I wouldn’t call this book life changing, but diet changing yes. After reading Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive I went from eating PB & J sandwiches to PB & H (peanut butter and honey). I learned such amazing things about these insects and the food they produce that spreading it on my bread instead of sugary jelly just made sense. Author Stephen Buchmann is an entomologist who knows his way around a beehive as well as the English language. His writing is humorous, fascinating and tasty. Allow me to share a few gems from this wonderful book.
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Bees have some clever ways of collecting pollen and toting it back to the hive: Some species moisten it with saliva and attach it to concave regions on their hind legs, also known as pollen baskets. Others carry it in the coarse mats of hair on their legs and abdomens. Buchmann describes one industrious bee species as “so laden with bright orange pollen by the time it finishes its work that it looks like a flying Cheetos snack as it heads for home.”
Many creatures enjoy honey, but some don’t live to tell the tale: One such example are mice who sometimes invade a hive seeking warmth and food. The bees sting the animal to death and entomb it within the hive’s resinous walls. “Embalmed mouse mummies are an interesting side note to beekeeping,” Buchmann says.
Not all honey is created equal: Honey varieties differ in color, aroma and flavor. Tupelo honey for example is honey made only from the nectar of tupelo blossoms. Bachmann’s vivid descriptions of common U.S. honeys will have you salivating. I’ve always bought clover honey because it’s generally the cheapest. Buchmann, however, raved about orange blossom so
I decided to splurge. Turns out I didn’t have to. Orange blossom honey at the supermarket is reasonably priced and delicious! Now, maybe I can save my pennies for fresh farmers’ market honey or honey straight from the comb, an experience Buchmann says is “like nothing else in the world.”
England was once known as the Isle of Honey: The ancient Britons were renowned for their beekeeping skills. The vast quantity of honey they produced was used as a sweetener in foods and for mead which is honey wine.
Honey cures what ails you: The Ancients regarded honey as a wonder drug, one that beautified and strengthened the body and developed the brain. Modern medicine is now revisiting these old remedies. Today, health care workers in places like Australia and the Netherlands are beginning to use honey-impregnated bandages to treat burns and hard to heal wounds because of the substance’s unique antibacterial qualities.
Bonus Bit: After reading this book, I developed such an affinity for bees and the job they do in pollinating most of the world’s fruits and vegetables that I want to help. You can too! This spring I’m planting sunflowers and zinnias, flowers bees love. The seeds are cheap. Once the plants are up and going, they don’t require much tending. I may even join the Great Sunflower Project in which average citizens agree to count the pollinators that come to their garden.
Question: Do you know of an interesting bee story?
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