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Letters from the Hive

(article, Caroline Cummins)

Buchman, an entomologist and amateur beekeeper, is clearly in love with bees. The founder of an environmental company called Bee Works and the co-author (with Gary Paul Nabhan) of an earlier book called The Forgotten Pollinators, Buchmann here sets out to provide a brief survey of the honey bee.

"They work hard, love sex, are devoted to family, and know the importance of a good piece of real estate," announces the book jacket to Letters from the Hive. The honey bee, as Buchmann points out, has been important to humans since humans first evolved: initially, we sought out hives for their treasure chests of honey, and then we began tending hives ourselves. 

But bees aren't just a means to a sweet, sticky end; we rely on them to pollinate most of the crops we cultivate. Without bees, our world would lack not just honey but at least a third of the crops we regularly chomp down. 

Buchmann isn't so interested in the environmental significance of bees (he already covered that in The Forgotten Pollinators) as he is in all the diversity bees bring to us. Chapters in Letters from the Hive focus on the art and craft of beekeeping, the cultural significance of bees, the vast variety of honeys and honey recipes from around the world, the joys of drinking mead, and the medicinal properties of honey. 

If the writing sometimes strays into the dully pedantic, that's probably due to the fact that Buchmann himself is an academic, working with the aid of professional scribe Repplier. Letters from the Hive is still a lyrical ode to bees and honey, and a solid introduction to both.

p(bio). Caroline Cummins is the managing editor of Culinate.

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