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.
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