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Bee Time

Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive

Mark L. Winston
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Bee Time
    Book Description:

    Being among bees is a full-body experience, Mark Winston writes.Bee Timepresents his reflections on three decades spent studying these remarkable creatures, and on the lessons they can teach about how humans might better interact with one another and the natural world, from the boardroom to urban design to agricultural ecosystems.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-50390-8
    Subjects: Zoology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Prologue. Walking into the Apiary
    (pp. 1-4)

    Walking into an apiary is intellectually challenging and emotionally rich, sensual and riveting.

    Time slows down. Focus increases, awareness heightens, all senses captivated.

    Entering an apiary has its own rhythm and ritual. I slip my pants into my boots, put on my veil, light the smoker to calm the bees, all routine preparations imbued with deeper meaning because they herald the transition from whatever I had been doing into bee mode.

    Lifting my smoker, I am totally in the present but also connected to memories of friends, fellow beekeepers, and innumerable long days in other apiaries when we shared periods...

  4. 1 Beginning with Bees
    (pp. 5-17)

    Bees have been entwined with our history since the appearance of the earliest humans, but bees were here long before us. The first bees evolved from wasps about 125 million years ago, shifting from predators to gatherers of nectar and pollen from flowers.

    These early bees were solitary, nesting in hollow twigs or in soil, and were notable for branched hairs that trapped pollen grains when a bee visited a flower. From these hairs the pollen was (and still is) transferred to other flowers on subsequent visits, thereby pollinating (fertilizing) the plant’s seed.

    Flowers secrete nectar and/or excess pollen as...

  5. 2 Honey
    (pp. 18-39)

    One of the occupational hazards of being a bee expert is that beekeepers often ask me to sample their honey and homemade mead. I have had a lot of pretty good honey but haven’t been so fortunate in the mead department.

    Mead can be pretty tough to quaff, whether store bought or homegrown. It simply is not that easy to produce a superior honey wine. Those of us who are invariably polite tremble when the bottle of home brew is brought up from the basement by our hosts, terrified that we are about to enter the undrinkable zone. The rarity...

  6. 3 Killer Bees
    (pp. 40-56)

    Concern for the supply of our much-loved sweetener honey is one reason the global collapse of honeybee colonies has been in the news for almost a decade, but bees have made news before. The last time they achieved celebrity status, in the 1970s, I had a front-row seat from which I witnessed the introduction and spread of African “killer” bees in the Americas.

    The migrating African honeybees had just moved northward from Brazil into French Guiana, a sparsely populated and remote protectorate of France located on the northeast coast of South America. Massive stinging attacks by these highly aggressive bees...

  7. 4 A Thousand Little Cuts
    (pp. 57-82)

    Honeybees are dying all over the globe, and this dire fact has severe economic implications for beekeeping and crop production, not to mention what a deep tragedy their decline is for the natural world. A picture of why bees are in trouble has been slowly coalescing from behind the fog of hypotheses about the reason for the bees’ demise, with scientists now concluding that the decline is not due to any one factor but rather many interacting causes.

    Perhaps most interesting has been the realization that pesticide and diseases, any one not fatal on its own, may be killing bees...

  8. 5 Valuing Nature
    (pp. 83-110)

    Extending thousands of miles from Labrador in the east to Alaska in the west, Canada’s northernmost boreal forest is among the most spectacular ecosystems on Earth. It is the largest intact forest on our planet, rich in black spruce, white birch, balsam fir, jack pine, and trembling aspen, home to woodland caribou, moose, beaver, and lake trout. Interspersed with the forest are extensive wetlands that in summer house a good portion of the world’s migratory birds.

    This region of long winters and short, mild summers is also rich in minerals, oil, gas, lumber, and hydroelectric power. Extraction of these forest...

  9. 6 Bees in the City
    (pp. 111-132)

    It was tobacco that brought Alice and Désirée to my bee research laboratory in 1999 for advice on their eleventh-grade science project, “Nicotiana tabacum:Not Only Smoke!” for the Vancouver Regional Science Fair.

