The best honey bee books

7 authors have picked their favorite books about honey bees and why they recommend each book.

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Bees

By Laurence Packer, Sam Droege,

Book cover of Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World

There is a rich literature on bees, but I can’t think of a better place to start than the wonderful photography and storytelling found in this beautiful book. Arranged geographically, each page contains close-up images of a particular bee spcies from around the world, alongside a brief description. The authors are both top-notch entomologists, so the text is highly accurate and well written. But it’s the photography that really dazzles, showing off the surprising range of shapes, sizes, and colors that make bees more diverse than all the birds and mammals put together. This book can be read straight through with pleasure, but I also enjoy just opening it up at random for a quick bee blast.


Who am I?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

The Queen Must Die

By William Longgood,

Book cover of The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men

There are scores of beekeeping memoirs in print, many of them very engaging. But if I had to choose only one, there is something to be said for this little classic. The biological information is good, but the book rises above the average in the way Longwood conveys it - with charm, wit, and an obvious fondness for his chosen subjects. Paired with a modern how-to manual, this volume could convince just about anyone to try their hand with hive, suit, and smoker.


Who am I?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

The Bees in Your Backyard

By Joseph S. Wilson, Olivia J Messinger Carril,

Book cover of The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees

The only thing better than reading about bees is getting outside and seeing some! This book combines good pictures with descriptions of behavior and habitats that will help identify what you find – if not to species, then at least to the major families and groups. Though focused on North America, many of the same general types of bees can be encountered anywhere: sweat bees, miners, diggers, leafcutters, cuckoo bees, and more. In addition to the identification tips, the book includes a generous introduction to bee biology and behavior, as well as a primer on how to improve the bee habitat in any yard through the addition of flowers, nesting sites, and more.


Who am I?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

Honeybee Democracy

By Thomas D. Seeley,

Book cover of Honeybee Democracy

Social insects live in close communities, often of several thousand individuals. We often imagine the animals as small robots that perform their tasks as if automated. But this is far from the case. Honeybees are models for the study of learning and can also make complex decisions based on previous experience. However, it becomes particularly difficult when all the animals of a hive have to agree. And bees of a swarm have this difficult task ahead of them when they are looking for real estate. They inspect the nesting opportunities in the surroundings and advertise them in the swarm.

But how do these social insects make their collective decisions? About this question goes the book, written by an expert in the field, in an exciting and easy-to-understand manner. It turns out that the animals actually listen to many opinions and vote. Who wants to know more about honeybee democracy, read…


Who am I?

I am a scientist studying the evolution of insect communities for years. I am fascinated by their high degree of cooperation and how these animals make collective decisions. But I also observe social parasitic ants that raid other colonies and make their workers work for them. This tension between altruistic cooperation on the one hand and violence and war, on the other hand, is common to human and insect societies, even if they evolved in completely different ways. I hope that when you read the books I recommend here, you will be as fascinated as I am by these parallel universes and perhaps next time you will see an ant with different eyes. 


I wrote...

Empire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny Conquerors

By Susanne Foitzik, Olaf Fritsche,

Book cover of Empire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny Conquerors

What is my book about?

Ants number in the ten quadrillions, and they have been here since the Jurassic era. Inside an anthill, you’ll find high drama worthy of a royal court; and between colonies, high-stakes geopolitical intrigue is afoot. Just like us, ants grow crops, raise livestock, tend their young and infirm, and make vaccines. And, just like us, ants have a dark side: They wage war, despoil environments, and enslave rivals—but also rebel against their oppressors.

Acclaimed biologist Susanne Foitzik has traveled the globe to study these master architects of Earth. Joined by journalist Olaf Fritsche, Foitzik invites readers deep into her world—in the field and in the lab.

Honeybee

By Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (illustrator),

Book cover of Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

This book became a “wow” moment for me as it celebrates the life of a honey bee. “Can I fly now?” the bee wants to know. With poetic language and exquisite close-up illustrations, the reader has to wait, just like the bee, who has only 35 days to get through many chores before she can fly off for the final flower and honey mission. Who could ever swat a busy bee after reading this amazing life story? Extra information is provided about the special skills and plight of our important pollinators.  


Who am I?

I'm an award-winning, best-selling children’s author who writes about unexpected “wow” moments that stick with me. I look for books and articIes that take me on a deep journey into unknown environments. I aim for nonfiction that reads like a story with an emotional connection to new creatures with fascinating lifestyles. As a writer of dozens of books for children, I always learn much more that can go into each effort. Each book comes into a hazy focus after tons of research. The best “wow” details get woven into an incredible story full of surprise, joy, and admiration for those struggling to survive on our changing plant.  


I wrote...

