Sweetness and Light

Sweetness and Light : The Mysterious History of the Honey Bee

3.65 (260 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback

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The been is the most studied creature on the planet after man, and down the ages this insect and its honey have been harnessed by doctors, philosophers, scientists, politicians, artists, writers and architects as both metaphor and material. In her buzzing narrative, Hattie Ellis tells how all these people have found inspiration in the honey bee. We also discover some of the mysterious ways of bees - how they can make up to 24,000 journeys to produce a pound of honey, with each bee producing one teaspoonful in a lifetime; we see how, charmingly, they communicate by dances; and we look under the lid of the hive to find as many as 100,000 bees living and working in total discipline. But we witness their dark side, too - such as the savage, untamed energy of the swarms of killer African bees that are sweeping through America. We also explore some of the many unsolved questions surrounding the honey bee, some of them at the very cutting edge of contemporary medical research. Why did European honey bees stay in their hives as Chernobyl spread its toxic dust? And does honey, itself immortal, aid longevity? The bee existed long before man; and without bees, we would soon start to die. Hattie Ellis shows us how this small insect can tell us more about ourselves than any other living creature.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 290 pages
  • 138 x 216 x 34mm | 458.14g
  • Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Illustrations, ports.
  • 0340734515
  • 9780340734513

Author information

For Hattie Ellis, following the honey bee through history is part of her quest to uncover the cultural and physical roots of food. Hattie's previous books include Eating England and Trading Places. She lives in Lewes, East Sussex.show more

Review Text

This book should easily delight, whether beekeeper or not. It is an informative, historical and amazing account of the honey bee; it's life and history. Just one of at least 22,000 named bee species, we embark upon a journey through which the honey -bee is vividly revealed and explained by the author, Hattie Ellis, whose previous books include 'Eating England' and Trading Places'. Bursting with intriguing facts and interspersed with black and white photographs and line drawings, the facts of this sometimes, misinterpreted insect are compellingly and clearly given and the myths dispelled. Ellis travels from moorland to the city's heart, talking to beekeepers about the bee's diverse and complex world and learning how honey is produced and used, engaging upon the lives and language of the people she meets. The book is so deliciously descriptive, particularly when portraying the honeys diverse sources, from the slightly salty, snow-white honey of the pohutukawa, the Christmas tree of the antipodean midsummer, to the nectar that streams from the marjoram and thyme carpeted slopes of the Greek Islands, culminating in a honey that was once offered to the Gods. Throughout the centuries, from orange blossom to coffee plants, the bees explore and discover a vibrant and exquisite array of flowers and plants. Thereby not only extracting the valuable nectar they desired but pollinating as they went, as though part of the bargain. A photograph of a 'bee-beard' illustrates the bees communication system and we discover why philosophers, artists, doctors, scientists and even politicians have become linked with the bees. We are invited also, to explore the bee's darker side. African killer bees are swarming, feral and unchecked across America. Yet, honey itself, is said to aid longevity and have many medical benefits. So lift the lid and peer inside, for without the bees, our future seems unsure. But can something as pure as honey survive our ever-increasingly imperfect world? (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

260 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 21% (55)
4 39% (101)
3 27% (71)
2 9% (24)
1 3% (9)
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