[BELL TOLLING] SPEAKER: This is a production of Cornell University
MARTY: In his newest book, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior Thomas Seeley presents insights offered by years of close observation of how honeybees find new homes. For the honeybee, finding and moving into a new home is a challenge that takes place each year, and bears life or death consequences for the entire swarm. In language accessible to scientists and layperson alike, Seeley explains the experiments undertaken to understand how honeybees identify and investigate potential sites for a new home, how they communicate information gleaned from these explorations, and then come to a successful group decision on which site will work best.
THOMAS SEELEY: Thank you Marty for that very kind and lovingly detailed introduction. I really appreciate that. I also really much appreciate being here. I feel very much at home.
As Marty said, I started poking around in here back in the mid-'60s. My father was professor at Cornell here, over in the plant science building. So I'd come in with him. And it was just a short walk from his office, through the hallway, into Mann Library.
And one of the special treats back in those days was to go up to the ninth level of the stacks, which is where the Phillips bee collection is. And it was just like heaven on Earth to poke around. All of the books ever published were there, all of the journals. It was just amazing. And it still is.
And, yes, my wife and I sort of sloshed around in various universities. And then we washed up back here at Cornell. And it would take several sticks of dynamite to get me out of this place. So I'm very grateful to be invited here, to give this talk and to share some of the work that I've done, most of it based here at Cornell, either in Ithaca or, as you'll see, out at the Shoals Marine Laboratory, off the coast of Maine.
So what I want to share with you today is just give you a kind of a flavor for the story that's told in this book, Honeybee Democracy. And let's dive right in. You might wonder well, what is honeybee and democracy? What do they have together? Why put those together?
Well, we all know that democracy is a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them, directly or indirectly, through representatives. The key thing is the power is invested in the people.
And, OK, what about in honeybees? Well, we know there is a queen bee. Well, a queen honeybee is not a ruler. She's quite misnamed. She should be called the royal egg layer, not a royal decider. And the power in a honeybee colony really is vested in the workers, the decisions they make about when to build more combs, where to dispatch the foragers, where they're going to build their new homes, and things like that. That's all done by the workers.
The queen is oblivious to all of that. She knows nothing about the colonies, the colony's needs, or the opportunities out in the environment, or, as we'll see, anything about potential home sites. So that's what I mean when I say, honeybee democracy.
And this book I've written about is, it's about how honeybees exercise or democratically choose a new home. What we're going to be looking at is the process of democracy or home choosing that occurs at this stage of the bees' life cycle. This is what's called a swarm of bees. It's a reproductive unit of a colony.
In the late spring and early summer, usually, when colonies get strong, the old queen, the mother queen, leaves with about 2/3 of the workers. They set out. They zoom out of their hive in a blast, in about 10 minutes.
They fly out. They don't fly very far. And they form this beard-like, sort of soccer ball-sized cluster, which hangs from a tree branch. And there are about 10,000 workers in that, along with the queen.
And, as you can see, they're homeless. Bees live in cavities, hollow trees or hives. These bees are homeless.
Now, what happens is, of these 10,000 worker bees, a search committee, it's a good-size search committee, but it's a search committee of self-appointed scout bees, forms. And these scouts are the oldest bees, the ones with the greatest experience going around the countryside and finding their way back to the hive. Or, in this case, they're going to be going out across the countryside, coming back to this swarm cluster. They are going to function as the scouts. They're going to be making this decision. But this decision will be spread among hundreds of bees.
So the whole process starts when the scouts fly off and search for potential home sites. And they will go scouting far and wide. They will go out for miles around where the swarm is clustered. And they will be searching.
They're searching for this kind of thing. They're searching for a tree that has a cavity in it. This is a sugar maple that was up in Caroline, in the hills of Caroline. And bees were living where that red arrow points, into a knothole inside that tree.
And I, for the sake of science, cut down this tree and dissected out the nest. And you can see it over here. It was a large cavity that those bees were occupying.
I won't go through the details. But we've learned what constitutes a dream home for honeybees. It's something that has a large cavity, 40 liters, 10 gallons, thereabouts, large enough to hold the honey that a colony needs to survive winter. Honeybee colonies get through the winter by producing heat. They burn honey to make that heat. They need about 50 pounds of honey to get through winter. So 50 of those sort of squeeze bears that you see in the grocery store.
