Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera Book Poster Image
Beautiful book shows drama and science of bee life cycle.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Tells the story of the life cycle of a worker bee, shows the various work roles bees take on in maintaining the hive, and provides useful information about the queen bee as well. Information-packed back matter includes an explanatory diagram of a bee's body, a discussion of the importance of honeybees to our ecosystems, terms, interesting bee facts, online resources, and books for further education.

Positive Messages

Everyone (or, in this case, every bee) has a role to play or a job to do for a community to thrive. Sometimes, life is short, but it can always have meaning, purpose.

Positive Role Models

Apis works hard to help the hive and achieve flight.

Violence & Scariness

The main character, a honeybee, fights a robber bee by grabbing legs and biting (neither is grievously injured or dies).

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera, by veteran author Candace Fleming and Caldecott award-winning author-illustrator Eric Rohmann, is an educational picture book that portrays the fascinating life cycle of a worker honeybee. As Apis is grows from birth, readers learn about the various roles this worker bee fulfills before she (literally) gets her day in the sun, flying out of the hive at 25 days old to forage for nectar and pollen. Apis' death at the end of her natural life is peaceful, but may cause sadness for extra sensitive youngsters. This highly educational story is enhanced by not-to-be-missed back matter packed with information: an explanatory diagram of a bee's body, a discussion of the critical role bees play in our ecosystems, terms and interesting facts, online resources, and books for further education. Given the information-heavy text, this book is suited for curious older kids, though younger readers may quite enjoy the art and rhythmic text.  

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What's the story?

In HONEYBEE: THE BUSY LIFE OF APIS MELLIFERA, we meet Apis as she claws her way out of her wax cell. The text marks time by Apis' age. At 3 days old, her body prepares to nurse larvae, at 8 days old, she moves on to tend the queen. She goes on to build cells for eggs, handle food that forager bees have brought back from flowers, and guard the entrance to the hive, among other roles. Finally (at least for the reader who's been eagerly anticipating this moment), Apis takes flight and leaves the hive for her last new job as a forager bee. A sad, but peaceful end to the story is followed by a helpful diagram and discussion full of interesting facts and resources for further learning.

Is it any good?

This enchanting book captures all the wonder and work of a honeybee's life. While the free-verse poetic text in Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera creates a pleasing rhythm that is read-aloud gold, the art expertly supports the educational work of the text. Within the dim and nearly colorless confines of a beehive, Rohmann yields browns, blacks, and yellows to render the honeybees in intricate and beautiful detail, down to the tiny hairs on bee legs. Descriptions of the intricate dance Apis does to give directions to other forager bees and the astonishingly small amount of honey one bee's collected nectar produces in their lifetime will fascinate readers.

Author Candice Fleming smartly creates anticipation by ending each spread with the question: s it time for Apis to fly? "Not yet," the next page answers, followed by an explanation of the next in-hive job she will do. A breathtaking double fold-out spread marks Apis' first flight into fields of colorful flowers and a bright blue sky. It's a lovely "oooh" and "ahhh" moment as readers, too, experience Apis' first taste of freedom. This flair for drama makes the book shine and the science go down easy. This is a delightful pick that will wow budding entomologists and bee-haters alike.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various jobs Apis does before getting to fly in Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera. How do these different jobs contribute to the health or functioning of the hive? What do you have to do at home or school to contribute to the functioning of your family or classroom community?

  • What did you learn about honeybees that surprised you or that you found fascinating? Why was this so interesting to you?

  • What does the author and/or illustrator do to keep young readers interested in learning about honeybees? How does "flying" create suspense for the reader?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science and nature

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