Clan Apis is the biography of a honeybee. It’s educational, as you might guess, but it teaches more than biology facts. Each chapter of the story also illustrates a life lesson as well as being wonderfully entertaining. I never thought I could care so much about, or learn so much from, a bee.
The story opens with a bee’s version of the creation of the universe, which turns out to be a tale an older bee, Dvorah, is telling Nyuki, a larva, as Nyuki is prepped for metamorphosis. As the story continues, Nyuki grows to maturity, leaves to establish a new hive with Dvorah and Queen Hachi, and continues learning throughout her life cycle.
Along the way, Nyuki comes to understand the necessity of accepting change and facing the future, even if it is scary. The queen teaches her that sometimes it’s necessary to do bad things for a greater good; Dvorah teaches her sometimes it’s necessary to move on. She learns to be patient, take advice from her elders, and be leery of the outside world, because not everyone is looking out for her. But through it all, Nyuki overcomes her fears and worries to do what’s right for her friends and her community. She’s a real hero.
Jay Hosler normally has a rather cartoony style, but it appears less so when applied to insects. (Of course, since we’re looking at them magnified several hundred times, I’m not sure I would know just how much they’re exaggerated.) The concepts are clearly presented, and all the insects have their own unique personalities. Even when they’re the same species, they’re distinguished artistically through size or other characteristics. This is a wonderful all-ages book that couldn’t have been done as effectively in any other medium.
Aside from the elements already mentioned, I really enjoyed the mentor/student relationship between Dvorah and Nyuki, as well as the refusal of the author to sugar-coat the harsher aspects of life without going too far the other way and exploiting them gratuitously.
The collected volume also includes the author’s Killer Bee minicomic, the “mostly true” story of his near-death discovery that he is (ironically) allergic to bee stings. That story can also be read at the Clan Apis website, which also features more background information on the science behind the Clan Apis story.
A 9-page Nyuki story and a short feature on “How to Draw Bees” were included in the Brainbomb anthology, and a 4-page bee tale is part of the 1999 SPX Anthology.