It takes a lot of space to hold all that honey. So they need a big cavity. And they need it, of course, in a tree that's not going to fall over. So this has to be a very special tree. One that's got a big hole in it, but yet still is sturdy.
And they also need that the entrance, the opening to this nest, is high off the ground so that bears, and mice, and other problems, creatures, won't easily find their home. And also, that it has a small entrance, a small front door. So that in the winter, cold winds aren't blowing through the nest.
So you can see that these scout bees, looking for this kind of home site, have quite a challenge. And it's hard for them to find this. That's probably why they send out several hundred bees searching. Because of those several hundred, only about 10 or 20 bees actually find a potential home site, something that's good enough for further consideration.
And when a bee does find a site like this, she will then spend about 30 minutes checking it out. She will make a private evaluation. Because, remember, it's one bee that's found this, to begin with. She'll make a private evaluation of the site. And she'll measure things like the volume of the cavity, the size of the entrance, the height of the entrance off the ground.
And you might wonder how does a little bee measure the volume of such an irregular shape and such a large thing as a 40-liter cavity? Well, she makes about several dozen visits inside the cavity, going inside the entrance. At first, going in just a little bit, then coming back, and going in again.
She feels her way around inside there and in ways that aren't entirely clear to us. But we do know it involves a pacing process. She adds that up into a sense of the size of the cavity. We don't know how she measures the entrance size and so forth.
Once she's made her evaluation, she integrates those inputs and comes up with a sense of the overall goodness of the site. It's like she has a scale of 1 to 10 and can rank that site on that accordingly.
Then she comes back to the swarm and makes a public-- now, it's a public report of what she has found. And she's going to share with the other scouts. Because most of the scouts were not successful in finding something. Other scout bees that were not successful will be very interested in her news, her discovery. She's going to report to them the direction of her find; the distance to the find, hence the location. And she's also going to provide them with information about the quality of what she's found.
Now, how do we know that a bee can do all of that? I mean that's pretty amazing, location and quality. Well, it goes back to work by this gentleman here, Karl von Frisch, and, at the time, a post-doc of his, Martin Lindauer.
Karl von Frisch is an Austrian zoologist who deciphered how the waggle dance of the honeybee works. And I'll explain that briefly in a moment. Martin Lindauer was a post-doc of his. And it was Lindauer who worked out that bees use this waggle dance, not only in the context of foraging, but also in the context of house hunting.
And what happened? Well, just to quickly review what von Frisch worked out-- and it's an amazing discovery. It's an amazing phenomenon. And he received the Nobel Prize in 1973 for deciphering it. Basically, it's when the bee does this waggle dance, she walks-- this is what von Frisch worked out-- the bee is walking across a vertical comb inside a hive. She's waggling her body as she walks forward. And I'll show you a movie of this momentarily.
The angle of that waggle indicates the direction to the location outside the nest. So that bee is doing 40 degrees to the right of straight up. That indicates a site, a patch of flowers, 40 degrees to the right of the direction of the Sun. So that's how the direction is indicated by the angle of the waggle run.
And then the bee can adjust how long each of those waggle runs lasts. And that will indicate the distance. The longer each waggle run, the greater the distance.
So Lindauer, Martin Lindauer, knew of this. This had just been discovered. It was very much in the air. And he was right in the lab, of course, too. So Lindauer knew all about this.
And he came out of Zoological Institute in Munich one day. And he saw a swarm of bees, just like we saw there. And Lindauer noticed that there were bees doing these waggle dances on the surface of the swarm. Let's take a look at them.
THOMAS SEELEY: Here's one. Here's a scout bee doing a dance. You can see she's dancing on the back of her sisters, on the swarm. You can see that she's pretty consistent in the angle that she aims her body as she does that waggling. And you can see she's also quite consistent in how long each of those waggles lasts. It lasts about 8/10 of a second. And you can see other scout bees very interested in her maneuvers because they want to get the information from her.
So that's what Lindauer saw. And he told me later on, many years later, he said, when I first saw it, I just thought those bees were advertising food sources because that's what Karl von Frisch had worked out. They use it to advertise rich patches of flowers.
But Lindauer was a very good observer and a very patient man. So he kept looking closely at this. And he noticed that there were a couple of things odd about these dancers on the swarm. One was that they never unloaded any food. They didn't regurgitate any nectar to other bees. And they didn't have any pollen on their hind legs. So they weren't bringing back any food.
