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Novel set in the Hive (a real ‘buzz’ about this one…)

25th September 2016

The Bees by Laline Paull – novel set in the Hive.

The Bees is an excellent and thought-provoking read. It is a very worthwhile addition to the anthropomorphic tradition of books like Wind In The Willow and Watership Down. What, I wonder, is it in our psyche that draws us to humanise the lives and thoughts of animals and insects?

novel set in the hiveThe book describes the birth, life, and death of Flora. She was born into the hive as a humble sanitation worker – cleaning up and removing the dead bodies of her sisters. But she, very unusually for a bee of her class, has the ability to talk and question the meaning of her existence. She is brave and saves the colony from a deadly wasp attack – and is rewarded by spending time in the queen’s serene presence. She is ‘promoted’ to be a forager and responsible, with her fellow foragers, for bringing in the nectar and pollen on which everyone depends so precariously for life.

The Bees is not sentimental in describing the life of the hive. From the mating of a drone with the queen (and his subsequent immediate death), to the ‘removal’ of sick bees, to the contraction of the colony as winter approaches – surviving drones and the older and weaker bees are all thrown out, to the issues that a queen-less colony can face, everything is told in a matter of fact way. Life for a bee can be very hard.

We learn a great deal about nature as we read The Bees. We get to know the evil and devious methods that wasps and spiders use to attract their prey. We get familiar with what flowers bloom at which season of the year, and we are taught how to recognise different pollens. Did you, for example, know that poppy pollen is black? We even find out the devastating impact of searching for pollen in a field of rape seed that has just been sprayed with deadly chemicals. And did you (I swear this is true) know that a forager returning to the hive performs a complicated dance to indicate to other foragers the precise direction and distance of the pollen she has found?

The Bees also explains to us the thought that the colony is the ‘creature’ and that the bees are the cells that make it up. The Hive Mind can override personal thoughts and control their actions. Groups think can take over and drive behaviour.

Laline Paull has written a really great book which I wholeheartedly recommend. If you want to understand the life of the hive – and enjoy a really good story at the same time – then this is absolutely for you. You will be totally fascinated. The most memorable book I have read for quite a while.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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  1. User: Ruth Martin

    Posted on: 01/04/2017 at 1:05 am

    I got this book as a gift and as I read it I became more and more irritated with the inaccurate information presented about the life of bees and activities inside the hive. In the words of George W. Bush, ” That was some wierd s#*% !


  2. User: Juliet Wilson

    Posted on: 19/10/2016 at 12:40 pm

    I really enjoyed this book, but there are inaccuracies in the way she writes about the bees’ lifestyles. (I had a conversation with a beekeeper who was incensed by the inaccuracies!)


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