In Praise of Bees

In Praise of Bees

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A beautifully illustrated book filled with nuggets of bee science and practical beekeeping


The bee is probably the most written about species after the human race. As so many commentators through the ages have discovered, here is far more to the insect than its biology and life cycle. In Praise of Bees explores bees' place in human lives and imaginations, from cave paintings and inscribed clay tablets through to our contemporary world. This beautiful book's pages are filled with nuggets of bee science and practical beekeeping with carefully researched references to the role of these fascinating creatures in myth, religion, politics, philosophy and folklore. A rich variety of illustrations, ranging from Old Masters and scientific etchings to modern photographs appear throughout accompanied by a selection of verse, much of it the author's. The text is leavened with a dry wit, resulting in a scholarly but eminently readable exploration of bees, their complex society and their place in the world. This is especially relevant in view of concerns about their present plight and the ecological consequences.


Elizabeth Birchall has long been interested in bee lore and mythology. She was born in Newark-on-Trent and has had a wide and varied life - from market gardener to Wren aircraft mechanic, before training as a social worker and eventually taking up a research fellowship at Stirling University investigating inter-professional cooperation in child protection. As practitioner, manager and policy researcher, she wrote books and articles for various professional journals. Having lived and worked in many parts of the UK, on retirement she returned to a much-loved Cotswold village to write poetry, her work appearing in many anthologies and poetry journals. 

Book Specifications

Additional Information

Sub Heading A Cabinet of Curiosities
ISBN 9781846891922
Author Elizabeth Birchall
Binding Casebound
Extent 260mm x 180mm, 256 pages
Illustrations Colour photographs, etchings and illustrations
Ebook Yes via your usual supplier

'I'll tell you what I already love, and that's the cover! Not just the design etc., but the lovely smooth suede-like sensation to the touch. It's such a pleasure to hold.' Shirley Wright, Indigo Dreams Publishing


'This is clearly a labour of love and a life's work, and it is full of eclectic, eccentric, informative, and delightful bee facts and fictions, a cabinet in whose 'drawers' myth, religion, politics, moral philosophy and folklore all have their place. Honeybees in particular have long been a source of great interest to human beings and Elizabeth Birchall ranges over the whole of human history to illustrate this point, starting with bee cave paintings and the biographies of some famous 'bee masters', from Aristotle to 20th Century Nobel prize winner, Karl von Frisch.' The Good Book Guide


'The author has compiled a 'cabinet' of information relating to bees. She has delved into many historical aspects to gather these curiosities for our delight...This is a quality volume, expertly produced. It is copiously illustrated with photographs and line drawings. It is obvious that the author has carried out a huge amount of research. Reading this text will no doubt open your curiosity to the nuggets held within this cabinet.' BeeCraft

'I am not a beekeeper, nor am I particularly fanatical about honey, but this book gave me a real buzz. It s extremely elegant, incredibly informative, and fantastically frivolous in places. It is an example of why, despite the likes of Kindle, I believe tangible books will always be with us. In Praise of Bees is a celebration of everything absolutely everything to do with the little bewinged insects. Chapters range from the straightforwardly titled Honey to the somewhat more intriguing For Tyranny or Commonwealth? and, I was relieved to find, the author is seeking to not only inform but also share the joy and fascination bees have brought mankind for thousands of years. The book is decorated with every conceivable type of imagery: from the expected scientific drawings and closeup photography to ancient paintings and more surprising embroideries and cartoons. The presentation of such a multitude of media reminds me of the exhibition catalogues I used to edit for the Bodleian Library, and flipping though Birchall s book is very much like taking a relaxed stroll though a museum you can choose to stop and ingest the more technical exhibits or you can skip these and head straight to the less academic though nonetheless important bits (my preferred approach to any educational excursion). Whatever your method for perusing this publication, you will learn something new and probably quite unexpected about bees and mankind s relationship with them. You might even happen upon a recipe for honey cake, which, commendably, is inserted merely as an aside. Birchall has even dotted her own poetry throughout the book, adding an endearing ultrapersonal commentary. I love to hate idioms, so I was happy to learn that to make a beeline for may...or may not... have come from an ancient sailors practice of releasing bees to determine landfall. A somewhat more macabre, newtome fact was that beeswax can be used to embalm the dead. For all the delight and attractiveness of this book, there is a sad and alarming undertone: that the bee is struggling to survive. This doesn t mean only that we might not see honey on our supermarket shelves; as the principal plant pollinators on earth, this threatens, as Birchall puts it, the very underpinnings of all life . Therefore, I urge you to familiarise yourselves with our friends the bees: whether to you they are magical, mysterious, or merely a little bit intriguing, they are necessary. In Praise of Bees is probably the best and definitely the most beautiful book about bees for people who didn t know they could be interested in bees.' Daily Info, Oxford

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