February 2017

Elizabeth Hill, economist/beekeeper, gave a presentation at the Beekeeping Certification course ( through the College of Agriculture and Sustainability and Environmental Science at UDC) on The Biology of Honeybees and Colonies: Queen, Worker, Drone/Life Stages, Activities. Ms. Hill suggested a must read book, Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas Seeley.

I purchased the book and found the entire read to be extremely interesting as well as the fact that Thomas Seeley is a biology professor at Cornell and a beekeeper in Ithaca – very close to my home town in upstate NY.

Mr. Seeley’s research reveals the amazing discovery – honeybees make decisions collectively and democratically. He describes how bees evaluate potential nest sites, share their discovery with the colony, engage in open deliberation, choose a final site, and navigate together to their new home.

Just as the ‘waggle dance’ instructs the hive where to find a food source, Seeley continued the studies begun by earlier theorist, that the bees also do dance-like movements when looking for a nesting site (usually post swarm). Instead of dancing within the colony to communicate direction of food to the foragers, the bees looking for a nesting spot do a dance on the backs of the bees in a nature formed colony. The process involves decision making much like a group of individuals do when making decisions.

It’s a fascinating read about very remarkable insects.