Bees and their keepers by Lotte Moller, translated by Frank Perry
MacLehose Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781529405262.
(Age: Senior secondary / Adult) Highly recommended. "Through the seasons and centuries, from waggle-dancing to killer bees, from Aristotle to Winnie-the-Pooh" - the subtitle gives an idea of what the book is about. It is not a how-to guide but more a social and cultural history of beekeeping. That said, Moller, the author, did keep bees herself for many years, and she has included factual pages on the life cycle and duties of the bees within the hive. There are also chapters on enemies of bees, pests and diseases, all things beginning beekeepers would be advised to learn about.
The first section of the book is full of historical references to past beliefs about bees and beekeeping. It is the kind of book that you can just pick up and read something interesting from any page but the true enthusiast will be rewarded by reading from beginning to end. Readers will learn about early hives, the surprising discovery that the bee community is centred around a queen not a king, remedies for stings, stories of swarms, the different varieties of honey, and the development of the Buckfast bee. This section of the book is ordered by months of the year, but southern hemisphere readers need to remember that the author, being Swedish, is referring to a northern hemisphere calendar.
The second, shorter, section of the book raises current issues in beekeeping - questions about the best kind of hive, Langstroth, Warre or top-bar hives, 'natural' beekeeping and arguments about original or hybrid bees. However readers will find no mention of the Australian invented Flow Hive - perhaps the uptake in Europe has not been as high as in Australia, U.S. and Canada.
There is much people can learn from bees, yet as Moller says, we have made things so difficult for them that their very survival is now in doubt. Keeping bees has had a groundswell of interest from urban beekeepers and hobbyists, but this does not solve the pollination problem in our agricultural industries based on monoculture cultivation and widespread insect sprays. Perhaps reading about past discoveries and innovations will inspire future problem solving and a renewed appreciation of the amazing contribution bees make to our world.