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Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World

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Holley Bishop loves bees. No, more than that: she idolizes them. She marvels at their native abilities and the momentous role these misunderstood and unjustly feared creatures have played in the development of human history. And with her book, Robbing the Bees, she succeeds in making the reader love bees, too. Take this nifty bit of information, one of countless fascinatin Holley Bishop loves bees. No, more than that: she idolizes them. She marvels at their native abilities and the momentous role these misunderstood and unjustly feared creatures have played in the development of human history. And with her book, Robbing the Bees, she succeeds in making the reader love bees, too. Take this nifty bit of information, one of countless fascinating factoids offered by Bishop in her celebration of all things bee-related: "Because of bees' starring role in the drama of pollination, we humans are indebted to them, directly and indirectly, for a third of our food supply. Visiting bees are required for the commercial production of more than a hundred of our most important crops including alfalfa, garlic, apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus, melons, onion, almonds, turnips, parsley, sunflower, cranberries, and clover." Or how about this: "For the past decade, the American military has been testing [bees'] potential as special agents in the war on drugs and terrorism. Bees are as sensitive to odor as dogs and can be trained to buzz in on drugs, explosives, landmines, and chemical weapons." Beat that as a winning opening gambit at a cocktail party. And that ain't all. Bishop charts the evolution of honey and beeswax harvesting through the ages, gives us an up-close look inside working beehives from ancient Egypt to the present day, interviews beekeepers, quotes bee chroniclers past and present (from Charles Darwin to contemporary Florida beekeeper Donald Smiley), reveals her rather clumsy foray into beekeeping in candid detail, studies bees' impact on religion and history, and provides a selection of innovative recipes calling for honey. Through it all, Bishop never loses sight of the star of the show--the humble honey bee--or the crucial but largely unrewarded role they continue to play on our planet. And she does it with snappy prose and keen humor. Dogs be warned: if Bishop has her way, bees will be the it pet of the future, or at least less likely to die at the end of a folded newspaper next time one buzzes in through an open window. --Kim Hughes


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Holley Bishop loves bees. No, more than that: she idolizes them. She marvels at their native abilities and the momentous role these misunderstood and unjustly feared creatures have played in the development of human history. And with her book, Robbing the Bees, she succeeds in making the reader love bees, too. Take this nifty bit of information, one of countless fascinatin Holley Bishop loves bees. No, more than that: she idolizes them. She marvels at their native abilities and the momentous role these misunderstood and unjustly feared creatures have played in the development of human history. And with her book, Robbing the Bees, she succeeds in making the reader love bees, too. Take this nifty bit of information, one of countless fascinating factoids offered by Bishop in her celebration of all things bee-related: "Because of bees' starring role in the drama of pollination, we humans are indebted to them, directly and indirectly, for a third of our food supply. Visiting bees are required for the commercial production of more than a hundred of our most important crops including alfalfa, garlic, apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus, melons, onion, almonds, turnips, parsley, sunflower, cranberries, and clover." Or how about this: "For the past decade, the American military has been testing [bees'] potential as special agents in the war on drugs and terrorism. Bees are as sensitive to odor as dogs and can be trained to buzz in on drugs, explosives, landmines, and chemical weapons." Beat that as a winning opening gambit at a cocktail party. And that ain't all. Bishop charts the evolution of honey and beeswax harvesting through the ages, gives us an up-close look inside working beehives from ancient Egypt to the present day, interviews beekeepers, quotes bee chroniclers past and present (from Charles Darwin to contemporary Florida beekeeper Donald Smiley), reveals her rather clumsy foray into beekeeping in candid detail, studies bees' impact on religion and history, and provides a selection of innovative recipes calling for honey. Through it all, Bishop never loses sight of the star of the show--the humble honey bee--or the crucial but largely unrewarded role they continue to play on our planet. And she does it with snappy prose and keen humor. Dogs be warned: if Bishop has her way, bees will be the it pet of the future, or at least less likely to die at the end of a folded newspaper next time one buzzes in through an open window. --Kim Hughes

30 review for Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    Accessible. Easy writing style. Other writers could have been more scientific, but I would not have understood all they were saying. I understand what Ms Bishop is saying. Next time I read a bee book, I will choose one slightly more scientific and less memior. Great medical information included in the text. Some food recipes included at end, a sort of Appendix.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Visha

