Seven good books on honey bee biology
After my last post, I received inquiries about good honey bee biology books. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found what I consider the perfect book on bee biology, although some are quite helpful. Below is a list of seven books I often refer to when I have a biology question.
Bees, Biology & Management
Bees, Biology & Management by Peter G. Kevan (2007) is packed with information. According to the preface, the book developed from lecture notes the author used while teaching apiculture at the Ontario Agricultural College. It includes anatomy, physiology, behavior, diversity, and ecology of the honey bee among other things. The drawings are instructive and there are some decent black and white photographs.
However, the book would be a lot more useful if it had an index. I don’t know how many times I’ve pulled this book off the shelf and turned to the back before remembering the index doesn’t exist. It does have a table of contents that contains chapter names, but sometimes that’s not quite enough, so bear that in mind. I bought my copy through the publisher, Enviroquest Ltd in Ontario, but it may be available elsewhere.
Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping
Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping by Caron & Conner (2013) is a university-level textbook written for a course on bees and beekeeping at the University of Delaware. Roughly the first half is about biology, and the rest is beekeeping. The book is loaded with color photos and illustrations, and the text is easy to read.
I like this book to get me started on a topic, but I find I often have to go elsewhere for more detail. Nevertheless, for someone new to bee biology, it will give you a good solid grounding. The book has an extensive table of contents, index, and glossary. It is available from Wicwas Press.
The Hive and the Honey Bee
The Hive and the Honey Bee edited by Joe M. Graham (2015) is a monster of a book with extensive sections on bee biology and behavior. I recently read this book word-for-word, cover-to-cover (all 1057 pages) and I can say with authority that it contains heaps of information. It has excellent photos and illustrations, but it’s printed on a type of high-clay paper that would be superb for weight training or preventing your hive covers from blowing away.
The downside, other than the weight, is that each chapter is written by different people. In one sense, this is probably a good thing because each author writes about his or her specialty. The problem I found was a huge discrepancy in writing styles. Some chapters are enjoyable to read and some are as heavy as the book. Then, too, some information is repeated by different authors when their subjects overlap. Still, it contains so much information that I can overlook some of its quirks. The book is available from Dadant.
The Biology of the Honey Bee
The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark Winston (1987) is written in an academic style that may be off-putting to a beginner. Still, it is excellent source of biological information and may be especially helpful for those who already have a good feel for bees and beekeeping. The book contains an extensive reference section, an author index, and a subject index for those you want to follow through with more reading. I don’t recommend this for your first bee biology book, but it is a great resource for those wanting an in-depth understanding of how bees work.
The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism
The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism by Jurgen Tautz (2008) is one of my all-time favorite bee books. It doesn’t go deeply into things like morphology or genetics, but it explains how the bee colony works as a whole, how chores are accomplished, how bees interact with their environment, and how they see and communicate. The photos are outstanding and plentiful. If you aren’t entranced by bees before you start this book, you will be afterwards. Although the book is an overview more than an in-depth study of biology, I give it high marks. It’s thoroughly enjoyable.
Honey-Maker: How the Honey Bee Worker Does What She Does
Honey-Maker: How the Honey Bee Worker Does What She Does by Rosanna Mattingly (2012) is in a class by itself. It is definitely a biology book, but as the title suggests this book is about worker bees almost exclusively. The author goes from the head to thorax to abdomen and describes each part and its function in incredible detail. Even in my master beekeeping class, whenever I ran into something I didn’t understand, I found myself going to this book for clarification. Things like wing motion and mouth parts are exquisitely explained.
Although the photos are all black and white, they are well chosen to illustrate each point in the text. This book was a turning point in my bee knowledge. Many times while I was reading it, I felt like saying, “Why didn’t anybody tell me this before?” The book is available from Beargrass Press.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook
Finally, I want to include The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Sammataro and Avitabile (2011). Although it is primarily a how-to-keep-bees book, the sections on bee biology are well-written, accurate, and instructive. If you want a good combination beekeeping and bee biology book, this one is always a solid choice. It’s one of those books I often refer to, especially when answering questions from other beekeepers.
I hope this list helps. If anyone else has a favorite bee biology book, please let us know.
Honey Bee Suite