Into the Sea

By Brenda Z. Guiberson,

Book cover of Into the Sea

What is my book about?

One day I went snorkeling and had a moment with a magnificent sea turtle. “Wow!” Where did she come from? What did she eat? What dangers did she face? I had so many questions and didn’t stop until I had answers. This led to a book about an endangered sea turtle that hatches on a sandy beach and finds ways to survive in the beautiful but dangerous ocean.  

Zinnia and the Bees

By Danielle Davis, Laura K. Horton (illustrator),

Book cover of Zinnia and the Bees

This is a delightfully wacky book with endearing characters. Zinnia is having a bad hair day, literally. A hive of bees takes up residence in the wild and curly mane of her hair to add to her troubles—a missing brother and a mother who doesn’t seem to care. I fell in love with this book on the first page when I learned that Zinnia was about to yarn bomb a statue of her school mascot. (I’m a knitter and have fancied taking up yarn bombing myself.) Quickly-paced chapters alternate between Zinnia as narrator and the bees discussing their own perilous situation. Told with both humor and empathy, this is a book where you can’t turn the pages fast enough in order to find out how things resolve.


Who am I?

I have long been fascinated by bees. I am a retired Middle School teacher (I taught mathematics, science, and creative writing in an inner-city school district) and am a volunteer community scientist with a special interest in pollinators. I love nothing more than being outdoors, meandering through empty lots, local parks, and my own backyard observing bees of all species. As a storyteller, I am fascinated by how honeybees weave through different cultures’ myths and how they are seen as a source of mystical and transformative power. Honeybees ignite my imagination and bring together my love of science and my concern for threats to our shared environment.


I wrote...

The Bee Maker

By Mobi Warren,

Book cover of The Bee Maker

What is my book about?

In 2036, honeybees are nearly extinct. Thirteen-year-old Melissa has never tasted a strawberry because the world's crops are disappearing. Her absence seizures earn her the hated nickname statue girl at school and her mother changes custody arrangements, leaving her with a reluctant father. To cope, Melissa folds origami. She decides to fold a thousand honeybees as a prayer for bees and a way to connect with her father, a honeybee scientist.

Melissa’s seizures and origami magically combine to open a portal to ancient Crete where she encounters a disabled boy who communicates with honeybees. He is blamed for a deadly fever and condemned to die. His sister can ransom his life but only if she wins an impossible race. Can Melissa save both the bees and the boy?

A Book of Bees

By Sue Hubbell, Sam Potthoff (illustrator),

Book cover of A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them

Hubbell has done a great job of capturing what it’s like to be a beekeeper. The book is organized around a calendar that serves as a year in the life of a beekeeper, highlighting what beekeepers do at different times of the year. The book is as much about Hubbell’s life, dealing with loneliness, and how her bees bring her strength through her solitude. She writes beautifully about being out in nature, amongst the sights and sounds of Southwest Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. There are many details about honeybees along with descriptions of the various chores and responsibilities that a beekeeper has to do.  


Who am I?

I am the author of Bee People and the Bugs They Love, an adjunct instructor at the Cornell University Master Beekeeping Program, a master beekeeper, former vice president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and I have written multiple articles featured in the widely circulated Bee Culture Magazine. As president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers—a position that I held for over a decade—I founded the “Honey Cup," an annual honey tasting competition. I have promoted beekeeping throughout the Northeast by speaking to everyone from school children to gardening clubs and civic organizations, and have led beekeeping seminars across the Northeast and at The New York Botanical Garden.


I wrote...

Bee People and the Bugs They Love

By Frank Mortimer,

Book cover of Bee People and the Bugs They Love

What is my book about?

Who wants to keep bees? And why? For the answers, Master Beekeeper Frank Mortimer invites readers on an eye-opening journey into the secret world of bees, and the singular world of his fellow beekeepers. Buzzing along from hobbyist to expert, Mortimer – aka “Frank the Bee Man” – delivers an informative, funny, and galvanizing book about the symbiotic relationship between bees and the beekeepers who are determined to protect the existence of one of the most beguiling and invaluable creatures on earth.

With a swarm of offbeat characters and un-bee-lievable facts, (did that bee just waggle or festoon?), Frank the Bee Man takes his obsession to the next level, as he is indoctrinated into the millennia-old craft of beekeeping.

The Lives of Bees

By Thomas D. Seeley,

Book cover of The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild

Dr. Seeley is one of the world’s top honey bee researchers, and he provides the reader with a lifetime of his experimental research and personal insights into honey bees. Dr. Seeley has made a significant number of honey bee discoveries, and in The Lives of Bees he swarms into honey bee nests, reproduction, food collection, temperature control, how bees communicate, and much more. There’s also plenty of useful information that beekeepers can apply to their own bees. From observing feral colonies living in the Arnot Forest, Dr. Seeley discusses how we might want to step back and look to wild bees for guidance.