    This is the type of book that Barbara Kingsolver wished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was: unlike Kingsolver's text, Robbing the Bees perfectly blends a narrative of the writer embarking upon a foreign experience (keeping bees and learning about bees and their importance and impact upon the earth, influence over people, etc.), meeting interesting and unusual people (Don Smiley, Professional Beekeeper from Wewahitchka, Florida) and the flawless integration of fascinating research that spans the earl This is the type of book that Barbara Kingsolver wished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was: unlike Kingsolver's text, Robbing the Bees perfectly blends a narrative of the writer embarking upon a foreign experience (keeping bees and learning about bees and their importance and impact upon the earth, influence over people, etc.), meeting interesting and unusual people (Don Smiley, Professional Beekeeper from Wewahitchka, Florida) and the flawless integration of fascinating research that spans the earliest hieroglyphics to modern-day work. [The only notable exception is the lack of any mention of CCD (colony collapse disorder) - a HUGE issue for both "domestic" (a highly debatable term in the beekeeping community) and wild bees. However, Bishop's "biography of honey" is no less for the lack of CCD info.:] Found this paperback at Pomegranate Books in Wilmington over the summer. A fascinating and diverting nonfiction novel that reads smoothly and quickly. Reminiscent of Susan Orlean's THE ORCHID THIEF in terms of setup (find crazy Florida dude to show writer the ropes), structure of the book (see above), and "natural" focus (yes, bees help pollinate flowers, agricultural crops, etc.) Also, humorous, interesting, compelling. I would recommend this book to everyone. A rather fun aspect to the book, apart from the humor imparted by Bishop and Don Smiley, are the illustrations throughout the text: photographs, rock paintings, stamps, etc. She also includes recipes (try the ROBBING THE BEES MARTINI - exquisite!). Not only does Bishop explore honey and pollination, but she also discusses natural medicine that uses bee products: royal jelly, pollen, honey, wax, bee body parts. Due to Holley Bishop's great writing and research, I have decided to become a beekeeper - seriously. I hope word of this book is passed around - whether you are a farmer or urbanite, Robbing the Bees is the type of book that is a pleasure to own and read and reread. Now, more than ever, the concern over honeybees and the threats facing them, particularly here in the US, should compel everyone to educate themselves over one of our most important insects.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    I work in a pollinator garden so this tittle attracted me big time. It gives a brief history of the keeping of bees, the story of a modern beekeeper, and how the writer of this narrative also became a beekeeper. So it is a good introduction to this very fascinating subject. This book also has a bit of a bonus, it contains a historical span of recipes that use honey.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ammie

    I have a not-so-secret love for the sort of books that explain the amazingness of science to us everyday folk, books like "The Botany of Desire" and "Jacobson's Organ", because I like being reminded that the world is a sort of miraculous place. (Also, I like being able to regale friends, family and coworkers with obscure facts about things like honeybees and tulips.) I wasn't sure what exactly I would be reading about when I started this particular book. Bees? Beekeeping? Honey? All of the above I have a not-so-secret love for the sort of books that explain the amazingness of science to us everyday folk, books like "The Botany of Desire" and "Jacobson's Organ", because I like being reminded that the world is a sort of miraculous place. (Also, I like being able to regale friends, family and coworkers with obscure facts about things like honeybees and tulips.) I wasn't sure what exactly I would be reading about when I started this particular book. Bees? Beekeeping? Honey? All of the above and more ended up being the answer, and I found myself at the end filled not only with a plethora of interesting facts but with a newfound food love that happens to also be incredibly good for me. Bees are AMAZING, bee pollen can amp you up like coffee except it's better for you, and honey is potentially one of the best things for yourself you can eat, containing a ridiculous amount of vitamins and antioxidents, antibacterial properties, and simpler yet more potant sugar compounds than regular sugar. Holy crap, am I going to be hitting up the farmers markets for local fare this summer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Greta

