What a Bee Knows
6 x 9
19 photos and illustrations
6 x 9
19 photos and illustrations
For many of us, the buzzing of a bee elicits panic. But the next time you hear that low droning sound, look closer: the bee has navigated to this particular spot for a reason using a fascinating set of tools. She may be using her sensitive olfactory organs, which provide a 3D scent map of her surroundings. She may be following visual landmarks or instructions relayed by a hive-mate. She may even be tracking electrostatic traces left on flowers by other bees. What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories, and Personalities of Bees invites us to follow bees’ mysterious paths and experience their alien world.
Although their brains are incredibly small—just one million neurons compared to humans’ 100 billion—bees have remarkable abilities to navigate, learn, communicate, and remember. In What a Bee Knows, entomologist Stephen Buchmann explores a bee’s way of seeing the world and introduces the scientists who make the journey possible. We travel into the field and to the laboratories of noted bee biologists who have spent their careers digging into the questions most of us never thought to ask (for example: Do bees dream? And if so, why?). With each discovery, Buchmann’s insatiable curiosity and sense of wonder is infectious.
What a Bee Knows will challenge your idea of a bee’s place in the world—and perhaps our own. This lively journey into a bee’s mind reminds us that the world is more complex than our senses can tell us.
"Fascinating trivia abounds, and the eye-opening material on bees’ interior lives complicates conventional wisdom about which animals are capable of emotions and consciousness.... Readers fearful of bees may well gain a new perspective, while those who are already fans will find more to celebrate."
"Bee books tend to be full of intriguing facts and tantalizing possibilities. This rigorous but delightful work by pollination ecologist Stephen Buchmann, who has studied the insects for half a century, is no exception."
"Bees use a wide range of senses to navigate through the world, sometimes in ways we can scarcely imagine. As a pollination ecologist with decades of research experience, Buchmann is an ideal guide to this world, at once both familiar and alien, in our own backyards."
An Outside Chance
"In his fascinating new book called What a Bee Knows, entomologist Stephen Buchmann explores a bee’s way of seeing the world and introduces the scientists who make the journey possible."
"You may pick up the book for... facts about our buzzy pollinator friends, but you’ll want to keep reading for the fascinating way Buchmann challenges our core ideas about a bee’s place in the world."
"Stephen Buchmann is a renowned and talented writer for natural history and especially for the biology of bees and flowers. This book exemplifies his eloquence as well as his astonishing insights, depth, and breadth of knowledge…. This fascinating book provides food for thought for anyone who is curious not just about bees and other insects, but about the workings of natural history."
Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada
"No single scientist has ever done so much to broaden our understanding of bees' remarkable capacities. No single conservationist has ever done more to conserve bees and other pollinators. Steve Buchmann is not only insightful and eloquent, but he is a national treasure."
Gary Paul Nabhan, contemplative ecologist; author of "Where Our Food Comes From" and "Food from the Radical Center"; coauthor of "Agave Spirits"
"Stephen Buchman is renowned as one of the most eloquent writers on bees and flowers. In What a Bee Knows, he brings his breadth of understanding to the abilities and sensory capacities of these essential insects. Buchmann teaches us about the world according to bees—and about ourselves."
Laurence Packer, melittologist and author of "Bees of the World" and "Keeping the Bees"
"It is a treat to see Steve Buchmann bring his knowledge and love of bees to the intricacies of how they experience the world. Buchman is a wonderful guide through the well-studied and newest research that is changing our understanding of these fascinating creatures."
Gretchen LeBuhn, professor, San Francisco State University and Director of The Great Sunflower Project
"Steve Buchmann invites us to see, taste, and smell the world as bees do. Along the way, we discover their formidable mental capacities, learning that bees feel pain, solve puzzles, and use tools. Are bees sentient, do they think, and perhaps even dream? Come find out!"
Mark W. Moffett, author of "The Human Swarm" and "Adventures Among Ants"
Chapter 1. A Bees’ Life
Chapter 2. The Remarkable Bee Brain
Chapter 3. Bees Living Together
Chapter 4. What Bees Sense and Perceive
Chapter 5. Bees and Flowers: A Love Story or Arms Races?
Chapter 6. Finding Many Lovers
Chapter 7. Bee Smart
Chapter 8. Master Builders and Memory
Chapter 9. Sleep and Dreaming in Bees
Chapter 10. What do Bees Feel?
Chapter 11. Self-Awareness, Consciousness, and Cognition
Appendix. Things We Can All Do to Help Pollinators and Their Plants
About the Author
Biography: Stephen Buchmann, a pollination ecologist specializing in bees, is the author of the new book, What a Bee Knows: Exploring the Thoughts, Memories, and Personalities of Bees (Island Press, 2023). This book is a lively journey into a bee’s mind reminds us that the world is more complex than our senses can tell us.
Buchmann is also an adjunct professor with the departments of Entomology and of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. A Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, he has published over 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers and eleven books, including The Forgotten Pollinators with Gary Nabhan (Island Press, 1996) and The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives (Scribner, 2015).
Buchmann is a frequent guest on many public media venues including NPR’s All Things Considered, and Science Friday. Reviews of his books have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time and Discover magazines and other national publications. He is an engaging public speaker on topics of flowers, pollinators, and the natural world. His many awards include the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, and an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.
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Read chapter 1 below or download it here.