The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us by Bee Wilson - review by William Palmer

William Palmer

Summer In A Jar

The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us


John Murray 308pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

THE BEE HAS been held up as the model of the diligent, unselfish worker for many centuries and its image appears in everything from cave paintings to modern advertising. Ohio, that state of the industrious, has taken the beehive as its emblem; Antoni Gaudi, the architect, absorbed the parabolic arch of the natural honeycomb into his buildings. The busy bee's chief product echoes in our language: honeymoon, honeydew, honey-traps, honeysuckle. Beeswax has provided polish, witches' wax-dolls, and Madame Tussaud's models. No other insect has found such a place in life or art. Ants, as Bee Wilson points out, may work as hard, 'but, at the end of it all, what do they produce? An anthill.'

For much of human history, the products of the bee supplied the only sources of light, alcohol and comforting sweetness. Beeswax candles did not give off the horrible, meaty smell of tallow; mead was probably the first fermented drink, and, until the large-scale manufacture of sugar, honey was the only

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