    I am enjoying the book and find it interesting. However, I do think it could have been written better. I had some issues with the continuity and sequencing of the book which was confusing to me at times. Also the book was in sore need of quality photos, graphic organizers, and illusrations to support the text...the few that were included were too small. The book had an intimacy and personal approach that was endearing to the author's personal journey and relationship to honey. This personalness I am enjoying the book and find it interesting. However, I do think it could have been written better. I had some issues with the continuity and sequencing of the book which was confusing to me at times. Also the book was in sore need of quality photos, graphic organizers, and illusrations to support the text...the few that were included were too small. The book had an intimacy and personal approach that was endearing to the author's personal journey and relationship to honey. This personalness of the book was a positive trait. It's just that sometimes it felt annoying because I felt I wanted more about the subject. This book should be a companion piece to another book about honey history. I am definately going to check out The Short History of the Honey Bee by Edward Readiker Henderson.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brent

    I loved this, though I put it down for years at a time, like I love Tupelo Honey. Bishop does participant observation with a great beekeeper in the Florida panhandle, and grows into beekeeping through their work together. Wewahitchka and surrounding panhandle counties were ruined by Hurricane Michael last fall. I am eager for news of the people - and bees - down there. Highly recommended.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beto Durón

    The author does an outstanding job at telling the history of bees and the impact these amazing insects have had on humanity. She does a great job at weaving in science, anthropology and history through her own experiences. I can confidently say I will never see a bee or honey the same way after reading this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steven Shook

    Holley Bishop provides a wealth of information throughout her book, which is an admixture of personal narrative, natural history, and human history as related to honey bees and honey. While numerous references and facts are stated throughout the book, there are no footnotes, no end notes, and no bibliography. Given the scientific bent of the topic, as well as Bishop's own comments concerning her trips to the library to research her topic, one would have expected some sort of pointer to more info Holley Bishop provides a wealth of information throughout her book, which is an admixture of personal narrative, natural history, and human history as related to honey bees and honey. While numerous references and facts are stated throughout the book, there are no footnotes, no end notes, and no bibliography. Given the scientific bent of the topic, as well as Bishop's own comments concerning her trips to the library to research her topic, one would have expected some sort of pointer to more information. None. Thus, when you come across some interesting fact or statement that you want to learn more about it, there's nothing to guide you to where the fact originated or where you can find more information about it. The second issue I have with the Bishop's book is the style in which she presents her tale. Bishop uses personal narrative as part of the telling of the story - her own experiences and perspectives are sprinkled throughout the book. This presentation/writing style can either be quite effective or extremely annoying. I found it to be the latter. The vast majority of Bishop's personal narrative added no value to the topic, rather it detracted from it. A book that uses a similar personal narrative style very effectively is Weatherford's Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World; here, Weatherford sparingly uses personal narrative to provide context to muddled fact or topic. A book that used personal narrative ineffectively, like Bishop's Robbing the Bees, is Royte's Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought. Bishop, like Royte, seems to want to interject her own idiosyncratic story into the larger story being told but fails to add value in the process of doing so. I'm glad I muddled through the first forty pages of abstractness in Robbing the Bees since what is presented after Bishop's languorous personal narrative is quite interesting; I did learn something from reading her book. Further in, however, Bishop would again interject with her own experiences. The section titled TIME not only negatively affected the flow of the story being told, but added nothing of value given the title and presumed purpose of the book. In this section, we learn of an electrical black-out in New York City whereby Bishop cooks a noodle dish that includes honey in the recipe and then proceeds to eat said dish while naked in her apartment. Huh? What does nude food consumption have to do with a biography concerning honey? As another example of inappropriate personal narrative, the chapter concerning beeswax includes a very fascinating section about the use of beeswax to fashion voodoo dolls, icons, and effigies. Bishop writes: "They had crafted waxen figures representing the royals, stuck them with pins, and placed them near a fire, believing as the icons gradually melted away, so would the power of their victims. (I've tried this, but I must have done something wrong, as my targets are still in office.)" Given that the book was published in 2005, most readers would likely infer that Bishop was referring to the George W. Bush Administration. Why alienate your conservative/Republican readers with such an inane comment that added **nothing** to the story being told? What does Bishop's personal politics have to do with a biography of honey or with honey bees? I fail to see any connection. Overall, numerous topics in Bishop's book are interesting and fascinating. If you are looking for a book that provides a breezy overview of honey bees, then I recommend Robbing the Bees.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    All through history, we find references to our industrious bees, as military weapons, as nature's first aid box, as the world's first sweetener and as pollinators of plants. Providing in-depth information about how to build your own apiary and keep your bees happy and healthy through the seasons, we follow one particular bee-keeper in Florida as he moves his hives from feeding ground to feeding ground, smokes his bees to remove the honey, repairs or builds new hives during the winter when the be All through history, we find references to our industrious bees, as military weapons, as nature's first aid box, as the world's first sweetener and as pollinators of plants. Providing in-depth information about how to build your own apiary and keep your bees happy and healthy through the seasons, we follow one particular bee-keeper in Florida as he moves his hives from feeding ground to feeding ground, smokes his bees to remove the honey, repairs or builds new hives during the winter when the bees rest, and learn of his concern about the African bees are aggressively destroying the more docile European bees who produce better honey in the US. We learn of the role of bees and their honey through history across countries. We're taken on a bee's journey through life, how the drones are made to leave the hive, how queens leave their hives just to mate and return to continuous egg-laying, and how the worker bees are all females. Through their labor to keep their combs filled with food, they pollinate flowers and plants. Entertainingly written while providing great information on the science and history of bee-keeping and honey production and use.

