SWEETNESS AND LIGHT: The Mysterious History of the Honeybee

Hattie Ellis, Author . Harmony $23 (243p) ISBN 978-1-4000-5405-3

For anyone who's wondered about how humans first started eating honey—after all, bees guard it jealously—Ellis's charming history will be a treat. Apis mellifera is "the most studied creature on the planet after man," she writes, although even so, it turns out that the honeybee's biological ancestry isn't quite clear. There is some evidence that their relatives existed 200 million years ago or more—earlier than the earliest known flower, in other words, which would mean that they were eating something other than nectar. British food writer Ellis (Tea ) leaves the tedious details of bee taxonomy to the experts, but satisfies readers with the fact that bees probably evolved from an ancestor of the carnivorous wasp. She then reveals the state of modern beekeeping by visiting apiarists and letting them talk about their bees, which they do, quite happily, relating tales of the delightful symbiosis of human and bee. Ultimately, it's all about the honey, and those who prefer to think of the sweet stuff as something that comes from jars might cringe at Elllis's description of how bees make it: the phrase "sucked and pumped, sucked and pumped, sucked and pumped" is queasily accurate. Entrancing anecdotes, accurate details and meticulous research add up to a sweetly satisfying read. 20 b&w photos. Agent, Georgina Capel . (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 142 pages - 978-0-307-54786-6
Paperback - 243 pages - 978-1-4000-5406-0
Hardcover - 978-0-340-73451-3
Hardcover - 290 pages - 978-0-340-73452-0
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