And he also noticed that some of these scout bees were actually kind of dirty. They were red with brick dust or black with soot. He was making these observations in Munich, right after World War II. And Munich was heavily bombed, a big industrial city, heavily bombed from bombers coming up from Italy.
Much of the city was still rubble. So he realized that his bees, his little scout bees, were going out into the city, into the rubble, finding cavities in collapsed walls or up in attics of places, or in chimneys. And hence, that one bee had soot on her.
And this suggested to him that, OK, these bees, that are dancing, certainly are not going to flowers. They're probably using the dance to indicate nest sites. And he realized, I know how to read these dances. I'm going to listen in on what these bees are indicating with their dances. I'm going to make notes of the angles and the durations of the dancers. I'm going to see what I can learn from watching this.
And when he did that, he learned a couple of very interesting things. One is that he saw that initially, right after a swarm settled, the scout bees are performing dances for all sorts of different sites around in the city. But then, a few hours later or the next day or so, just before the swarm flies away, all of the bees that are dancing on the swarm are indicating the same location.
And then he was able to determine that the swarm flies to the dance consensus site. You might wonder how did he do that? Well, here's a map of Munich, where he did his work. The Zoological Institute is near the main train station. And all of his swarms were here, at the Zoological Institute.
When a swarm took off, because the city was still in rubble, there weren't very many walls, he could run anywheres in that city. When the swarm lifted off, they expand to a cloud about the size of maybe a sixth of this room. And they actually fly pretty slowly, only about five miles an hour. And they don't fly very high. The bottom of the cloud of the bees is just above head height.
He could run along beneath the bees to the location that they were moving into. So, for example, one swarm took off here and it moved to the north, about five blocks to the north. He was able to run the whole way and see that, oh, yeah, they actually moved into a wall at the same distance, in the same direction, as they were all dancing for, right before they lifted off.
So he can conclude that the dancers on this swarm are indicating possible homes. And, perhaps even more importantly-- that was his biggest discovery. But the one I really like was his insight that bees have a democratic method of choosing a home. He saw no sign of a leader or anything. He just saw this debate among the scout bees, this democratic debate.
But he wasn't really able to work out how democracy works in a bee swarm, how they work together to get this collective intelligence. Think about what the tools he had at the time. The German economy was still in the shambles, in shambles.
He had a notebook. He had a pencil. He had a stopwatch, not sure where he got that. He got a stopwatch so he could time the dances.
He had his own watch. So he could record the time of day with seeing each dance. And so he could relate that back to the Sun's position. And that was about it. Oh, he had a paint set. So he could put dots of paint on the bees.
Now, that's pretty basic. And he told me it was very hard to do the work that he did. And I admire him greatly for that, just working out as far as he got.
But he said to me later, it was the most beautiful experience of his life to realize that the bees had this kind of democratic debate. But he wasn't able to take it further. And so the story sat quietly, really until about the mid-'90s, when I came back to it and looked at it and was able to bring to it modern techniques of video recording and so forth.
The starting point for my investigation was to do a detailed eavesdropping on the scout bees debate on a swarm. Really to pick up where Lindauer left off, but being able to look more closely, and precisely, and completely.
So we make a swarm. You can induce swarms by depriving bees of their hive and rendering them homeless. And when you do that, you can label each bee with a little license plate-like tag and paint marks. And if you get enough Cornell undergraduates to help you, you can get swarms of 4,000 bees labeled up in a day or two. I tell the students, it's thoughtful work. It gives you a lot of time to think while doing that.
And you can mount the bees. The workers will cluster where you put your queen, in a little cage. And wherever you put that little cage with the queen, the workers will cluster around it. So you can have the bees then form a cluster right on a nice mount for video recording and video record everything very precisely.
And then you can record every dance, which bee did each dance. You can have a complete record of their debate. And I want to walk you through an example of one of these debates. This one unfolded over 16 hours, which is typical, 16 hours of dancing by the bees.
And during this debate, they considered 11 different sites. And there were 149 scout bees involved in this democracy. So it's a little bit like the size of a New England town meeting, between 100 and 200 individuals.
So what happened during this debate? Well, the debate started in midday, on the 20th of July. And it ended midday, on the 22nd of July. What happened in between?
Well, each of these panels indicates a record of dancing during a two-hour time period. So within each of those panels, you'll see a set of arrows. Each arrow corresponds to a prospective or candidate home site.
