A Honey of a Bibliography

Beekeeping is farming for intellectuals.
~~Sue Hubbell, A Book of Bees

Here are some of the many resources I’ve relied on for the series on honey and bees (9/28/09 through 10/1/09). If you read no other material on bees and beekeeping, be sure to read Dr. Eva Crane’s work.

Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind, by Stephen Buchmann and Banning Repplier (2005)

Hives (Photo credit: Pieter Musterd)
Hives (Photo credit: Pieter Musterd)

In Letters from the Hive, Professor Stephen Buchmann takes us into the hive — nursery, honey factory, queen’s inner sanctum–and out to the world of backyard gardens, open fields, and deserts in full bloom, where the age-old sexual dance between flowers and bees makes life on earth as we know it possible. Hailed for their hard work, harmonious society, and, mistakenly, for their celibacy, bees have a link to our species that goes beyond biology. In Letters from the Hive, Buchmann explores the fascinating role of bees in human culture and mythology, following the “honey hunters” of native cultures in Malaysia, the Himalayas, and the Australian Outback as they risk life and limb to locate a treasure as valuable as any gold. To contemplate a world without bees is to imagine a desolate place, culturally and biologically, and Buchmann shows how with each acre of land sacrificed to plow, parking lot, or shopping mall, we inch closer to what could become a chilling reality. He also offers honey-based recipes, cooking tips, and home remedies–further evidence of the gifts these creatures have bestowed on us. (From Product Description.)

The Archaeology of Beekeeping, by Eva Crane (1983)

Crane covers the archaeological evidence of beekeeping through the ages, from cave paintings to movable frame beekeeping. She also includes a very stimulating chapter on bees in art. Perhaps the most useful sections of the book concern beekeeping in Britain and Ireland, discussions of bee boles and bee houses, with an extensive table listing the sites of these boles. Terrific illustrations appear throughout the book and give the reader a concrete sense of the importance of bees and their honey and hives to humans. Crane provides and extensive bibliography of 324 works for documentation and further reference.

The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, by Eva Crane (1999)

Bee in Flight (Photo credit: William Warby)
Bee in Flight (Photo credit: William Warby)

This definitive work by world-renowned bee authority Eva Crane offers a fascinating account of bees and their complex relations with both humans and animals. Comprehensive, absorbing, and lavishly illustrated, this scholarly, yet accessible volume explores how bees, honey and other bee products have been gathered and utilized throughout the world. Beginning with the rock paintings of the Mesolithic cave dwellers, readers will learn about the variety of methods used by human beekeepers, the stratagems used by animal honey-hunters, and the multitude of products humans have derived from bees. The first in-depth book on the subject, the World History of Beekeeping and Honey-Hunting is the ultimate work on bees for scholars in biology and the life sciences, professional and amateur beekeepers, and anyone who is interested in bees or the collection of honey. [Eva Crane was director of the International Bee Research Association for 35 years, and is one of the world’s leading authorities on bees.] (Note: This Product Description hits the nail on the head — this thick book holds such an endless source of information, facts, figures, art, manuscripts, etc. A perfect research tool.)

Sweetness and Light: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee, by Hattie Ellis (2004)

In Sweetness and Light, Hattie Ellis leads us into the hive, revealing the fascinating story of bees and honey from the Stone Age to the present, from Nepalese honey hunters to urban hives on the rooftops of New York City. Uncovering the secrets of the honeybee one by one, Ellis shows how this small insect, with a collective significance so much greater than its individual size, can carry us through past and present to tell us more about ourselves than any other living creature. [Hattie Ellis is a food writer.] (From Product Description.)

Why Honey is Effective as a Medicine. 1. Its Use in Modern Medicine,” by Peter C. Molan (Bee World 80 (2): 80-92, 1999).

Up Close and Personal
Up Close and Personal

Abstract: Honey has been used as a medicine for thousands of years and its curative properties are well documented. However, modern medicine turned its back on honey and it is only now, with the advent of multi-resistant bacteria, that the antibiotic properties of honey are being rediscovered. [Dr. Peter C. Molan is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and an expert on the healthful properties of honey.]

Why Honey is Effective as a Medicine. 2. The Scientific Explanation of its Effects,” by Peter C. Molan (Bee World 82 (1): 22-40, 2001).

Abstract: The effectiveness of honey as a therapeutic agent has been unequivocally demonstrated in the literature reviewed in Part 1 of this article published in 1999, but the biochemical explanation of these effects is more hypothetical. However, a rational explanation can be seen when one looks at the scientific literature outside that on honey. Some of the components of honey are substances known to have physiological actions that would explain many of its therapeutic effects. In addition, research on honey has shown directly that it has physiological actions that would give therapeutic effects. [Dr. Peter C. Molan is Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and an expert on the healthful properties of honey.]

