The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us Paperback – 12 Sep 2005
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A light and delicious book, in an exceptionally pretty honey-coloured jacket gilded with bees, and it is written with sparkle and charm ... some of her best writing is about the deliciousness of honey, and it is hard to read her chapter of recipes without drooling. (The Tablet)
Can hardly be bettered. (Guardian)
Bee Wilson's little book is a small hive of treasure. It is a sweet celebration of our appreciation of the honeybee (Dumfries and Galloway Standard)
Fascinating, careful, witty and intelligent ... Riveting ... Almost any paragraph chosen at random is entertaining (Prue Leith, New Statesman)
Richly informative and beautifully written (The Times)
Wonderfully entertaining reading. (The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society)
Erudite and elegant ... Bee Wilson writes fluently and engagingly and she manages to present a great deal of curious information in a form as easy to swallow as a spoonful of the finest Attic honey ... The book is also exceptionally pleasing to look at and hold. (Tom Fort, Sunday Telegraph)
A fascinating tribute to the bee (Woman & Home)
This biography is immensely detailed, intelligent, generous, sympathetic, and often entertaining...Betjeman fans...will delight in Hillier's monumental work (Literary Review)
Entertaining and thoroughly worthwhile (Sunday Times)
Fascinating (Humphrey Carpenter, Sunday Times)
A charming, fascinating pot-pourri of all things beelike (Bookseller)
Erudite, informative, accurate and a delight to read. (The Times Literary Supplement)
Wilson presents the history of the honeybee in this engaging and anecdote-filled account (Publishing News)
'Wilson has a fine eye for character sketches' (The Times)
'For a moment you may feel, as I did, that part of Wilson's research for this book involved turning into a bee for a few days ... Amazing.' -- Nick Lezard (Guardian)
'Beautifully produced and well-researched ...leaving readers to marvel'. (Good Book Guide)
'There are delights and surprises on virtually every page of this gem of a book' (Sunday Telegraph)
'Bee Wilson conveys a real sense of the relationship between bees and us, and her short, punchy chapters are witty and fascinating' (Easy Living)
'Wilson's sprightly hymn to the honeybee ... conveys ... the marvel, complexity and ultimate unknowability that has made the beehive such a fascination (Independent)
'This is the Christmas book with a real sting.' (Saga)
She manages to present a great deal of information in a form as easy to swallow as a spoonful of honey. (Tom Fort, Sunday Telegraph)
Buzzes with info and has the prettiest dust-jacket of the third millennium (Barry Humphries, Sunday Telegraph)
Endlessly fascinating (Mail on Sunday)
'A riveting read . . .this beguiling book is more a history of ideas than an actual study . . .buzzing with fascinating facts' (BBC Gardener's World Magazine)
'Bee Wilson recounts all the weird and wonderful things people have believed about bees' (History Today)
'Juicy reading . . .worth buying for the illustration on p. 204 alone' (The Spectator)
'Bee Wilson . . .connects readers' imaginations with their salivary glands' (New Statesman)
'A brilliant examination of a natural phenomenon we all take for granted' (Sunday Express)
'Fascinating and readable. Wilson writes with flair and wit about everything from Pliny to pollination; her love of honey in all its sheer sensuousness shines through' (Scotsman)
'Can hardly be bettered . . .Principally a writer on food, Wilson none the less knows a lot about keeping honeybees, and also about their biology and natural history, waxworks and candles, and the changing shape of the beehive' (The Guardian)
'Beautifully written and absorbing' (New Statesman)
The story of the inspiring relationship between bees, their hive and the human world, brilliantly reviewed in hardbackSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The title is an indicator - how we've related to bees, their habits and their delicious product has a long history. Bees are the one social animal we've had a deep relationship with. They've provided templates to explain or guide human society - although we've been almost always wrong in how their society forms and operates. Early civilisations viewed them as warrior monarchies, ruled by a "king" driving, or being supported by, a soldier caste. Wilson examines six areas where humans have dealt with bees as their counterparts: work, sex, politics, food and drink, life and death. In their most intimate relationship, she adds the beekeeper as her conclusion.
Wilson explains how early commentators viewed the drone-worker relationship as symbolic of human society. Even today's leading British entomologist, Francis Ratnieks, compares the partitioning of roles to "the efficiency of the modern supermarket". The hive is actually superior in that it needs no central management to control events. The constant activity, however, has led many societies to adopt the hive as a symbol of "industriousness". Perhaps the most famous example is Brigham Young's Mormon "Deseret" colony. The bees showed how cooperation could accomplish anything. Wilson, in contrast, shows how worker bees go through successive levels of participation in simply doing the same thing over and over through the generations. Even a new colony simply repeats an age-old process.
The mystery of how bees procreate, mixed with the various views of how colonies were organised, led to some bizarre interpretations. So long as the "monarch" was seen as male, bee-human comparisons seemed apt. When it was discovered that the big bee, the centre of so much hive activity, was female ature itself appeared overturned. The idea of a single female, adored by crowds of "gallants" was abhorrent. That didn't prevent commentators from rationalising the arrangement.
Wilson recounts the views of numerous observers of apian life. Certain figures stand out, of course. Dutchman Jan Swammerdam had determined the sex of the hive "monarch". A dedicated naturalist, Swammerdam made meticulous drawings of bee anatomy, some still unmatched today. In Britain, it's Charles Butler who spanned the late 16th and early 17th Centuries, was the first serious observer of bee society. Karl von Frisch, of course, is honoured as the man who revealed how bees communicate, and that they perceive flowers in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum. His discovery of the "waggle dance" as a means of imparting location of food sources among worker bees ultimately granted him a Nobel Prize. That he began his work refuting a false notion of colour perception in animals has a touch of
Wilson worked hard to give us this excellent summary of an insect essential to humanity. Pollinating orchards, providing a non-fattening sweetener, giving us valuable insights to Nature's processes, bees have gained a spirited champion with this book. Not a stolid academic study, the author graces her lively text with illustrations, photographs and a thorough bibliography of her research. She also rekindles my longing for a return to beekeeping and fresh honey. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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