Top critical review
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Not much new under the sun
on 31 October 2016
This book is an account of one senior scientist's investigations into the way that scout bees in honey-bee swarms communicate both the location and quality of nest sites to other members of a swarm. Essentially, this process is a variation on the theme of honey-bee 'dance language', the way that foragers communicate the geographic position and quality of food sources to other bees within their hive. Bee dance language was first decoded by Karl von Frisch in early post-war Germany, a ground-breaking animal behavioural discovery for which he eventually shared the Nobel Prize with two other eminent pioneer ethologists, Tinbergen and Lorenz. Subsequent to von Frisch's original discovery, his equally brilliant student Martin Lindauer extended his
supervisor's work to include bee swarms and the way that scout bees communicate the position and quality of potential nest sites to other members of the swarm. Seeley's book covers the same ground that Lindauer covered in the 1950's. Seeley repeatedly refers to Lindauer's results in his text and apart from conducting a more thorough investigation of the same phenomenon, one is left wondering why so much time and effort was devoted by this clearly able scientist and his equally-able team of research colleagues to repeating work whose findings had been in the public domain for half a century? However, on the plus side, this book is nicely produced and provides a useful, if occasionally over complicated, reference source for anyone interested in insect social behaviour and, in particular, the sophisticated and quite amazing communication methods employed by honeybees.