Lives of Bees

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    4 out of 5 stars

The Lives of Bees - Read the Book Instead

Bees are fascinating, and clearly, have a significant role to play, pollinating plants and producing honey. This book is a labor of love for the author, who has taken considerable effort to record the behavior of colonies of bees. He describes, in great detail, a range of information he has gathered about bees gained over several years of effort. This work is admirable, and through it, we learn a lot of insight into bees and their behavior. The book has a lot of statistical information, which unfortunately does not come across well in audible format. Reading our tables of data makes for pretty dull listening. The narrator could perhaps have done more to sound more enthusiastic, but I guess he did his best to convey dry statistics. I am listening at 2X speed now to get through it, and am thinking of returning it. If you are interested in bees and their lives, this book offers a fascinating insight and account of their lives and is worth reading. I recommend buying the printed version over the audible version though.

7 people found this helpful

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More for the apiarist than the lay person

I was hoping for an interesting story of the honeybee in the wild, but this book is more for apiarists than the lay person. It lays out experiments and results in what I felt was excruciating detail, but the results don't help me understand the main character: the wild honeybee. Sure, I know higher hives are preferred (and smaller openings, and a very specific range of cavity size), but all those experiments are interesting to the apiarist only. It's a lot of knowledge that doesn't mean much to me. I know more details, but nothing meaningful.

8 people found this helpful

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Great book! Best I’ve listened too!

This book does an excellent job of explaining the problems bee keepers now face and for now the best way to manage them to eliminate colony collapse disorder.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant insights and data

I deeply appreciate this book it is rich and detailed and historically relevant. it is also a social mandate that we all take responsibility to maintain and save our pollinators expecially epic mellifera. bravo sir! ...Thank you for this excellent research..It caused me to search a lot for images of world beekeepers who support forest beekeeping.

2 people found this helpful

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Great book for Beekeepers.

Loved thus book. great perspective on Beekeeping and how the Bees live, reproduce and survive in the wild.

1 person found this helpful

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Absolutely enthralling!! (small bites, though!)

It took me over three months to wade through this volume of a tremendous amount of information. I listened to it in bits and pieces, taking time every now and then to just sift through the compendium of information it contains. The author includes masses of information about experiments he has done with various hives, to learn what makes them weaker, stronger, long-lived or short of life, and many other variables. One of the things I liked was the inclusion of the scientific names of each plant, animal, or insect that figured in the various stories. He also fluidly converted metric to imperial measures as a matter of course, which made things more understandable. With the publicity now being given to the plight of the honeybee, and therefore the plight of humanity, this will be an added value to the knowledge base of any active, concerned member of the human race. Highly recommend, just take it s-l-o-w-l-y and digest the information in small bites.

1 person found this helpful

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A must read for every bee keeper.

A must Read for every backyard beekeeper. If you care about bees, you’ll be fascinated with the research on wild bee colonies and how it relates to moderate beekeeping. Definitely worth your time and money!

1 person found this helpful

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A truly fascinating, scientific view of the h. bee

awesome read, audibly. I doubt I would have gotten thru it visually. sort of text book, but if you are into honey bees, you have to hear this.

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a must for every beekeeper

Whether you or a backyard beekeeper, just thinking about getting into beekeeping, or are a large commercial apiary owner, this book is a must-read. the author has given insight that would otherwise take a lifetime to acquire.

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informative and engaging

If you are looking for real ways to impact hive health, or to understand bee ecology, this book is a must read. An informative and engaging study on the honeybee. This work offers insights and empirical evidence to help those serious about understanding and or helping the HoneyBee. The casual reader may find the statistical analysis difficult, but worth the effort. It is helpful to download and use the PDF charts if listening to the work. The author's personal connection to, devotion to and advacacy for, the honeybee is evident on every page. The reader of the audio version of this book does an exceptional job of conveying the passion and knowledge of the author. over all...a great read.

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  • hamish23
  • 07-24-20

repetition and a whopping error regarding varroa

Nothing new for an experienced beekeeper , and the most amazing error regarding what the varroa mite feeds on ...How could a serious science/ bee keeper make such a mistake ! Varroa mites feed on the fatty tissues of honey bees and not their hemoglobin 😂

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  • Severn
  • 07-21-20

Outstanding

This is quite outstanding, one of the very best natural history books I have ever come across. The narrator does a very competent job. Not to be missed.

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  • Simon Grose
  • 07-19-20

Outstanding information for protecting bees

This book provides an in-depth knowledge of.honeybees and guides the future of beekeeping and the protection of honeybees. Best book out there!

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  • Torbjørn Andersen
  • 10-28-19

Beautiful text and important message.

This book is a must read for any beekeeper. Forget all the “how to keep bees books” and adapt to the simple methods that Thomas D Seeley describes in this beautiful text.

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  • Dr Rachel S Stone
  • 09-13-20

Every beekeeper should listen to this

I am a beginner beekeeper & this book is just awesome. Factual & very easy listening it has helped ease the learning curve while other avenues under lockdown & set me up to get the most out of other learning opportunities.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-04-19

Outstanding depth and breadth

I loved this book. So much further research will be stimulated by the widely researched content.

1 person found this helpful