Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holley Bishop "Robbing the Bees"

"Robbing the Bees: A biography of honey, the sweet liquid gold that seduced the world"

“Robbing the Bees” divides its pages between a modern day bee-keeping operation in Florida and a world history of bee-keeping.

In apiculturalist Smiley, Holley Bishop seems to have found the perfect guide into the world of commercial bee-keeping. A competent businessman who is also deeply entranced with his charges and finds that the best part of the job is the constant learning experience.

Accompanying the season of tupelo honey, the book is as close to a documentary as you can find on the written page. From the first tentative blossoms, the placing of the hives in the fields, until the sales calls, the reader gets a complete tour of contemporary honey gathering. There is also a quick tour of a truly gigantic honey venture where bee-keepers send excess production that gets used into cereals, candy and the like.

Along the way, Bishop presents a history of apiculture from Stone Age to our days. It was very interesting to learn that the hive, as we know it is actually a recent invention (XIX century) and that for the most, our experience of honey gathering was dangerous, even life-threatening (as it still is in some regions).

There are tales of scrumptious recipes using honey (the ancient Greeks were particular fans), honey used as currency in various civilizations, a chapter on that mind blogging substance that is wax and the many uses it was put to. My favorite was probably the chapter on the medicinal (and cosmetic) uses of honey.

And yet, great as this book was, it seems to have let me far from satisfied as far as honeybees go. This is not in the least “Robbing the Bees” fault – but the more I read about these mysterious insects, the more my curiosity stirs. Bishop’s book left me hungry for more, which is a recommendation by any account.

1 comment:

Jeane said...

Wow, this one sounds great! I'd love to know more about bees and bee-keeping, I know nothing about the history of it all. I'm definitely adding this one to my TBR, thanks to you!