The direction of the arrow indicates the compass direction. So that pink arrow, pointing right, indicates a site that was found to the east. There's a scale of distance. That site is a little more than two kilometers, a mile and a half away. And the width of the arrow indicates how many bees during that two-hour time period advocated that site, performed a dance for that site.
So you can see during the first two-hour time period they were one, two, there's six different sites advertised, different directions, different distances, different levels of interest. During the second two-hour time period, the same general pattern, lots of different things are advertised. Again, just a variety of sites are advertised. No one site clearly stands out in terms of popularity.
The third two-hour time period, well, it looks like this site to the south and this one to the southwest are gaining in popularity. And by the end of the first day, those two sites, somehow they're getting ahead in the debate.
The next morning, things pick up where they left off. These two sites are pretty evenly advertised by the scout bees. And little by little, the interest gets stronger for the southwest site than the south site. And by the end of the morning, they were almost in agreement. But then, it started raining. The whole thing shut down. And it stayed quiet the rest of the afternoon.
Then the next morning, it started up. There was good weather. And you could see every bee that danced, danced for that southwest site. And at the end of the morning, they took off and went there.
So the overall pattern of one of these debates is, a lot of options are put on the table. And then, finally, they come to an agreement for one of them. And it's not just any one site that ends up the winner. It's the best site.
How do I know that? Well, I know that from some experiments we've done out on Appledore Island, the Shoals Marine Lab. This is a lovely feature of Cornell. It's Cornell's premier field station. And I think it's probably the best field opportunity that Cornell has for biology concentrators or anybody interested in biology.
It's six miles out, off the southern coast of Maine. It's about a hundred acres. So it's about the size of the Cornell campus, the main campus. And it has no trees. And it has no bees.
It's a natural laboratory for this kind of work because I could take a swarm of bees out to the island. I could put nest boxes out. And I could give the bees a problem and ask them how well can you choose among a set of nest boxes?
So the way it works is it's a best of five choice test. I'm going to put out five nest boxes. One of them is going to be great. It's going to be excellent. It's going to be a dream hall. It's going to have 40 liters of space.
The other four are going to be OK, acceptable to the bees. But they will only have 15 liters of space. You just change where an inner wall is located.
You put a swarm in the center of the island. You put out the nest boxes in an array. And the bees should find the boxes and choose among them. And you can see how well they do.
So we do this, set up the nest boxes. Sorry, it's so dark. But there's a nest box in that little hut there. And I'm sitting there, waiting for the scout bees to arrive.
But no scout bees arrived, at least not at first. And I'm wondering where are my bees? First of all, I'm wondering was there some problem with the scouting? I didn't set stuff up right or what?
So I go back to the swarm. And, in fact, the scout bees are dancing to beat the band on the swarm. And I quickly read the direction, the location indicated by the scout bees. It's clearly not pointing to my experimental array. It's pointing over to this little house over here.
Now, at this point, I have to say my heart sunk. Because when I came to the island, the director at the time, Jack Kingsbury, told me-- some of you will know Jack-- told me, you can work anywhere on the island you want except for here.
What's over there? Rodney Sullivan, he's a lobster fisherman, and his house. And my bees had discovered his chimney and thought it was the best place on the island or they thought it was a great place to live. And there were hundreds of bees going down his chimney.
So I told Jack, Jack, what am I going to do? You told me not to go there. He says, well, we have to go there. But we can't go by land. Rodney will think we're sneaking up behind him.
And Rodney kept a shotgun, a loaded shotgun, behind his door. He didn't like folks poking around his place. So we went by boat, called up to him, and asked if we could come up?
And he said, yeah, come on up. I got a problem. I got bees. And so he was happy to see us. And we were happy to be welcomed.
And the solution quickly formed. He thought the bees were blown out in a storm. I didn't clarify that for him. But I did offer to help solve the problem. It was simply a matter of him building a little fire in his wood stove.
And while he smoked out the bees, I climbed up on his roof with some screen and, of course, duct tape and sealed off his chimney. So the bees couldn't get back in.
And once that was done-- I have to say, Rodney and I became good friends, a friendship lubricated by annual jars of honey, brought to the island. But anyhow, the bees then started paying attention to the nest boxes.
And I won't go through it in detail. But basically, if you give them this test, nine times out of 10 they make the right choice. And the only time they blow it is if one of the mediocre sites is found way in advance and they find the excellent site towards the end of the process, too late for it to get a fair hearing.
