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.
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.