  10. 5 out of 5

    mtthw

    While sometimes I can be hypercritical of these new pop-gastronomy books that are all the rage right now, I really enjoyed this one. Equal parts narrative and history, biology and memoir, the author did a good job with her pacing. There was only one section, the chapter titled "Medicine Ball" that I found a bit tedious. I love bees though, and beekeeping and honey and have read some texts on all those things from an agricultural standpoint, but this book includes some little gems of knowledge I While sometimes I can be hypercritical of these new pop-gastronomy books that are all the rage right now, I really enjoyed this one. Equal parts narrative and history, biology and memoir, the author did a good job with her pacing. There was only one section, the chapter titled "Medicine Ball" that I found a bit tedious. I love bees though, and beekeeping and honey and have read some texts on all those things from an agricultural standpoint, but this book includes some little gems of knowledge I wouldn't have picked up anywhere else. My biggest criticism is the glaring lack of discussion about colony collapse. This is serious stuff that should have been addressed. that certainly would have changed the tone of this book, soI understand why i she chose not to include it. I forgive the author.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    [close] Entertainment-1 Stars Education- 1 Star Readability- 1 star Innovation- 0 Stars Inspiration- .5 Stars I liked the history of the bees and the way Holly draws you into her fascination with them. I know pretty much everything I would ever need or want to know about bees now. I also appreciate them more and when I am outside it is a lot more interesting to watch them and see what they are doing. I am not ready to set up a hive on my deck yet (I have enough reasons for them to throw me out), [close] Entertainment-1 Stars Education- 1 Star Readability- 1 star Innovation- 0 Stars Inspiration- .5 Stars I liked the history of the bees and the way Holly draws you into her fascination with them. I know pretty much everything I would ever need or want to know about bees now. I also appreciate them more and when I am outside it is a lot more interesting to watch them and see what they are doing. I am not ready to set up a hive on my deck yet (I have enough reasons for them to throw me out), but who knows? Maybe someday I will start a hive of my own. I thought it would be interesting to see this from the bee's perspective too. I think they wouldn't like us as much as we like them, but they don't care as they know they will dominate the planet eventually.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nola

