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Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Candace Fleming, Illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Neal Porter Books
40 pp.
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In Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, Candace Fleming uses rhythmic, meditative prose to describe the short life of a honey bee. The story begins as Apis “squirms, pushes, chews” through her wax cell into the “teeming, trembling flurry” of the hive. She feeds larvae, tends to the queen, builds honeycomb cells, handles food, and guards the hive. Finally, in a climactic four-page spread, Apis takes flight. But her work is not done; before she stills, Apis will fly 500 miles and visit 30,000 flowers. On her 35th day, as Apis’s story comes to an end, another honey bee emerges from her “solitary cell.”

Vivid oil paintings illustrate Apis in meticulous detail, along with her fellow bees and the world she travels. The story gives readers an appreciation of the many hidden tasks that take place inside a beehive, as well as the cooperative structure of a bee colony, where each individual contributes to the group in a variety of ways.

At the end of the book, an appendix provides information about honey bees’ crucial role in human food production, the threat of colony collapse disorder, and what readers can do to help. A final section adds information about the other occupants of the hive—the queen and drones—and more details about the intriguing dance performances that honey bees use to communicate the location of flowers to one another.

About the author

The reviewer is the Letters editor at Science.