So the bees are good at making these choices. Their agreement almost always settles on the best site. So then the question is, how do they make these good democratic choices? What's actually going on?
Well, there's really two questions we have to address. One is the pattern we saw here was that the bees' interest grew and grew for the best site. It went from 13%, when it was initially announced, to 33%, to 62% of the bees were advertising it, to finally 100%. So how did that happen?
And the second question is, and this is perhaps even more puzzling, somehow the interest in all of these other sites faded away. I think we all know that in committee meetings, maybe the hard part isn't finding the best option or the best possibility. It's getting the holdouts to give up on their cherished ideas and join in with the wisdom of the rest.
But with the bees, clearly the interest faded for the poorer site. How did they do this? What's going on there? Well, I'll quickly take you through how that works.
The debate, you can think of it much like a political election. You've got different candidates. There are different potential home sites. So it be like candidate A and candidate B, for example.
You've got supporters for each candidate, the scouts for site A and the scouts for site B. You have also a pool of uncommitted voters. And the supporters for each candidate produce advertisements, ads, to recruit individuals from this pool of uncommitted voters over to being supporters for their site or their candidate, or the other candidate.
So it's a popularity contest. And so in order for the best site to win, somehow these bees that are supporting the best site have to be most effective in getting the uncommitted bees to go to their site. And as you might imagine, it has to do with advertising. Fortunately, it's positive advertising, not negative advertising. And so what's going on here?
Well, we know that the bees do waggle dances. That's how they advertise the site. And it turns out the bees do honestly advertise their site. If it's a good site, it will be a strong advertisement. If it's only a mediocre, it's a weaker advertisement.
So we can put on the island, a swarm, two boxes, one excellent, one poor. And here's where we discovered how the bees indicate the quality of the site. They indicate the quality by adjusting the number of these circuits of the dances that they do. Each dance circuit has a waggling portion and then a return, and then another waggle, and so forth.
A bee can do hundreds of these dance circuits, or just a few. And the bees coming back from a dream home, the 40-liter one, they do hundreds of the circuits. They're on average, about 90. Bees coming back from the fixer-upper, on average only do about 30 dance circuits.
So it's true. The higher a bee judges the site's quality, the longer she dances. And you can imagine that if you're doing 300 dance circuits, which takes about 10 minutes, you're going to attract more followers, more recruits, than if you're only doing 30 dance circuits, which might take one minute. So that's how they bias honestly in favor of the best site.
So the best site becomes the most popular site through this honest, accurate advertising. If you had two sites, and this one is the better site, and, for example, just for simplicity, each one's discovered at the same time-- of course, each is discovered by just one bee. If you came back three hours later, because that site over here is getting advertised three times more strongly, there will be three times as many bees now advertising that site.
And you'll notice my political correctness with this slide. The bees indicated by blue are dancing to the right, the bees indicating by red are going to the left. I tried to be neutral.
And I'll just quickly go through how the bees interest fades for the poorer site. That's the other trick that they have.
And, in principle, there's two ways within any group for dissent to expire. One is for individuals to compare the options. Listen in, and convert if they hear a better option. And that's generally how we do it. And that makes a lot of sense for us.
The other possibility is what I like to call retire and rest. You can have just individuals vote for a while in favor of one option or the other. And then actually, after a while, go quiet. And that's how science works, in fact. A lot of people have noticed that.
Max Planck put it most nicely I think, where he wrote, a new scientific truth doesn't triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light. But rather because its opponents eventually die. And a new generation grows up that's familiar with the better idea. And I think that's really true. And it turns out that's how it works with the bees as well.
Does a scout compare and convert or does she retire and rest? In other words, does she stop dancing for one site only after she's learned of a second better site? I'll go through the details. But the bald answer is no. Each scout simply, gradually stops dancing for her site even before she's learned of a second, better site. So they use a retire and rest process.
Well, just to pull some of these threads together and actually leave you with maybe some practical, useful take-home lessons. I want to tell you what I've learned about the right organization is of the democratic group, so that it makes good decisions. And I'm going to share these with you.
And these aren't ideas that I've just come up with, sort of in theory. I've used them in practice I served for several years as the chairman of my department, the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. And I had been there for 20 years. And I had watched faculty meetings for years and years. And I realized that sometimes the decision-making wasn't all that it could be.
So I started applying some of the things that I saw the bees were doing to faculty meetings. And I boiled it down to five, what I call swarm smarts or five habits of highly effective hives, taking off of that famous book, what is it, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. And this is the last chapter in my book, in fact.