    I learned what products bees produce from this book, but the book could have been more direct. The descriptions of the life of a commercial beekeeper were all valuable. The history of uses of honey was much less so. That included lengthy quotes from a wide range of books dealing with honey throughout history. I could have learned just as much from and enjoyed much more a quick summary of the uses of honey in history. That part of the book read much like quack advertisements for bee products as a I learned what products bees produce from this book, but the book could have been more direct. The descriptions of the life of a commercial beekeeper were all valuable. The history of uses of honey was much less so. That included lengthy quotes from a wide range of books dealing with honey throughout history. I could have learned just as much from and enjoyed much more a quick summary of the uses of honey in history. That part of the book read much like quack advertisements for bee products as a cure-all for everything. This book is good for getting an idea of how honeybees make their hives, the evolution of how people have made or raided hives to collect honey, and the honeybee life-cycle.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    I loved this book. I learned so much! For instance, beeswax- where do you think it comes from? Besides from bees, I mean. They secrete little flakes of beeswax, eight at a time, from their wax glands after a debauch on nectar and a nice long rest. The whole book was full of fun and fascinating information about bees and bee-keeping. Bishop's voice is warm and approachable but not the least bit blog-like. I enjoyed meeting the beekeepers to whom she introduced me. The only real problem with this b I loved this book. I learned so much! For instance, beeswax- where do you think it comes from? Besides from bees, I mean. They secrete little flakes of beeswax, eight at a time, from their wax glands after a debauch on nectar and a nice long rest. The whole book was full of fun and fascinating information about bees and bee-keeping. Bishop's voice is warm and approachable but not the least bit blog-like. I enjoyed meeting the beekeepers to whom she introduced me. The only real problem with this book is that it was impossible for me to read without eating a LOT of honey during the reading. And today I bought some bee pollen. Of course I did. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    LOVE this book! Full of love for bees and beekeeping, lots of historical and contemporary information. Reads like a novel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Ann

    I didn't finish this, I perused it.... It was long, informative & boring.... Full of history of beekeeping. Very dry I didn't finish this, I perused it.... It was long, informative & boring.... Full of history of beekeeping. Very dry