    Alice and Désirée were from Milan, Italy, and their families were tight enough that when Alice’s family immigrated to Canada, Désirée’s soon followed. Although the girls had quite different personalities, they seemed closer than sisters and were most definitely a team. Alice was high energy, talkative, and bursting with plans and enthusiasm. Désirée was quiet, verging on shy, and contributed a steadiness and an organizational capacity that...

  10. 7 There’s Something Bigger than Phil
    (pp. 133-153)

    There’s a comedy routine from 1961, “The 2000 Year Old Man,” in which Carl Reiner interviews a two-thousand-year-old Mel Brooks. At one point Reiner asks Brooks how humans discovered God. Brooks replies in his best old-man accent: “Well, even before the All Mighty, we believed in a superior being. His name was Phil. Out of respect we called him Philip. Philip was big and strong; nobody was as powerful as Phil. If he wanted, he could kill you. As a result, we revered him and prayed to him: ‘Oooh, Philip, please don’t hurt us! Philip, please don’t pinch us!’ But...

  11. 8 Art and Culture
    (pp. 154-173)

    A wedding dress, hockey skates, and ceramic figurines don’t usually pop up in the same sentence, let alone in a book about bees. Yet these and other items have been connected to each other and to honeybees through the remarkable work of Canadian artist Aganetha Dyck, who places everyday objects into hives and encourages bees to build comb around them.

    Dyck’s work didn’t start out that way. She is from the prairie province of Saskatchewan. In 1975, when she was thirty-eight and a homemaker with three young children, she found that she had a growing need to get out of...

  12. 9 Being Social
    (pp. 174-198)

    What is most remarkable about a glimpse into a bee colony is not how busy they are but how busy they are not. Geoffrey Chaucer in theCanterbury Talesfirst used the phrase “busy as a bee” in the late 1300s, but it’s misleading. Worker honeybees are active on occasion, almost frenetically so, but they routinely spend more of their lives resting than working.

    We know this because dozens of scientists, of whom I was one, glued colored and numbered labels onto the backs of tens of thousands of bees in order to identify them individually. Then these marked bees...

  13. 10 Conversing
    (pp. 199-220)

    A snapshot of any moment in a honeybee colony will reveal some bees resting and others working, but one other activity stands out: discussing. Bees aren’t communicating in any verbal way that’s familiar to us; nevertheless, they are deeply engaged with each other, passing along information about the world outside and conditions within the colony.

    They’re essentially carrying on a nonstop, colony-wide conversation similar to human interactions, with some of the exchanges quick and superficial while others are lengthy and profound. A quick glimpse of bee banter reveals a rapid flurry of body parts touching and whole bodies vibrating, but...

  14. 11 Lessons from the Hive
    (pp. 221-238)

    Bees can be the richest of guides to the most personal understandings about who we are and the consequences of the choices we make in inhabiting the environment around us. Conversations with beekeepers about how they are affected by their time in the bee yard show a remarkable consistency. Words like “calming,” “peaceful,” and “meditative” come up over and over again, and beekeepers visibly relax when talking about their bees.

    Beekeepers exhibit an emotive connection with their bees, a passion, a deep and abiding friendship, a layering of human emotion onto a species that, unlike household pets, is unlikely to...

  15. Epilogue. Walking out of the Apiary
    (pp. 239-244)

    I began walking out of the apiary in 2002, for reasons most human: it was time for a change.

    My exit from bees was slow. I wound my research laboratory down and graduated the last of my students over the next four years, closing the lab doors officially in 2006. I had moved laterally within Simon Fraser University (SFU) to establish and direct the new Centre for Dialogue. The demands of that position simply left no time to adequately supervise my students, apply for funding, conduct research, or attend scientific conferences and beekeeping meetings.

    I entered into this transition willingly,...

  16. References
    (pp. 247-262)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 263-266)
  18. Index
    (pp. 267-283)