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Also by Eileen Garvin


An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC


Copyright © 2021 by Eileen Garvin

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Names: Garvin, Eileen, author.

Title: The music of bees: a novel / Eileen Garvin.

Description: New York: Dutton, [2021]

Identifiers: LCCN 2020043236 (print) | LCCN 2020043237 (ebook) | ISBN 9780593183922 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780593183946 (ebook)

Subjects: LCSH: Bee culture—Fiction. | Friendship—Fiction. | Farm life—Fiction. | Grief—Fiction. | Self-actualization (Psychology)—Fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3607.A782894 M87 2021 (print) | LCC PS3607.A782894 (ebook) | DDC 813/.6—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020043236

LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020043237

Interior art: Bees and flowers © AVA Bitter/Shutterstock

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover design and illustration by Vi-An Nguyen


For all the wild creatures and everyone who loves them



Also by Eileen Garvin

Title Page



Chapter 1: Orientation Flight

Chapter 2: Twelve Queens

Chapter 3: Foraging

Chapter 4: Callow Bee

Chapter 5: Scent Fanning

Chapter 6: Hive Siting

Chapter 7: Bumbling

Chapter 8: Bee Space

Chapter 9: Worker Bee

Chapter 10: Hive Maintenance

Chapter 11: Scouting

Chapter 12: Disruption

Chapter 13: Overtones

Chapter 14: Drone Life

Chapter 15: Queen Right

Chapter 16: Colony Collapse

Chapter 17: Glory Bee

Chapter 18: Congregating

Chapter 19: Into the Hive

Chapter 20: Bee Dance

Chapter 21: Requeening

Chapter 22: Swarm Warning

Chapter 23: Guarding

Chapter 24: Hive Splitting

Chapter 25: Robbing

Chapter 26: Bee Day


About the Author

1 Orientation Flight

Those who suppose that the new colony consists wholly of young bees, forced to emigrate by the older ones, if they closely examine a new swarm, will find that while some have the ragged wings of age, others are so young as to be barely able to fly.


Jacob Stevenson had the tallest mohawk in the history of Hood River Valley High School. Even before it was listed as an official yearbook record, he was pretty sure about it. In his senior photo, it was a blue-black masterpiece that flared up to a height of sixteen and a half inches. Well, almost. It was more like sixteen and three-eighths, but close enough to silence any quibblers. Jacob had put six months into growing the spiky mass, which he sculpted into four sections, and it had reached its optimal height right before spring finals last year.

On this morning, he surveyed the masterpiece of his hair in the mirror and felt no little satisfaction that he’d managed to maintain it for more than a year now, despite unforeseen challenges. The undeniable truth of a mohawk was that you were always fighting gravity, and at a certain point, you lost. You had to be realistic. The idea was to aim for maximum volume that would hold over an entire day. A fallen mohawk would be a terrible embarrassment, especially for a boy of eighteen. Jacob had experimented with various products to maintain the loft. He’d tried egg whites, mustache wax, hair spray, and even some adhesive from wood shop—an unfortunate episode. All that experimenting revealed that a mixture of extra-firm sculpting wax and professional-grade hair spray was the best choice to sustain that sixteen-and-nearly-one-half-inch height of achievement.

Noah Katz had taken the official measurement the night of the spring jazz band concert. Both of them had been dressed in the traditional black tuxedos that members of the Hood River Valley High School jazz band had been wearing for the past twenty years. Jacob thought then that his hair contrasted nicely with the powder-blue cummerbund and bow tie. He posed with his trumpet as Noah snapped a photo, cackling, the phone dwarfed in his big paw. His cheeks shook as he laughed.

“Sick, Stevenson!”

Katz was a good-natured lumberjack of a guy. The two had become friends at May Street Elementary in fifth-grade band—Jacob on trumpet and Noah on trombone. Noah did not have a mohawk. Noah’s hair was crazy curly, and he referred to it as “The Situation.” Unlike Jacob, he did not need any product to make his hair resist gravity. He grew his curls up and out, chiefly to irritate his mother.

“Look out, ladies!” he crowed, tugging on his curls with one hand so that he resembled a human dandelion in fluff stage. He snapped a selfie. Then they hustled into Noah’s truck and sped across town to the high school. They had been late, as usual, and Mr. Schaffer was mad, but their band teacher seemed always to be looking for a reason to yell at the two boys, so it was no big deal.

Remembering that night made Jacob smile. He turned his head from right to left. On either side of the mast of hair he could see bits of stubble on his otherwise cleanly shaven skull. He turned on the faucet and dampened a washcloth under the tepid stream to wet his head. He squirted a soft puff of shaving cream into his hand and patted it on the stubble. The lemony white foam smelled institutional, like the hospital, and made him feel slightly nauseated. He breathed through his mouth and picked up his razor.

A mohawk took discipline. He had to wash or at least wet his hair, then comb it out, apply wax to the wet mop, part it into sections, and dry it with the high-power blow-dryer before spraying it into

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