The honey bee has had an intimate and continuous association with mankind for thousands of years, and remains of vital importance today, both for humanity and for all life on Earth.This timely addition to the New Naturalist series will aim to explore the natural history of honey bees, firstly as individuals, and then to consider them in the wider context as part of a complex society of perhaps 50,000 individuals without any kind of ‘leader'. The enormous economic importance of honey bees needs to be considered in terms of the pollination of economically important crops and of wild plants, and the production of hive products with their ever increasing uses, not least in the field of human medicine. Recent declines in honey bee populations around the world have drawn attention to their pests and diseases, and have focused attention on the breeding of ‘superior' strains of bees, better adapted to modern conditions. The honey bee has also played an important part in art, literature and folklore throughout the world from its depiction in prehistoric cave paintings, through its important symbolism of industry in heraldry, yet it has now become a creature to be feared in certain modern low budget Hollywood films. Finally the conservation of honey bees will be considered in the light of the major changes in land use that have occurred throughout the world over recent decades and the ever increasing international trade of bees and hive products.
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