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Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation Hardcover – March 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (March 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081312350X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813123509
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,631,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The honeybee isn't native to the U.S., but it's hard to imagine the country without it. Like cattle, another imported species, the honeybee helped transform what European settlers saw as a vast wilderness into a land of milk and honey. First-time author Horn, who learned beekeeping from her grandfather, provides a wealth of worthy material about bees in America, from the use of the hive metaphor to justify colonization in the 1500s and 1600s, to bees' role in pollinating the prairies and orchards that we now take for granted. She discusses the attitudes of native peoples toward the insects; the beekeeping practices of African Americans, women and new immigrants; advances in beekeeping technology; the role of honey and beeswax in the U.S. economy; and the use of bee imagery in the arts. While Horn's affection for her subject is always evident, her efforts to tie beekeeping to every aspect of American life are sometimes strained—as when she writes that "because major social rifts [in the 1950s] were threatening to tear apart the 'good life,' this country's arts environment used the honey bee to negotiate difficult power struggles between races, between spouses, between political parties, between generations, [and] between legal rulings." Horn's thesis is better served without such overreaching and unconvincing claims. B&w illus. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Historian and beekeeper Horn examines the arrival of the honey bee into North America and traces the influence of this valuable insect. When European colonists first settled on the East Coast, bee colonies in traditional straw skeps were considered to be essential equipment. Bees, through swarming, settled the country in advance of white settlers, and the Indians began to refer to them as the white man's fly. Beekeeping in America provided two essentials for colonists--wax for candles and honey for sweetening. Bee culture, beekeepers, and the moral values presented by the life of the bees in the hive all had major influence on how societies viewed themselves. The parallel story of the development of modern beekeeping and the effects of war, pesticides, and urbanization on the keeping of bees serves as a metaphor for the changes in human society. This excellent example of the effects agriculture has on history will be a welcome addition to the farming collection. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

A welcomed addition to all my bee books.
Abigail Keam
Not only did I learn why, but I liked the way the author took us on a journey thru bee-land.
Andrew Lubin
Sometimes I felt Horn was grasping to make justifications that weren't quite there.
Rod M. Holland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
America owes its liberty to the honeybee. That was the opinion of no other than George Washington. The story, recounted in _Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation_ (University Press of Kentucky) by Tammy Horn, is only one aspect of bee folklore, science, and history recounted in a delightful book full of anecdotes and facts which will spark admiration for this sometimes overlooked part of our nation's agriculture. The way the bees won the American Revolution is that a Quaker girl was given a message to deliver to Washington concerning an imminent attack by Cornwallis. The resourceful messenger realized she was being pursued by Redcoats, but as she galloped, she was able to overturn beehives in her path. The bees went after the Redcoats, Washington got his intelligence, and, well, the rest is history. Americans have always loved the honey bee not only for its delicious product (and the wax), but also because the hive is a symbol for a perfectly run society. Paradoxically, it is not a good symbol for our society. We are loosely organized, everyone joins in the pursuit of happiness in an idiosyncratic way, and we have no official religion, political party, or even family structure. Bees are little robots, and their regimented roles are fine for them, but not an example for our human ways. Their industry, however, we like; it is an admirable trait to be "as busy as a bee." We like that the bees make a home for themselves, and that they work hard to ensure that the home will be able to last the winter; they are thrifty, efficient animals. Americans are quite likely to think that if someone is poor, he ought to take a lesson from the bee.

Bees were transported, with great difficulty and much bee mortality, to the earliest of American colonies.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. F. Downham II, MD on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent review of history of bees-beekeeping in America from a historical, cultural and global perspective. It is not a technically laden text. This would be a great book for extra credit reading - discussion for an American History college/university course. It is highly recommended for both general and scholarly readers.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Lubin on June 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a very enjoyable book. The author has taken a relatively unknown topic ( unless you're a beekeeper ), and written a book that is simply very interesting. She's blended history, science, economics, and even religion into a book that is easy to read. How did that jar of honey get into your shop ?

Why are people as diverse as rocker Tom Petty, disco diva Gloria Gaynor, and actor Peter Fonda included in a book about bees ? Not only did I learn why, but I liked the way the author took us on a journey thru bee-land.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Beekeeping in the American historical context.

Though the text is a bit academic, I picked up this book and couldn't put it down. I read it in about 3 days. The numerous ways that the honey bee and beekeeping has woven themselves into our history and culture is fascinating. Ms. Horn has done some tremendous research on the subject.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Denny on March 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Tammy Horn has taken a bold tack in her sweeping history of beekeeping in "Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation." It is a bold title, maybe a little too bold. She covers a lot of ground to draw an analogy to the settlement of a nation with the spread of honeybees and beekeeping.

I found her writing was at its best in narrating the history of the importation of honeybees from the old world, the spread and keeping of honeybees in the new world for pollinating fruits and vegetables from the old world.

Her best chapter is the one in which she describes the effect upon American Indians in observing the "white man's fly." Here is insight into the trigger event for Indians to remove themselves from historic grounds, for as the bees came in so too would occupation of the land. Indians realized that that once this happened, their historic way of life was gone. The "white man's fly" was the canary in the coal mine--a sign of danger, time to go. Indians had come to know that along with settlement, the white man brought with him old world diseases which American Indians had little or no resistance to, diseases which could decimate their numbers.

Other chapters in "Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation" are uneven. The analogy that Horn pushes into the 20th century, "i.e., the shaping of America," is stretched a bit too far.

This book will not help a beekeeper keep bees. But that is not its purpose. I think it a strong first work. I would like to have seen a tighter, sharper focus with less editorial.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rod M. Holland on June 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
Horn's research seems to be relatively complete, yet the product seemed disjoint. For me, the book didn't flow, and the mix was sometimes perplexing. Horn gathered a fair amount of anecdotal knowledge as well as scientific fact. However, I felt like she was trying too hard to convince me as to the mental state (on honey bees) of the sections of society throughout American history. Songs and mottoes may be somewhat of an indicator of what the average man thinks, but not a guarantee. Sometimes I felt Horn was grasping to make justifications that weren't quite there.

I haven't been playing with bees long, so I don't know how many books along these lines are out there. Not many, I think. So I give Horn credit for her originality. Its an ambitious undertaking, but the execution is not as good as it could have been.
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