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 if 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
From Publishers Weekly
When former New York literary agent Bishop bought a Connecticut farmstead, she began keeping bees as a way of savoring her newfound reverence for nature in the edible form of fresh honey, a passion that now yields this engaging study of the history, science and art of beekeeping. She details the biology of the "always gracious, economical and neat" insects; explores the complex, pheromone-besotted hive society that yokes the proverbially busy insects to the tasks of comb building, nectar gathering and larvae nourishing; and eulogizes their stubborn, self-immolating defense of their honey against human pillagers. And she chronicles humanity's millennia-long expropriation of the bee's gifts of honey, beeswax, pollen and venom to provide food and drink (a chapter of honey-themed recipes is included), nutritional supplements, arthritis remedies and even weapons of war. Tying it all together is a profile of salt-of-the-earth commercial beekeeper Donald Smiley, harvester of specialty honey gathered from tupelo tree blossoms in the drowsy hum of the Florida panhandle, and emblem of the fruitful alliance of two legs with six. Bishop's impulse to visit every flower of bee lore sometimes weighs the book down with quotes from bee enthusiasts of the past, but her combination of engrossing natural history and down-home reportage make this a fitting homage to one of nature's most admirable creatures. Photos.
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