Saturday, March 3, 2007


FORMAT: Paperback, collecting all five comic issues
PUBLISHER: Active Synapse
GENRE: Biological Fiction

The lifecycle of the bee

This story is about Nyuki, a bee, who is born a larva and lives her life according to the hive rules. Her older sister, Dvorah, is a friend who helps her learn what she needs to know of bee life. The story begins as Nyuki is a bee larva and takes us through her entire life cycle.

  • Nyuki: The main character
  • Dvorah: Nyuki’s sister
  • Sisyphus: A dung beetle
  • Bloomington: The flower

My Rating: 8 and older preferred
My Recommended Target Age: 10-15
Comics in the Forth grade and above

This is a science comic, first and foremost. It is intended to be used as an informational book about the life of bees. Life, death and mating is a part of the life cycle and is not dumbed down or scrubbed from the script just because it may be sad. These topics are addressed in an appropriate and scientific way to discuss bees.

Clan Apis (Latin for bees) is the story of the birth, life and death of bees, specifically the life cycle of Nyuki (Swahili for bee). While the story is anthropomorphic, that is the characters have some human qualities such as speaking English and experiencing emotions, the story is not allegorical to human life. It is, aside from speaking and feeling emotions, strictly an informational book about bees and their habits and behaviors. They do not put on clothes or dream of a more human existence outside the hive. The plants and animals in this story act as plants and animals actually behave.

Author Jay Hosler, who is a neurobiologist who studies olfactory processes in honey bees, has stuffed all kinds of interesting bee information into the story, giving it depth and academic credibility. We learn about the hive, how the bees construct the hive, why it is designed the way it is, and about the different roles that bees assume in the hive. We understand pheromones and learn about how honey is made. This is a fantastic scientific story that is excitedly written to teach children without boring them, making the experience meaningful and long lasting.

Also illustrated by Jay Hosler, the artwork is the weakest aspect of the book, if indeed there is a weakness at all. The story is illustrated with high contrast, black and white drawings. The illustrations could be clearer at times, especially if color were used, to make distinctions between different bees very clear. However, most of the time, those distinctions are clear. The paper used, is a decent quality matte paper.

This book is right at home in the classroom. The story allows a teacher to discuss biology in general, and bee behavior specifically, and to address science on many levels, depending on the ability of the classroom. Everything about bee life is addressed in the book including information on why the honeycomb is built with a 13 percent slope, what a bee dance means, and how the queen bee makes sure no other females can reproduce. Student can be engaged in low level and high level thinking skills based on this book.

There are some fancy vocabulary words in the book; the author does not shy away from offering complex ideas into the story. I think most students will appreciate a book that does not talk down to them and most teachers will enjoy that the book challenges, but doesn’t overtax the students.

You can get a rundown of the information contained in each chapter of Clan Apis by clicking here.

Jay Hosler is a neurobiologist who studies the olfactory processes of honey bees. He is also an Assistant Professor of Biology at Juniata College. If you wish to use his book Clan Apis or his other work “The Sandwalk Adventures: An Adventure in Evolution”, in your classroom you can contact him at:

Jay Hosler
1082 Von Liebig Center for Science
Juniata College
Huntington, PA 16652

He is currently working on other projects such as “The Age of Elytra” a comic about the beetles as well as “Optical Allusions”, a science comic book that is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Highly Recommended
I cannot recommend this book enough. It is a high quality science graphic novel that is amazingly interesting and engaging on numerous levels. It does discuss mating and death as it pertains to a bee’s life, but not in ways that are inappropriate for children. This comic, unlike many others, is a science book that also addresses literature requirements.

I would go so far as to say that this is a perfect book to introduce more informational or non-fiction type books into a child’s home library. What a perfect way to help people become less scared of such a fascinating organism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would love to have a study guide to accompany "clan Apis" the book is perfect for gifted students in middle school. Has someone developed a study guide for this book yet....why not?