Honeybee Democracy

Students explore how a honeybee swarm makes a decision about their future nesting site, and explore he similarities and differences to how human groups make decisions.


The biologist Thomas Seeley has been researching the behavior of honeybees. Particularly, he has been interested in the decision making processes that allow honeybee colonies to reliably choose among the best quality sites in an area for their new home. In his book “Honeybee Democracy”, he describes how these decision making processes work, identifies a number of principles, and makes an analogy between decision making in bees and human groups. This work helps us understand the challenges and mechanisms of a group of individuals having to make group-level decisions without a leader.

In this lesson, students explore how honey bees make their collective decisions, link these processes to general principles, and critically transfer and compare them to decision making in human groups.

Author: Susan Hanisch

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