  16. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    When spring limbers up and the first wildflowers start to bloom, bees get ready to suck up nectar and transform it into honey. Beekeepers, meantime, are shaking out their white cotton coveralls, netted veils and gauntlet-style gloves. They're dusting off their smokers and 8-inch wood-handled bee brushes. They're readying black wooden fume boards--hive lids lined in absorbent black felt on which they will drizzle butyric acid, the active ingredient in rancid butter. Clap a fume board on top of a When spring limbers up and the first wildflowers start to bloom, bees get ready to suck up nectar and transform it into honey. Beekeepers, meantime, are shaking out their white cotton coveralls, netted veils and gauntlet-style gloves. They're dusting off their smokers and 8-inch wood-handled bee brushes. They're readying black wooden fume boards--hive lids lined in absorbent black felt on which they will drizzle butyric acid, the active ingredient in rancid butter. Clap a fume board on top of a hive and bees flee, making it possible to pilfer their treasure. These arcana of the beekeeper's art are lyrically described by amateur apiarist Holley Bishop in her new book, "Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold That Seduced the World" (Free Press). Bishop, a former literary agent turned author, keeps a hive or two at her weekend home in Connecticut, two hours north of New York City. Before acquiring this property six years ago, Bishop never even thought about beekeeping. But then she visited a friend who kept two beehives in a meadow next to his house. "Immediately," writes Bishop, "I was captivated by the idea of low-maintenance farm stock that did the farming for you and didn't need to be walked, milked or brushed." What sealed her interest was her first taste of locally harvested honey. "In that glistening dollop I could taste the sun and the water in his pond, the metallic minerals of the soil, the tang of the goldenrod and the wildflowers blooming around the meadow. The present golden-green moment was sweetly and perfectly distilled in my mouth." This is what happens when a literary agent gets carried away by a new hobby. Bishop's fascination made her part of a tradition stretching back to ancient times. The Egyptians carved bee symbols into royal seals; the Greeks of Ephesus minted coins with images of bees; Napoleon embroidered the mighty bee into his coat of arms. Two other bee books out this spring explore just such lore. "Sweetness & Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee," by British food writer Hattie Ellis, asks why so many artists and social thinkers--from Frank Lloyd Wright, who incorporated comb-like hexagonals into his architectural designs, to radical Austrian "anthroposophist" Rudolf Steiner, who admired bees' collective way of life--have drawn inspiration from these winged insects. Kentucky beekeeper and college professor Tammy Horn is the author of "Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation." Though the insects aren't native to the Americas, she points out, they've been here since Europeans first arrived. For Mormon church founder Joseph Smith bees offered the ideal symbol for unity, political stability and social cohesion. In Utah to this day, bees and hives are imprinted on side-walks, the state flag and the transoms of bank doors. Bees' economic impact far exceeds money spent for honey. Bees-for-hire pollinate many of the nation's crops, including alfalfa, apples, almonds, tomatoes and a range of citrus fruits. A 1999 Cornell University study calculated that without such pollination, crop yields would be lower by $15 billion a year. California almond growers import more than a million hives annually to pollinate their $800-million-a-year crop. How much money can an apiarist make if he turns pro? Bishop answers by depicting the life of Donald Smiley, 46, who tends 700 hives in the Florida panhandle. As one of only 2,000 people in the U.S. who earn their keep as full-time beekeepers, he's part of a select fraternity. Smiley's long hours, multiple bee stings and modest livelihood are typical. In a good year he harvests 115,000 pounds of honey, worth on average $1 a pound wholesale. After labor and other expenses he may make only $52,000. Keepers who rent their hives for pollination do better. Rental rates per hive range from $35 to $55, which is not bad if you can get your hives onto several crops per season. You'd think that by now scientists would have invented some sort of gizmo or chemical spray that would pollinate more efficiently than bees do, but that's not the case. When you read about a bee's finely tuned anatomy, and how it coordinates perfectly with a flower's innards, you understand why. Bees collect pollen in order to feed their young. Their bulging, compound, lidless eyes zero in on the exterior signs that point to a flower's interior nectar--spots, dots and stripes. Six limbs, each outfitted with spiny, comblike hair, collect pollen and relay it to saddlebags, called corbiculae. As bees fly, they generate up to 450 volts of static electricity, which causes pollen grains to jump on. Sturdy and efficient, bees nonetheless fall prey to disease, bad weather and "killer bees." In the mid-1950s Brazilian beekeepers looking to increase their yields imported aggressive strains from Africa. What the Brazilians didn't know was that the African bees were sociopathic. After interbreeding, Africanized strains migrated north, reaching Texas in 1990. Since then they have spread into New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. While their venom carries no extra potency, their attacks display extravagant ferocity. In one 1986 incident in Costa Rica a botany student is said to have been killed by 8,000 stings--20 stings per square inch of his body. Nevertheless, bee sting fatalities remain about as likely as lightning fatalities. Far more threatening to the bee-driven economy are varroa mites, ticklike parasites that first showed up in the U.S. in 1986. These tiny red devils crawl into bee brood cells, where they feast on larvae. Twenty thousand Florida bee colonies, or 8% of the state's commercial colony population, succumb to mites each year. While researchers are experimenting with methods to combat varroa, the pest poses a growing danger to commercial beekeeping. In the meantime, though, the honey flows. Bishop's book ends with recipes, some from the great Roman chef Apicius, author of the world's oldest known cookbook. Honey was not only the first sweetener, it was also among the first preservatives. Ancient Romans, Indians and Chinese sealed meats, nuts and fruit in it. Its pH is 3.9--the same acidity as mild vinegar. Sugar, which makes up 95% of honey's solids, kills most bacteria by osmosis. Bees also secrete an enzyme that adds a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. Doctors now are using honey to treat wounds. Bishop cites a 1998 medical journal that reported honey to be more effective than the silver sulfadiazine hospitals typically apply to burn victims. Ellis echoes Bishop's claims, and both authors point to a pioneering New Zealand doctor, Peter Molan, who is pursuing honey's medicinal utility. Other researchers are studying bee venom's possible effectiveness as a treatment for arthritis. Describes bees and beekeeping activities as well as their history and culture, and lore. Provides a light tone with impeccable research and detail to provide an inside look into the insect's society. See also:Stephen Buchmann's "Letters from the Hive : An Intimate History of Bees, Honey and Humankind" and The "Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men" by William Longgood. Another short and enjoyable book on a particular insect is Sharman Apt Russell's An Obsession with Butterflies." Both Robert Sullivan's "Rats" and Robert Schweid's "The Cockroach Papers" also combine a light tone with impeccable research and detail to provide an inside look at animal societies.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jake

