5 things I learned from Jürgen Tautz’s “Buzz About Bees”

18 Aug

It’s a book that will change your perspective about honeybees.

Though the American title, “Buzz About Bees” seems flippantly trendy, Jürgen Tautz’s book is loaded with data-backed analysis of bee behavior and insight into the latest genetic research. It’ll make you think differently too about the aggregate behavior of another social species, Homo sapiens.

Buzz About Bees: The Biology of a Super Organism

5 Things I Learned

The hardcover book is lushly illustrated and packed with mind-blowing information to fuel a beekeeper’s endless thirst for understanding. Here are just a few of my favorite revelations.

1. Bees don’t form hexagonal comb.

Wax, like glass, is a liquid. Once the bees build comb, they melt it slightly and that’s how it naturally forms hexagons much like adjoining soap bubbles do.

2. Bees turn off color vision on the way back home.

Bees use color vision selectively, turning it off to conserve energy when it’s superfluous. Who needs color on the way home, for example? Though they view objects in color when flying out to forage, they switch to B&W for the rote journey home.

3. Bees can sting each other without dying.

Apparently, it’s mammalian skin that thwarts the honeybee stinger. Honeybees die after stinging a human because their barbed stinger can’t be extracted easily but honeybees can sting each other as well as other insects without such dire consequences.

4. The honeybee waggle dance is NOT about visuals.

It’s about vibration. When honeybees dance, they’re actually sending vibrational communication through the medium of the comb. In fact, the front face of honeycomb is thickened slightly to enhance the network’s transmission capacity.

5. “Mass-orienting” flights are really practice mating flights.

Those gorgeous afternoon displays are not actually bumbling baby bees learning how to fly. Rather, they are apparently an ongoing drill of  the workers that would accompany a virgin queen on her mating flight. Interestingly, these mass-orientations only occur in hives with a queen.

Check it out for yourself: Buzz About Bees: The Biology of a Superorganism


4 Responses to “5 things I learned from Jürgen Tautz’s “Buzz About Bees””

  1. the Luddite August 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    My bee library just expanded by 1 – ordering this one tonight!

  2. Gord August 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    It’s an incredible book, isn’t it? It’s going to be one of those ones that I keep heading back to either to read again, look up something or just to check out the amazing photography.

  3. sinnarko August 19, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    #2 is amazing!

  4. mistress beek August 21, 2010 at 10:37 am #

    Hey cool! My Inbox reveals an email from the good Professor himself in Wuerzburg, Germany. He says hello to everyone and thanks us for reading his book: “I came across your comments on my bee book and I must say that I am happy to read this. Thank you very much.”

    Apparently, they’re working on an online bee studies program that looks promising:


    And ok, I’ll admit it, I totally invited him to hang with New Mexico beeks next time he plans a trip to the American SW. Doesn’t hurt to try 😉

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