So, of course, I love reading books about bees, learning about their politics and intriguing history in both fiction and non.
Some of my earliest memories were of sitting at my Mumsie’s kitchen bench, eating toast slathered with the last of my great grandfather, Jadek’s honey. His golden jars had outlived him.
In honor of my ancestors and their sticky toil, my definitive list of the best bee books:
The Beekeepers Bible by Richard Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch: this book is a given. My one stop shop for everything to do with bees and keeping them. The full colour vintage style graphics don’t hurt either.
The Bees by Laline Paull: The Hunger Games meets A Handmaid’s Tale. The novel begins at the birth of Flora 435, a lowly worker bee destined to serve her hive and die. But she soon finds her body responding in ways it shouldn’t, allowing her to move up in the ranks, and sparking a revolution. A fascinatingly beautiful insight into the inner workings of a hive.
Kinfolk by Nathan Williams: Volume Two of this stunning publication has an article about a honey harvest. The Apiarist is also a florist, which is seemingly the perfect combination of vocations. Read this in midsummer and you will want to be a beekeeper too!
The Georgics Book IV by Virgil: a tiny copy of Virgil’s selected works was given to me this week, with a these pages charmingly bookmarked for me – a classical guide to beekeeping:
First look for a site and position for your apiary,
where no wind can enter (since the winds prevent them
carrying home their food) and where no sheep or butting kids
leap about among the flowers, or wandering cattle brush
the dew from the field, and wear away the growing grass.
Let the bright-coloured lizard with scaly back, and the bee-eater
and other birds, and Procne, her breast marked
by her blood-stained hands, keep away from the rich hives:
since they all lay waste on every side, and while the bees are flying,
take them in their beaks, a sweet titbit for their pitiless chicks.
But let there be clear springs nearby, and pools green with moss,
and a little stream sliding through the grass,
and let a palm tree or a large wild-olive shade the entrance,
so that when the new leaders command the early swarms
in their springtime, and the young enjoy freedom from the combs.
The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy: your respect for the tiny golden creatures who create astounding architecture will grow after reading this collection of Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry.
View from the Summit by Edmund Hillary: climbed mountains in winter, kept bees in summer. The ideal balance of seasonal careers. Hilary and his brother kept bees on the vast Canterbury plains in New Zealand’s South Island. There are still thousands of hives scattered across the plains today. Play beehive bingo while driving though on long hot summer days.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare: Shakespeare, like me, loves bees (probably) and smatters them throughout his works. Unsurprisingly, they pop up quite a bit in his most summery of plays.
The Poems of Emily Dickinson: although a recluse herself, Miss Dickinson wrote some killer poems about bees.
Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due—The Frogs got Home last Week—
Are settled, and at work—
Birds, mostly back—
The Clover warm and thick—You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me—