Who am I?

I am the author of Bee People and the Bugs They Love, an adjunct instructor at the Cornell University Master Beekeeping Program, a master beekeeper, former vice president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and I have written multiple articles featured in the widely circulated Bee Culture Magazine. As president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers—a position that I held for over a decade—I founded the “Honey Cup," an annual honey tasting competition. I have promoted beekeeping throughout the Northeast by speaking to everyone from school children to gardening clubs and civic organizations, and have led beekeeping seminars across the Northeast and at The New York Botanical Garden.


I wrote...

Bee People and the Bugs They Love

By Frank Mortimer,

Book cover of Bee People and the Bugs They Love

What is my book about?

Who wants to keep bees? And why? For the answers, Master Beekeeper Frank Mortimer invites readers on an eye-opening journey into the secret world of bees, and the singular world of his fellow beekeepers. Buzzing along from hobbyist to expert, Mortimer – aka “Frank the Bee Man” – delivers an informative, funny, and galvanizing book about the symbiotic relationship between bees and the beekeepers who are determined to protect the existence of one of the most beguiling and invaluable creatures on earth.

With a swarm of offbeat characters and un-bee-lievable facts, (did that bee just waggle or festoon?), Frank the Bee Man takes his obsession to the next level, as he is indoctrinated into the millennia-old craft of beekeeping.

The Backyard Beekeeper

By Kim Flottum,

Book cover of The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden

This book was exactly what I needed to better understand what is involved in starting a beehive in an urban setting. Flottum starts his readers with the bare-bones basics and builds from there. He also goes into what he calls “Extreme Urban Beekeeping” with tips on considerations for those of us with close neighbors. I have not started beekeeping yet, but Flottum has inspired me to add it to my list of future endeavors. 


Who am I?

For me, backyard composting is more than just a way to lessen how much waste I send to the landfill. When you compost you transform items that many people consider garbage into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. You are creating something with real value that can help plants thrive and act as a carbon sink to help reduce negative impacts of climate change. Composting is so easy and rewarding that I really want to see everyone give it a try.


I wrote...

No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

By Michelle Balz,

Book cover of No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

What is my book about?

In No-Waste Composting, you’ll discover the hows and whys of composting and find over a dozen practical step-by-step plans for building both indoor and outdoor composting systems that require a minimal amount of space. Build a DIY worm-composting system for a cupboard or garage. Craft a layered, composting system from terra cotta pots.  Construct a simple outdoor compost bin from repurposed wooden pallets. Use upcycled wire fencing to build a mobile composting system on the driveway.

Whether you’re just starting your no-waste journey or you’re a seasoned recycling and repurposing pro, No-Waste Composting is an invaluable tool to have at your side. This book is part of the Cool Springs Press No-Waste Gardening series, which also includes No-Waste Kitchen Gardening and No-Waste Organic Gardening.

Buzz

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

Perhaps more than any other group of animals, the 20,000 (or more) known bee species make the case that much of evolution is about the diversification of ways in which species interact with each other species and form coevolutionary alliances. In this book, scientist/naturalist Thor Hanson gives us a whirlwind tour of that diversity, showing us that honeybees are just the tip of the iceberg of the many relationships between bees and plants. As with the other authors on this list, Hanson is a reliable guide with a passion and wonder for whatever he chooses to study and write about, using clear, accessible, and enjoyable prose. 


Who am I?

I am captivated and never cease to be astonished by the seemingly endless variety of ways in which coevolution shapes the millions of species on earth into intricate and ever-changing webs of life. The reasons for my fascination are simple. Most species require other species to survive or reproduce, which means that the evolution of biodiversity is as much about evolution of the links among species as it is about evolution of the species themselves. I find immense joy in following the connections among species within the web of life, trying to understand how coevolution has shaped, and relentlessly reshapes, each link. There are always surprises along the way.


I wrote...

Relentless Evolution

By John N. Thompson,

Book cover of Relentless Evolution

What is my book about?

We often think of evolution as a slow and unobservable process, but we now know that view is wrong. Hundreds of scientific studies have now shown that evolution is relentless and sometimes astonishingly fast. Examples of rapid evolution over the time scale of human lifetimes, and even within decades, have been found in organisms as different as viruses, bacteria, fungi, plants, insects, fish, and birds. At every time scale, some of the relentless evolution is driven by adaptation to changing physical environments, but much of it is due to relationships among species as they coevolve with each other in evolutionary arms races, mutualistic symbioses, and competitive battles. This book explores how and why much of relentless evolution is driven by the coevolving web of life itself. 

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