16 books directly related to honey bees 📚

All 16 honey bee books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

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

By Laurence Packer, Sam Droege,

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

Why this book?

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.

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

By William Longgood,

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

Why this book?

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.

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

By Joseph S. Wilson, Olivia J Messinger Carril,

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

Why this book?

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.

Honeybee Democracy

By Thomas D. Seeley,

Book cover of Honeybee Democracy

Why this book?

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 the book!

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

By Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (illustrator),

Book cover of Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Why this book?

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.  

Zinnia and the Bees

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

Book cover of Zinnia and the Bees

Why this book?

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.

A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them

By Sue Hubbell, Sam Potthoff (illustrator),

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

Why this book?

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.  

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

By Thomas D. Seeley,

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

Why this book?

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.

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

By Kim Flottum,

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

Why this book?

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. 

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

Why this book?

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. 

The Honeybee

By Kirsten Hall, Isabelle Arsenault (illustrator),

Book cover of The Honeybee

Why this book?

I have found no other picture book as fun to read, access, and as beautifully illustrated as The Honeybee. The book takes us through the seasons and highlights the life and responsibilities of a black and yellow striped, smiling, buzzing, zooming, dancing honeybees. The rhythmic pattern of text and well-crafted vocabulary is delightful to read aloud, yet simple enough for little ones to follow along. The illustrations are exquisite with pops of neon yellow ink scattered throughout the book, calling attention to the pollen being collected and then turn into honey. This book is a wonderful celebration of the extraordinary honeybees!

Bees: Their Vision, Chemical Senses, and Language

By Karl Von Frisch,

Book cover of Bees: Their Vision, Chemical Senses, and Language

Why this book?

I received this book from my father as a Christmas present at age 16, in 1956. The author is a Professor of Zoology who made one of the most stunning discoveries of biology of the last century: honeybees communicate direction and distance of a food source they had found to their hive-mates, within the darkness of their hive.

The code involves the movements of their bodies in a "dance," that gives directions with respect to the position of the sun, but at the same time that position shifts with time, the bees without seeing it take into account its movement in the sky, to within about 15 minutes. His experimental proofs deciphering the bees' "dances" are simple and direct, as was his writing of them. The book was and still is an inspiration,  a revelation of nature's beauty that no one had seen before.

Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation

By Tammy Horn,

Book cover of Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation

Why this book?

Bees In America is a great read, as it chronologically takes you from the earliest European colonists who brought their bees with them—as honeybees are not native to North America—through to the present. It’s a mix of American history, biology, and American ingenuity, all rolled into a nonfiction account that’s chocked full of interesting facts and details.  For anyone interested in honeybees and/or beekeeping, it’s fascinating to learn the role they played in our developing nation. Plus, it’s exciting to read about all the innovations and advancements in beekeeping that have been discovered in America over the past 200 years. 

Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose

By Naomi Shihab Nye,

Book cover of Honeybee: Poems & Short Prose

Why this book?

In this collection of poems and short prose pieces, Young People’s Poet Laureate (2019-21) Naomi Shihab Nye, takes inspiration from honeybees to encourage us to refresh our spirits by honing our attention and treating others with kindness. While many of the poems concern the nature and wonder of bees and the threats they face, other pieces address subjects as diverse as crickets, egrets, kiwi cake. The poet does not shy away from the heftier subjects of war and injustice because she knows young people are hungry to discuss those things, too. This is a perfect collection to draw from to inspire students in a writing class. I know because I have used her poems in that way. Some of my favorite poems are in this collection.

Wildlife Ranger Action Guide: Track, Spot & Provide Healthy Habitat for Creatures Close to Home

By Mary Kay Carson,

Book cover of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide: Track, Spot & Provide Healthy Habitat for Creatures Close to Home

Why this book?

This book challenges kids to get outside and observe the wildlife in their own communities—the BEST way to connect to nature. Written as a field guide, this book is meant to be shoved in a backpack and consulted on the trail. Mary Kay Carson shows kids how to record observations in a nature journal and includes many projects with materials found around the house. Before you know it, your kids will be local wildlife experts. When kids understand nature, they care about it, and when they care, they protect it. 

Perfect for ages 6-12.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or, on the Segregation of the Queen

By Laurie R. King,

Book cover of The Beekeeper's Apprentice: Or, on the Segregation of the Queen

Why this book?

There are plenty of Sherlock Holmes spinoffs, but this series is the cream of the crop. While Sherlock’s fame may be what draws readers to the book, Mary Russel is the star. She’s every bit as capable as Holmes, and not afraid to disagree with him or ignore his advice. (Although ignoring his advice may not be such a good idea.) Mary’s true love is scholarship, but when she sees injustice, she willingly sets aside her personal wishes and safety to thwart crime and protect the innocent. She is an inspiration to intelligent, independent females who yearn to have their worth acknowledged. 

While each novel is a stand-alone with its own unique charms (and often a unique setting), I recommend starting here and watching their crime-solving partnership unfold.