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the Complete Review
the complete review - science / nature

Bee Time

Mark L. Winston

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To purchase Bee Time

Title: Bee Time
Author: Mark L. Winston
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2014
Length: 244 pages
Availability: Bee Time - US
Bee Time - UK
Bee Time - Canada
Bee Time - India
  • Lessons from the Hive

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Our Assessment:

B : fine, accessible overview of bees; a bit personal and chummy

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Scientist . 18/10/2014 Adrian Barnett

  From the Reviews:
  • "In a highly personal style, Winston steps between reportage, scientific exactitude and a deep, poetically expressed love of bees, beekeeping and the cultural forms that bees inspire. (...) His take on the situation makes Bee Time an insightful delight." - Adrian Barnett, New Scientist

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Bee Time is a bee-book by someone who has long studied and worked with them, from the 'killer bee' scare of the 1970s (author Winston was a graduate student on a University of Kansas research trip to French Guiana in 1976) to decades of helping produce 'Heavenly Honey' as a by-product of his university bee research. Having now made the transition to lead Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, he finds many lessons of the hive still apply.
       In eleven chapters Winston addresses a variety of bee-related subjects, all the while introducing information about these fascinating and vital creatures. He presents the basics of bee-lives, from the transitions they make in the kind of work they do over the course of their (surprising short) life spans in the hive to their means of communicating and the urgency with which a new queen must be raised if the current one dies or is lost. It makes for an informative introduction (that likely makes one want to seek out more detailed information).
       Winston emphasizes the important role bees have in agriculture, and notes repeatedly and emphatically that without pollinating bees humans face big, big problems. His discussion of the disturbing widespread collapse of honeybee colonies finds there is not an individual cause -- a specific pesticide we could just ban -- but rather the 'thousand tiny cuts' of so many different "low-level stressors", that are, in sum, so deadly (and the scientist in him properly points out that this sort of nasty synergy is a woefully under-studied area -- regarding much that directly affects humans, too (i.e. interactions between medicines)).
       In looking at the role of bees in agriculture one of the fascinating observations is that crop yields actually improve significantly if a considerable portion of land is planted with flowering plants that allow bee life to flourish, rather than covering every able bit of arable soil with a monoculture of the same crop -- something that it can be hard to convince farmers of but would seem to offer an easy fix to at least some of contemporary agriculture's problems. He also goes further afield in, for example, looking at the bee in urban environments.
       As Winston points out, there are an enormous variety of different kinds of bees, and his comparison of the familiar honeybees, kept in human-controlled hives, and wild bees is particularly interesting. He also suggests just how misguided human interference can be in bringing one species (be it plant or animal) into another environment with the example of the so-called killer-bees.
       Winston is also fascinated by the way bee colonies function, from the vital queen-upkeep to communicating the locations of new feeding-finds as well as the sudden swarming that can occur. As he notes, bees do everything for the common good, and he offers interesting examples of what that can involve. Interesting, too, is that bees apparently aren't quite as busy as their reputation suggests, as they in fact spend a great deal of time at rest.
       Winston's wide-ranging tour -- which goes as far as some big-budget movie bee-wrangling -- is consistently engaging and there are always interesting facts to be learned along the way. He does, however, have a tendency to offer up a more than healthy dose of personal anecdotage, describing personal encounters from along the way -- interesting people, involved in often interesting bee-related activities, but the descriptions becoming rather too personal and chummy. Presumably he wants to emphasize the human/personal connections between such a broad variety of people (and interests) and bees, but this approach may not be to everyone's taste; it's certainly not to mine. Nevertheless, the interesting subject matter is otherwise treated well enough that this can be, if not overlooked at least put up with.
       Bee Time covers a lot of ground and serves up, very accessibly, a great deal of bee-related information. There are indeed 'lessons from the hive' to be learnt, about everything from our interaction with the environment (on every level) to social structures, and while Winston's discussions are brief, as he moves across so many subjects, they're not cursory. Bee Time is ultimately only an introduction to the subject(s), but does its job in whetting appetites for more detailed information and arguments about many of the facts and points that are brought up.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 September 2014

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Bee Time: Reviews: Mark L. Winston: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Mark L. Winston teaches at Simon Fraser University.

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© 2014-2021 the complete review

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