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Honeybee Democracy (2010)
by Thomas D. Seeley
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Really loved this book. Nicely written, lots of wonderful information about bees but also about how a scientist designs and conducts experiments. The last chapter (about applying honeybee behavior to human social behavior) was a little silly, but that's ok. ( )
A really enjoyable read - great science and fascinating insights. Parallels between swarm and individual cognition are drawn out at the end, together with lessons for human decision making based on how the honeybee swarm aggregates info and chooses the best new home site.
I enjoyed this on two levels. First, it's a great description of the activity of "doing science". it seems that sometimes in our society that science is viewed as a sacred body of True Facts facts rather than as a human activity by which we, little by little, discover more about the universe we inhabit. the author uses an easy, conversational style to describe his questions, what he did to investigate, and what he discovered as a result.
The book is also a fascinating exploration of how a swarm of honey bees find a new home. "Hives" get a bad rap in our society. It suggests a bunch of mindless slaves dominated by a cruel despot. Seeley demonstrates here that the hive is actually a democracy. The queen does not rule or control the hive, but merely lays eggs and is subject to the colony. The honey bee colony chooses its new home from several options discovered by scout bees, who return to the swarm, advertise their find, then let the swarm choose.
There is a lot of food for thought here regarding human communities and how they function (or fail to function).
I could've done without the political digressions.
Life in honeybee colony, thermo-regulation, scout bees, building consensus, swarming, role of queen, colony decision forming, choosing a new home, behaviour and roles of colony members. A large, well-illustrated book by a beekeeper who is professor of biology. Detailed but fascinating description of how the colony organises irself.
Honeybees make decisions collectively--and democratically. Every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing and traveling to a new home, honeybees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building. In fact, as world-renowned animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley reveals, these incredible insects have much to teach us when it comes to collective wisdom and effective decision making. A remarkable and richly illustrated account of scientific discovery, Honeybee Democracy brings together, for the first time, decades of Seeley's pioneering research to tell the amazing story of house hunting and democratic debate among the honeybees. 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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)595.79Natural sciences and mathematics Zoology Arthropoda Insects: Insecta, Hexapoda Hymenoptera: bees, wasps, etc.
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