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Publisher's Summary

Most of us are aware of the hive mind—the power of bees as an amazing collective. But do we know how uniquely intelligent bees are as individuals? In The Mind of a Bee, Lars Chittka draws from decades of research, including his own pioneering work, to argue that bees have remarkable cognitive abilities. He shows that they are profoundly smart, have distinct personalities, can recognize flowers and human faces, exhibit basic emotions, count, use simple tools, solve problems, and learn by observing others. They may even possess consciousness.

Taking listeners deep into the sensory world of bees, Chittka illustrates how bee brains are unparalleled in the animal kingdom in terms of how much sophisticated material is packed into their tiny nervous systems. He looks at their innate behaviors and the ways their evolution as foragers may have contributed to their keen spatial memory. Chittka also examines the psychological differences between bees and the ethical dilemmas that arise in conservation and laboratory settings because bees feel and think. Throughout, he touches on the fascinating history behind the study of bee behavior.

Exploring an insect whose sensory experiences rival those of humans, The Mind of a Bee reveals the singular abilities of some of the world's most incredible creatures.

©2022 Princeton University Press (P)2022 Tantor

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A Nerdgasm: Informative Yet Deterministic

This is a highly detailed, up-to-date, complex yet accessible ethological account of the neurology, psychology, and sociology of bees, specifically bumblebees and honeybees. Most of the focus centers on the question of insect intelligence, emotion, consciousness and summaries of the experiments on bumblebees and honeybees that have occurred over the last 50 years. This book will help alot if you are thinking about studying entomology, zoology, or ethology. Chittka seeks to ground his discussion in autobiography and history of bee ethology, but this is arguably where the scholarship is lacking in detail and slips into cliche. While he clearly knows a good deal about the history German, American, and British ethology, a knowledge of French would have helped the book here, as significant historical figures are ignored while others seem to be used in a manipulative fashion.

Stylistically, it is science writing, and therefore clear but mediocre and about as poetic as a condom, so do not expect a J.G. Ballard novel. The book can be positioned somewhere between "Honeybee Democracy", "Silent Earth", and "Life On A Little Known Planet". The choice of narrator tells one that its market is nerd masculinity, but it is a fairly inclusive with respect to recognizing that all the great entomologists were not just white men from Germany. Britain, and America, although most of the discussion ends up here. There is no comprehension of entomology outside of Western scientific paradigm.

Please, therefore, be aware while listening to this book that it does come tainted with a mild degree of unconscious eugenic discourse embedded in its content. At one stage the author uses bees to ponder why stupid people are not extinct yet, and at another stage he is spouting biologically deterministic assumptions about class and social behavior. But alas, these Princeton professors live in a vacuum of wealth and are so self-unaware that they do know how offensive they can bee.

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