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The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us Hardcover – May 30, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Food writer and Sunday Telegraph columnist Bee Wilson, who says she acquired her name long before her fascination with the insect Apis mellifera, takes an entertaining look at the extraordinary notions humans have had through the ages about honeybees. She shows how people, lacking until recently any scientific knowledge of how bees live, communicate and produce honey, have projected onto the bee human values and morals. The organization of the hive, for example, is seen as a model of the perfect society; worker bees symbolize selfless industry and the joy of productivity. The bee has been a symbol of virtue, chastity, Christianity, the human soul, good and bad politics, and sex—even though, with the exception of the queen and a few drones, most bees have no sex life at all. After discussing these and other strange ideas, tempering the myths with the facts of modern science, Wilson delves into the evolution of bee-keeping and the history of honey's uses in medicines, beauty products and food, and she even includes a few recipes. There's too much information in too few pages, but Wilson treats her subject lucidly and humorously, and her book is fascinating. 60 b&w photos. (June 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In this thorough study that is divided into such chapters as work, sex, and politics, Wilson traces the fascination with and misunderstanding of bees throughout history. Early cultures revered the insects for both their social structure and the sweet rewards of their labors. The geometric form of the hive is evidenced in the architectural designs of Gaudí and Le Corbusier. The wax provided light both literally and spiritually in the medieval Christian church. The hive has long been a symbol of social unity, and the happy worker bee is a model for labor. Honey is celebrated for its flavor, aroma, and medicinal qualities. It was even used as an embalming fluid by the ancient Babylonians and later by the Greeks. The birds and the bees, honey I'm home, and honeyed words are all referenced here. Black-and-white historical illustrations appear throughout, and a few recipes are included. Although this may be too much honey for some teen readers, it supplies solid information for popular-science enthusiasts.–Brigeen Radoicich, Fresno County Office of Education, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312342616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312342616
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
THE HIVE: THE STORY OF THE HONEYBEE AND US joins others which have appeared earlier this year covering the bee - but goes further than most, drawing connections between the hive mentality of the bee and human affairs. Bees appear as symbols of many things and their honey product is widely used in cooking: their story blends myth with science and mankind has long been enamored of the bee. THE HIVE traces mankind's different beliefs about the bee over the decades, gathering history from around the world from science, religion, politics and beyond. Lovely black and white drawings throughout enhance a fun story.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Roberts on November 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up completely randomly but have loved every moment of it. I am a huge fan of honey, cooking and the convoluted histories of the foods we love. Always a big fan of honey (and bees!) it wasn't until I read this book that I realize how pervasive and longlasting our human fascination (obsession?) with bees has been. It's an easy read - very detailed with lots of great honey and bee trivia throughout the ages. The writer is a Brit and mentions the history of bees and honey in the U.S. only in passing, so people looking for something specific to North America might have to go elsewhere. This is definitely more of a Western European view.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Valdivielso on September 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is not just about bees and the history of beekeeping. This also deals with how bees have been linked to sex, death, food and drink. The book deals with mead, the Church and bees, the Romans and bees, the Renaissance and bees. How bees, and their hives, shaped our ideas of nature, science, government and God. They became the symbols of power, of Kings and Popes, of socialism and order.
There are also lists of recipes for food made from honey and potions made with honey. This is a must for any fan of bees or any beekeeper.
Bee Wilson is a big fan of bees and the honey they produce, going so far as to visit an apiary and, yes, she has been stung. You can feel her wonder and joy at writing her first book on the subject. And it is a joy to read.
But one warning. Mormons are not shown in a good light as the other reviews show.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca L. Erskine on June 21, 2014
Format: Paperback
This book was engagingly written and maintained my interest throughout, and covered pretty much everything you’d want to know about bees. My only criticism—and it doesn’t necessarily mean much—is that I had a feeling the genesis of the book wasn’t a passion about bees or honey. Maybe that’s OK—the scholarship seemed solid and it was self-disciplined in a way that may have been difficult to otherwise maintain.

There are some comments about Mormons here that I wanted to address. Bees were—formerly unknown to me—incredibly important in both practice and symbol to Mormons and thus the topic didn’t fly out of left field. At one point, brigham young was referred to as a “despotic loon” and his wives were described as looking miserable in their portraits. Those were the only derogatory comments I remembered; that’s the full content of the brouhaha. And let’s be serious: once you’ve married 55 women, don’t you think the door is opened for negative comments? The absolute kindest and most hospitable people I’ve met in my life have been Mormon. I don’t hold them responsible for brigham young. I only hold one person responsible for brigham young…and that’s brigham young. I didn’t read the comments in the book as a slight against Mormons at all, but against one historical figure whose lifestyle choices have not aged gracefully.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pete Bogg on May 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
I began to keep a beehive this year, and while I bought The Beekeeper's Bible for technical guidance, I found that I already had another book on bees that I'd purchased the year before but hadn't yet read - "The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us" by Bee Wilson. The book is a delight, though it is more a cultural history of bees and people, and much less an entomological discussion, and that is all to the good. Wilson places bees, their golden honey, and beekeeping in historical context, and the insights she brings show how and why these creatures have fascinated humans for millennia. The chapters (titled Work, Sex, Politics, Food and Drink, Life and Death, the Beekeeper) can stand alone and be read in almost any order, and they appeal to general readers of almost any age as well as novice beekeepers. There is much to be learned, and Ms. Wilson's rhetorical style is so charming that the book should delight even those without a personal interest in the creatures. Highly recommended for the curious.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bluemantle on June 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
This is the story of Mankind's relationship to bees. Utah calls itself "The Beehive State," so it falls to reason what Mormonism would be mentioned. However, her harangue against Mormons and Mormonism halfway through the first chapter was off-topic and unprofessional. Some of her allegations were even inaccurate, and not based in serious historical fact. Most of the book was charming and informative, but her unabashedly bigoted stance against "weird" Mormons ruined the book for me. What does any of that have to do with bees? It didn't advance her thesis at all.

I won't be reading any more books by this author.
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