    Long before humans were human, back when our large-browed ancestors were experimenting with a groundbreaking (heh) technology we now know as "rocks," Apis mellifera was busy making honey. Apis mellifera is the same species of honeybee people keep in their backyards today as a hobby. They existed in more or less the same form millions of years ago and have been doing the same exact thing every single day since. During that same millions of years, humans have gone through four or five (or six, idk) Long before humans were human, back when our large-browed ancestors were experimenting with a groundbreaking (heh) technology we now know as "rocks," Apis mellifera was busy making honey. Apis mellifera is the same species of honeybee people keep in their backyards today as a hobby. They existed in more or less the same form millions of years ago and have been doing the same exact thing every single day since. During that same millions of years, humans have gone through four or five (or six, idk) different species to get to the anatomically modern version we landed on — and each one of those had some kind of fascination with bees and honey. That's kind of cool to think about. This is a book about humans' sometimes complicated but always present relationship with bees. It's full of fun facts and otherwise useless trivia, which kind of makes it a little boring to read sometimes, but the author's passion often had me excited to learn about her adventures in her new hobby. It's a niche subject, but it's a fun read. I now know that aside from being livestock, pests and pets, bees have been considered unquestionable judges of morality and even messengers of the gods. Humans have found thousands of uses for honey, wax, propolis, and pollen, and are still learning about ways we can use those things to make life better for us (and take better care of the bees). I'm no different from our stone-knapping ancestors. Show me the honey.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Sherman

    The book is a mix of beekeeping/honey lore and history, Bishop's own efforts at beekeeping, and the work of a professional big-league beekeeper down in Wewahitchka, Florida (this stands out because it's a small town a couple of hours from where I used to live. So small it's hard to imagine it turning up in a book I'm reading). Normally find attempts to balance science history with personal anecdotes fall flat, but this one worked for me. And it is indeed very interesting in covering the uses of The book is a mix of beekeeping/honey lore and history, Bishop's own efforts at beekeeping, and the work of a professional big-league beekeeper down in Wewahitchka, Florida (this stands out because it's a small town a couple of hours from where I used to live. So small it's hard to imagine it turning up in a book I'm reading). Normally find attempts to balance science history with personal anecdotes fall flat, but this one worked for me. And it is indeed very interesting in covering the uses of honey and beeswax, the craft of beekeeping and the mythology of bees (did you know honey just rains down from heaven, then the bees collect it?). At times, though, the anecdote side got too heavy — I honestly don't care about anyone's trips up and down the Apalachicola River. Overall, though, very good.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell Jesme

    Bees are often overlooked within modern society, in the debates about animal welfare and environmental security. This book sheds light on the hidden industry of honey and the workers that sustain it, both human and insect. An exploration of the history of human relationships with bees lends context to our modern and future relationships; it's shocking how much bees have affected human culture over the years. This book was a really interesting read, especially for someone who has bees but even fo Bees are often overlooked within modern society, in the debates about animal welfare and environmental security. This book sheds light on the hidden industry of honey and the workers that sustain it, both human and insect. An exploration of the history of human relationships with bees lends context to our modern and future relationships; it's shocking how much bees have affected human culture over the years. This book was a really interesting read, especially for someone who has bees but even for those who have never come close to one. Bishop sheds light on the illustrious past of these industrious creatures and those who rob them.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kym Lucas

    Though a bit old (and therefore somewhat outdated in describing pests and prices), this memoir/history is an informative and pleasant read. Recommended for anyone with an interest in honeybees and beekeeping.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bobby Jones

    An astounding book. To anyone curious about beekeeping (and intimidated by the technical tomes), I would highly recommend this book. By the end, you will be looking up nucs, veils and doing some price comparisons- I know I did.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michele Merrell

    More about the history of bees and people than I ever thought I'd know. And I love she puts all that together with her personal experiences and those of the professional bee keeper with recipes at the end.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Donahue

    A fantastic read, very interesting

  24. 4 out of 5

    Buds

    Every beekeeper should read this book! Lovely winter reading. Have rerea a few times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Ovenden

    Bees and honey are cool so it was interesting. I just feel like it could have been better.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Rogers

    Bishop's book was so entertaining as well as informative. Her trips to Florida are wonderful and make me look forward to owning hives of my own this spring. One of my favorite books.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lani Fernance

    Kicked off a total obsession with bees.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

