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Book Review: Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley

Review by Susan Milius

By
10:15am, February 11, 2011

Some smart aleck is going to pick up Honeybee Democracy, an account of decision making among bees, and snicker that the book should be titled Honeybee Monarchy. After all, everybody knows that a beehive has a queen.

Yes there’s a queen, but Seeley, a Cornell entomologist, writes that one of the biggest misconceptions about how bee colonies work is that queens direct colony doings. Actually she’s not a Royal Decider, as he puts it, but a Royal Ovipositer, laying 1,500 eggs or so on a summer day while leaving the rest of colony affairs to the group. 

Seeley describes a colony as a smoothly functioning group that makes life-or-death decisions rather democratically. Bees’ methods work so well, he says, that evolution has favored some of the same features elsewhere, as in behavior among human brain cells.

To illustrate be

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