Penn State pollinator experts author a new book that explores the lives of bees

book cover shows bee on flower

Pollinator scientists at Penn State have authored the book “The Lives of Bees: A Natural History of Our Planet’s Bee Life.” Credit: Princeton University Press. All Rights Reserved.

This article was originally published May 14, 2024 in Penn State Today.

By Amy Duke

Two renowned pollinator scientists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences have co-authored a book that sheds light on one of the Earth’s most invaluable resources: bees.

Christina Grozinger, the Publius Vergilius Maro Professor of Entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research at Penn State, and Harland Patch, assistant research professor in the Department of Entomology and director of pollinator programming at the Arboretum at Penn State, wrote, “The Lives of Bees: A Natural History of Our Planet’s Bee Life.” The book is the latest in the series, “The Lives of the Natural World.”

Published by Princeton University Press, the book offers a comprehensive look at the intricate world of bees — from their physiology and behavior to their role in crop production and ecological food webs — and how these complex creatures evolved. It also spotlights the profound cultural, ecological and economic connections between humans and bees, offering insights into how individuals can contribute to preserving bee populations.

Grozinger said that the book is aimed at enlightening readers about the captivating lifestyles of bees. With more than 20,000 bee species globally, 4,000 in the United States and approximately 440 in Pennsylvania alone, the richness of bee diversity is strikingly evident.

“Bees are hard-working single mothers, sophisticated architects, clever navigators, devious thieves and dedicated warriors,” she said. “As they collect food for their babies, they pollinate flowers and help produce seed and fruit, which supports our agricultural systems and much of the biodiversity we see around us. We hope this book will inspire people to take a closer look at the bees and other insects in their backyards, parks and farms and take steps to conserve them.”

The content is complemented by an array of color photographs and illustrations depicting bee colonies' social dynamics and conservation status.

“We were very happy to work with Unipress Books, which produces ‘The Lives of’ series, for this book,” Patch said. “They found hundreds of photos of bees, including images of many rare species and bees performing specific behaviors. They also created stunning graphics and illustrations that help the reader understand different aspects of bee behavior and how bees interact with their environment.”

Grozinger and Patch said the book is an indispensable resource for nature enthusiasts, researchers and anyone intrigued by the wonders of the natural world. They noted that many of the natural history stories they discuss in the book were inspired by the questions raised by undergraduate students in their general education class, "ENT 222: Honey Bees and Humans," and the research projects of their graduate students and postdoctoral scholars.