    Not a beekeeping "how to", but certainly offers a lot of useful insights for raising bees. Bishop travels to Florida to work with a beekeeper with fairly large-scale operation, so provides many insights about the logistics and difficulties of beekeeping with 100s of hives that are moved from site to site following the flow of nectar as flowers mature in different areas. The most unique aspect of this book is probably the historical perspective it provides. Bishop extensively researched the histo Not a beekeeping "how to", but certainly offers a lot of useful insights for raising bees. Bishop travels to Florida to work with a beekeeper with fairly large-scale operation, so provides many insights about the logistics and difficulties of beekeeping with 100s of hives that are moved from site to site following the flow of nectar as flowers mature in different areas. The most unique aspect of this book is probably the historical perspective it provides. Bishop extensively researched the history of beekeeping and the medicinal and culinary uses of honey, pollen and bee venom. She finishes with some interesting sounding recipes that are both old and new that incorporate honey. Some date from as early as 1 AD so are very intriguing. None have been tried in my household just yet but they soon will be. I recommend this book to any aspiring beekeeper mainly for the historical perspective it provides but also for the insights into basic beekeeping and bee ecology.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

    What? A history of bees and honey interesting? YES!!!! I loved reading this book, looking forward to my daily "smackerel" (as Winnie the Pooh might have put it). How, you might ask, can an author accomplish this? In Holley Bishop's case, she simply shares her own budding love affair with bees and honey and then introduces us to Don Smiley -- an independent Florida apiarist who agreed to be shadowed by the author and featured in her "subject of inquiry" -- interspersed with fascinating historical What? A history of bees and honey interesting? YES!!!! I loved reading this book, looking forward to my daily "smackerel" (as Winnie the Pooh might have put it). How, you might ask, can an author accomplish this? In Holley Bishop's case, she simply shares her own budding love affair with bees and honey and then introduces us to Don Smiley -- an independent Florida apiarist who agreed to be shadowed by the author and featured in her "subject of inquiry" -- interspersed with fascinating historical and scientific details. I learned so much!!! And I LOVE learning. Did you know that when bees forage, they limit themselves to one species of pollen per trip? No doubt you've never wondered how beeswax is produced? It all defies imagination! Smiley swears by his cure for sore throat: 2 Tablespoons honey, 1/8 teaspoon of alum, 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a pint jar filled with water and kept in the fridge. He says it will "make your mouth feel like you're chewing on a cotton ball" but it will "knock the sore throat right outta you." (He doesn't say whether or not it must be "raw" honey). I liked this description (page 192 of the paperback edition): ..."two teaspoons of honey cost three or four times as much money as the same amount of sugar, but price is the only advantage to eating crystallized cane. Each teaspoon of sugar is pure refined crystallized sucrose, a complex sugar that offers fifteen calories, a generic bland sweetness, and absolutely nothing else. Any interesting flavors or plant nutrients have been removed in the refining process. Honey, on the other hand, emerges from the hive refinery full of character, flavor, and natural organic nutrients. Depending on the floral source, a teaspoonful of honey provides twenty calories as well as antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, selenium, copper, and manganese. Raw honey also contains trace amounts of pollen and its protein benefits. You would have to eat an awful lot of raw honey (I calculate about 7.5 cups!) to achieve the recommended daily allowance of these benefits, but you could eat sugar all day long and still get nothing but a sweet processed buzz." If I had any yard at all, I might be persuaded to start my own colony!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is the book that inspired me to become a beekeeper. The writing is clear, concise and always interesting. Much like Mary Roach, Bishop's style delivers facts via humor and obscure information that keeps your attention throughout. A must read for natural history buffs as well as anyone interested in honey and/or honeybees. My Amazon review: I don't think I can add much to all of the valid points the other reviewers have touched on (although I take issue with the scientific criticisms of one r This is the book that inspired me to become a beekeeper. The writing is clear, concise and always interesting. Much like Mary Roach, Bishop's style delivers facts via humor and obscure information that keeps your attention throughout. A must read for natural history buffs as well as anyone interested in honey and/or honeybees. My Amazon review: I don't think I can add much to all of the valid points the other reviewers have touched on (although I take issue with the scientific criticisms of one reviewer - I think she didn't read those passages closely enough) however I can't resist saying how enjoyable and eminently readable Holley Bishop's book is. Her writing style is engaging and memorable. It has been a long time since I have had such a wonderful combination of history, science, anthropology, and memoir ("Stiff" by Mary Roach probably being the last one). Bishop provides so much fabulous information I have no doubt she is creating a new generation of wanna-beekeepers that just might help save our swiftly deteriorating honeybee populations. I am recommending this book all over the place and everyone is loving it. A great read from teen on up.

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