The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore (Dover Books on Anthropology and Folklore), by Hilda M. Ransome (2004, originally published 1937).

Minoan Bee Pendant
Minoan Bee Pendant

The Sacred Bee examines the folklore of bees and bee culture — from Egyptian, Babylonian, and other ancient sources to practices in modern Europe and America. The book also includes rare illustrations of bees, hives, and beekeepers appearing in art: paintings, sculpture, coins, jewelry, Mayan glyphs, African tree trunks, and more. Ransome also looks at ritual uses of milk and honey. A good introduction to a fascinating subject. Copious footnotes, but no bibliography.

Bees, by Rudolf Steiner (1998, originally a series of lectures delivered in 1923)

In 1923 Rudolf Steiner predicted the dire state of the honeybee today. He said that, within fifty to eighty years, we would see the consequences of mechanizing the forces that had previously operated organically in the beehive. Such practices include breeding queen bees artificially. The fact that over sixty percent of the American honeybee population has died during the past ten years, and that this trend is continuing around the world, should make us aware of the importance of the issues discussed in these lectures. Steiner began this series of lectures on bees in response to a question from an audience of workers at the Goetheanum. From physical depictions of the daily activities of bees to the most elevated esoteric insights, these lectures describe the unconscious wisdom of the beehive and its connection to our experience of health, culture, and the cosmos. [Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) was an Austrian philosopher and developed the concept of Anthroposophy.]  (From Product Description.)

Photo credit: Bob Gutowski
Photo credit: Bob Gutowski

A Keeper of Bees: Notes on Hive and Home, by Allison Wallace (2006)

Allison Wallace’s devotion to honeybees and their amazing, intensely lived lives started years ago, when she was living in a cabin in the North Carolina woods. Ever since then, wherever she has called home, Wallace has kept company with bees. Now she gives us the honeybee in all its glory, dancing “the great, never fully knowable ecological dance,” striving like other creatures and plants to be all it can be in its short life. With a philosopher’s perception and a scientist’s knowledge, Wallace interweaves the facts of honeybee biology with reflections on desire, intimacy, work, evolution, memory, and home. She shares the thrill of intimately observing thousands of busy bees cozily ensconced in their brilliantly designed, perfectly weatherproofed hive. She muses on the female workers’ unceasing activity, and on the male drones’ idleness as each awaits his acrobatic midair mating with the queen, followed by his instant death. She marvels at the cosseted queen, upon whom the future of the hive depends. [Allison Wallace is professor of American Studies at the Honors College of the University of Central Arkansas.] (From Product Description.)

The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us, by Bee Wilson (2007)

Traditional Honey Making (Photo credit: Philippe Semanaz)
Traditional Honey Making (Photo credit: Philippe Semanaz)

Ever since men first hunted for honeycomb in rocks and daubed pictures of it on cave walls, the honeybee has been seen as one of the wonders of nature: social, industrious, beautiful, terrifying. No other creature has inspired in humans an identification so passionate, persistent, or fantastical. The Hive recounts the astonishing tale of all the weird and wonderful things that humans believed about bees and their “society” over the ages. It ranges from the honey delta of ancient Egypt to the Tupelo forests of modern Florida, taking in a cast of characters including Alexander the Great and Napoleon, Sherlock Holmes and Muhammed Ali. The history of humans and honeybees is also a history of ideas, taking us through the evolution of science, religion, and politics, and a social history that explores the bee’s impact on food and human ritual. In this beautifully illustrated book, Bee Wilson shows how humans will always view the hive as a miniature universe with order and purpose, and look to it to make sense of their own. [Bee Wilson was a food critic of England’s New Statesman for five years, and now writes a weekly column for The Sunday Telegraph.] (From Product Information)

2 thoughts on “A Honey of a Bibliography

  1. I am interested in providing your website with slides and a translation of
    Varin’s “L’empire Des Legumes
    many years ago I embarked on researching historical culinary images. I entertained the notion of bringing back some of the Paintings,drawing,engraving,aquatints back from obscurity.For example Robidas illustrations of Brillat Savarin Aphorism’s

    a small book by Mme Durandeau is generously sprinkled with delightful childlike images that harken back to a time when cooking was a familiar activity. Of Course Urbain Dubois looms large and as the great Oberle says his were the most beautiful books what photographs could rival the complex lines that were seen as fish,fowl, hors doeurve and desserts in those engravings?

    anyway the slides are a treasure as they mirror the facism of Napolean III
    and the conceit of the middle class…..

    I am an old graduate of La Vareene (78)and I work as a chef-caterer.
    lauren Stacy Berdy

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