Dancing In The Dark: The Intelligence of Bees

Honeybee in flower, photograph by Stephen Humphrey.

Honeybee in flower, photograph by Stephen Humphrey.


Bees are remarkable among insects. They can count, remember human faces, and communicate through dance routines performed entirely in the dark. But are they intelligent? Even creative? Bee aficionado Stephen Humphrey, along with a hive of leading bee researchers and scientists, investigates the mental lives of bees.

In summer of 2011, Stephen Humphrey went out west to spend time with his family - and one million bees. Stephen's mother and step-father are bee-keepers. Their bee-yards, 22 of them, are spread across two counties, in Northern Alberta.  Every morning, six days a week, Stephen - a notoriously late sleeper, was up bright and early, doing his best to get "Bee Ready". Off he'd go, by truck or by foot, to the 'honey bee' hives.  

Dancing In the Dark: The Intelligence of Bees was originally broadcast on June 12, 2012.

Dancing In The Dark Image Gallery



James L. Gould, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, and co-author of books such as The Honey Bee and Animal Architects.

P. Kirk Visscher
, Associate Professor of Entomology at University of California Riverside.
Elmer Zumwalt, beekeeper and owner of Kamisak Apiary in Beaverlodge, Alberta.

Luis Antonio Tuy Xoquic, beekeeper at Kamisak Apiary in Beaverlodge, Alberta.

Peter Kevan, Professor at the School of Environmental Science, at the University of Guelph, and principal investigator for the Canadian Pollination Initiative (CANPOLIN).

Hamida Merwan, graduate student at the School of Environmental Science, at the University of Guelph.

Adrian Dyer
, Associate Professor, RMIT University, Australia and QEII Research Fellow at the Department of Physiology, Monash University, Australia.

Professor Mike H. Hansell, Professor of Animal Architecture at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Reading List

Von Frisch, Karl. The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honey Bee. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1953.

Gould, James L. and Carol Grant Gould. The Honey Bee. Times Books, 2002.

Wenner, Adrian M
. and Patrick H. Wells. Anatomy of a Controversy: The Question of a "Language" Among Bees. Columbia University Press, 1990.

Seeley, Thomas D
. The Wisdom of the Hive: The Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies. Harvard University Press, 1995.

Seeley, Thomas D. Honeybee Democracy. Princeton University Press, 2010.

Heinrich, Bernd. Bumblebee Economics. Harvard University Press, 2004.

Buchmann, Stephen L
. and Gary Paul Nabhan. The Forgotten Pollinators. Island Press, 1996.

Fabre, Jean-Henri. The Mason-Bees. BiblioBazaar, 2007.

Gould, James L
. and Carol Grant Gould. Animal Architects. Basic Books, 2007.

Hansell, Mike
. Built By Animals: The natural history of animal architecture. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Packer, Laurence. Keeping the Bees. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2011 .

Related Websites

The Genius of Swarms (National Geographic Magazine)

If You Swat, Watch Out: Bees Remember Faces (New York Times)

Bees can count up to four, study shows (COSMOS)

Canadian Pollination Initiative (CANPOLIN)

Resonating Bodies

Odes To Solitary Bees

Key to the Bee Families of the World

Our Bumblebees on the Brink (NOW Magzine)

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