Jul 5, 2011

Robbing the Bees

a Biography of Honey
the sweet liquid gold that seduced the world
by Holley Bishop

I am becoming enthralled by bees. The one thing that still discourages me from getting my own backyard beehive (besides the fact that my husband is terrified of bees- although this book asserts that you are more likely to get hit by lightening than die of bee stings!) is the cost it takes to set up such an operation. But that doesn't daunt me from learning more and more about bees.

Robbing the Bees looks at much more than just beekeeping methods, although there are two threads that do delve into what that entails. In one, the author follows a beekeper whose operation includes some seven-hundred hives which he shifts around the countryside, renting his bees out to pollinate different crops. Mostly he focuses on the few weeks in which his bees can gather the nectar of tupelo trees in Florida; the honey from them being so rare and delicious it sells for a high price. In another recurring thread, the author describes acquiring his own backyard hive, the early mistakes he made and his experiences keeping bees. But the real flesh of the book is in its historical aspect. It explores all things about bees and how humans have interacted with them throughout history. From medieval use of hives as weapons (catapulting them at the enemy) to the Egyptians' use of honey as food preservatives and beauty products. Honey has also been used historically in medicines, and the wax has a myriad of uses. The book describes how honey was first gathered from wild hives (and still is in many parts of the world today), then how people first began to keep hives in their yards. Even then early beekeepers had to kill the bees in order to obtain honey; it wasn't until someone invented removable frames that it became easy for us to rob the hives and leave the colony intact. Of course, since the book is about bees there is a lot of information on their biology and social structure, and their important role as plant pollinators. Robbing the Bees is just packed with information, which is probably one reason it took me so long to get through it, I was taking my time to absorb it all. A fascinating book. I'm glad to thank the Stay at Home Bookworm for making me aware of it!

Borrowed this one from the public library.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 324 pages, 2005

more opinions at:
Peter Bradberry
Beth's Book Reviews


bermudaonion said...

When my mother grew up they kept chickens and goats, grew all kinds of plants and kept bees. I bet she would love this book!

Jenny said...

I hate honey (too sticky) so the only honey facts I ever remember are yucky ones, like that crazy emperors and kings in the olden days used to preserve their mistresses/wives in honey so they wouldn't rot so they could carry on having sex with them. True story.

However, I am very impressed by people who keep bees. If I liked honey I would be tempted by beekeeping myself. What a cool thing to be able to do -- like gardening but with Danger.

chrisa511 said...

Added to wishlist! This sounds amazing :) I've become amazed by bees too!