And it's interesting. These ideas, they may sound a little quirky. But the business community is really interested in these things.
Just today, there's a nice blog I wrote with the editor at the Harvard Business Review. He heard me talk about this. And he said, oh, yeah, this is really good stuff. So I think it's not just in academic departments. There's other situations where you have a group of individuals that are working together trying to solve a problem collectively.
So what are these swarm smarts? One is you start out a meeting. You're reminding individuals that they have shared interests and foster mutual respect. A lot of times, people come into a meeting and think they've got really different views. And they do have different views. But underlying those different views is actually a commonality of purpose.
The group does want to hire the best person or they do want to invest the group's money the best way. And we see that with the bees, that's not a problem. They all cooperate for the common good. But in human groups, it can be helpful to remind individuals that to a large extent their fates are linked. What's good for the group is good for each individual.
The second is minimize the leader's influence on the outcome. This is a really hard one for the business world because people get to the top by making good decisions. But it doesn't always the case that the leader should dominate the discussion by any means.
In fact, as we see, the scout bees have no leader. What works well in a human group is to have the leader as a moderator. Somebody that maybe frames the problem, reminds people of the procedure they're going to look at, how they're going to look at the problem, but doesn't dominate the discussion. To the extent it does, it's really the decision-making just comes down to that one individual. It doesn't take advantage of the group. So minimize the leader's influence on the outcome.
Seek diverse solutions to the problem. As we've seen with the bees, they send out scouts, who search far and wide to find a broad array of home sites. Likewise in a committee meeting, you can go around the table originally and say, OK, let's just get ideas out, options on the table. And that's what we now do in our faculty meetings.
And often it's one of the quieter people, who might not have volunteered easily an idea, that presents what turns out to be the best winning idea. I have one colleague who always does it so nicely. He prefaces his remarks by saying, well, you'll probably think I'm crazy. And probably nobody else will like this idea that I've got. But here it is.
And it's fun to watch. Often, that idea rises up in popularity, to be the ultimate choice.
Last-- not last, fourth is avoid tendency to seek rapid consensus. Do as the bees do and argue it through. We've seen the bees conduct a vigorous debate to identify a winner. And likewise, in a committee, you can say, OK, I think we've got a lot of good options on the table or on the board. Let's kick it around. And that's certainly what the bees do.
And what happens then is it's a competition of ideas. And if it's a fair and open competition, the best ones will win. And how do you get the best one to win? It's a matter of getting-- and this is a little tricky-- balancing interdependence, which is sharing information, and independence, which means evaluating the information privately.
We see that with the scouts. They have a public discussion. Scouts come back and report on what they found. That first scout finds a site. She recruits other bees to that site. Each of those bees evaluates the site. She makes her report.
So they have a public discussion. So the information percolates around in the swarm. But each bee makes a private evaluation of the site. You never see a bee dance for a site just because she's seen another bee dance for the site. She always goes out and checks the site herself and thus makes a private evaluation.
And the key thing there is that that means having this interdependence and independence means that the winning option only wins because it's been judged best time, and time, and time again by many individuals. And the way you do that in a committee is, if need be, you do a secret ballot. You avoid anything that would create a peer pressure situation.
And I'll invoke the Bard as support that we really can learn useful things from the bees. Shakespeare wrote, "For so work the honey-bees, creatures that by a rule of nature teach the act of order to a peopled kingdom."
And I appreciate your interest. I hope this has been fun for you. And I'll be happy-- we should dive in and have some cake. But just informally, I'll be happy to answer any questions. Thank you very much.
SPEAKER: This has been a production of Cornell University, on the web at cornell.edu.
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In his newest book, professor of neurobiology and behavior Thomas Seeley presents insights offered by years of close observation of how honeybees find new homes. For the honeybee, finding and moving into a new home is a challenge that takes place each year and bears life-or-death consequences for the entire swarm.
In language accessible to scientist and layperson alike, Seeley explains the experiments undertaken to understand how bees identify and investigate potential sites for a new home, communicate information gleaned from their explorations, and come to a successful group decision on which site will work best.
Hailed equally as brilliant piece of science at work, a book with practical implications for beekeepers, and a revealing exploration of a remarkable model for collective wisdom and effective decision-making,
Honeybee Democracy provides another dimension to our understanding of the honeybee as humanity's greatest friend among the insects.