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Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  124 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
They work hard, are devoted to family, love sex, and know the importance of a good piece of real estate. Honey bees, and the daily workings of their close-knit colonies, are one of nature's great miracles. And they produce one of nature's greatest edible bounties: honey. More than just a palate pleaser, honey was once an offering to the gods, a preservative, and a medicine ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Bantam (first published 2005)
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With a book like this, a genuine passion for the subject really makes the read much more enjoyable. And Buchmann is obviously, emphatically (and professionally- he's an entomologist) passionate about the subjects of bees, beekeeping, and honey. Where this book shines above others that I've read on the subject is the current anthropological studies of beekeeping and honey hunting. It's truly fascinating, and I don't remember ever having read the same depth of information on that subject elsewhere ...more
Aug 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nature or Honey Lovers

A delightful, in-depth book ... everything you ever wanted to know about bees and honey.

From bees in the earliest civilizations, to myths and folklore about bees, following honey hunters of native cultures who use old traditional methods of gathering honey ... and so much more.

I enjoyed the section on the interaction between bees and flowers. The detailed "Inside The Hive" info was fascinating as well.

I learned that there are many flavors of honey, depending upon which flowers the bee
Zena Casteel
Mar 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting and informative, touching upon a wide range of topics from history, religion, entomology and medical science to gourmet cooking and beekeeping practices. This book is certain to provide food (in this case, honey) for thought. It is a bit disorganized, but in some ways that adds to the books charm. Overall, a fun read.
Simone K
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Letters from the Hive is a lovely book with much knowledge. My favorite parts were when Stephen Buchmann described honey hunts in other areas of the world. I learned a lot about how other cultures use honey and its place in history. It's definitely worth a read for anyone interested in honey bees.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shortly after reading Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive, a book for young adults by the same author, I discovered the original adult version. Both are enjoyable. The adult version contains the same information about the honey and bees themselves, but with additional commentary on related species and sexual topics. Who would imagine an Australian hammer orchid would deceive a Thynnid wasp by displaying what looks and smells like a Thynnid female amongst their petals? Unable to fly off and mate wi ...more
Jul 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
Picked this up at the BPL Park Slope branch...was pretty disappointed. I thought it would delve into more of the scientific/social aspects of bee colonies, or the recent findings that there are fewer and fewer bees each year. The book is much more focused on the author's obsession with honey. We have Pooh bear for that.

Is this a book about bees or a coming of age novel?? please read this excerpt from chapter 1:

"This was the moment I had been longing for through out the long winter months, a per
Florence Millo
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Letters from the Hive

I found this charming book very interesting and informative. For example, I had no idea there were many prehistoric cave paintings depicting ancient honey hunting. But once you look at the figures, it is obvious what they are doing. The book takes you back through the history of honey hunting and bee keeping. It takes you on treks through Maya villages in the Yucatan peninsula, to Nepal, Australia, and India to learn the history and current practices of bee keeping and honey
Jun 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Letters from the Hive is a detailed look at honey production and the relationship between humans and bees around the world. Buchmann, an entomologist, clearly loves his subject and his enthusiasm is contagious for any reader. His information seems well documented, and his introduction of folklore alongside historical accounts is well done for a layman. It's a shame he couldn't have collaborated with a folklorist for these sections. At times his generalizations are slightly larger than I feel com ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a wonderful book covering many honey bee related topics. The primary focus was on the historical interactions of people, honey, and honey bees. Only after writing this, did I realize how accurate the sub-title of this book is. The information in this book is incredibly interesting, my only criticism is in presentation. At times I felt like I was reading a scholarly article, or a text book. All in all, I would recommend this to anyone who is curious about a historical and sociological pe ...more
May 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bee-magic
I love bees and any book that goes into this kind of detail will fascinate me. There is folklore, recipes, history - a little of everything. The personal notes are great. The kind of book to read again some summer day when I am lazy and in the garden listening to the hum of bees and other insects keeping the natural world running along smoothly.
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Much of this book is just an accumulation of facts about bees. I did like the chapters on the current anthropology of honey collecting in central america and other places. I also liked the creation myths and other stories that include bees. Tried a couple of his recipes - not very good. Much of Buchmann's writing is annoyingly perky but I suspect that it is genuine perkiness.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
I found this a fascinating little book with all sorts of information on beekeepers, beekeeping, honey collection, myths and legends about honey all parts of the world. It is a wealth of interesting information. I found the chapter on honey as a medical agent, beginning with ancient cultures, and then how it is being rediscovered today.
All in all a delight to read.
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Not what I was hoping for. I was expecting a synopsis of the honey bee ala Malcolm Gladwell but got a 7th grade text book instead. Interesting tidbits here and there, but with too many sidebars and outtakes to make it a truly enjoyable read. I learned more from my father-in-law beekeeeper in five minutes than I learned here in several hours. Blah.
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
I was not as taken with this as I was with Fruitless Fall. My love of bees is somewhat emotional, (not sure why...) and this writer did not tap into that feeling of awe and wonder that made me fall in love with bees.

So I didn't finish it, maybe the end is really great but I guess I'll never know...
Linda Hollingsworth
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating and informative book about the history of our relationship with bees, collecting honey, and how it has been used. As with much nonfiction literature it is not going to be a book most people read through in one sitting, but the author's unique perspective drew me in for shorter spurts of interesting and enjoyable escapes into the world of bees.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Nice collection of stories of the life of people and honey bees. Mr. Buchmann also gave examples of the many different types of honey, the different bees that collect this honey, and a lot of recipes!

In a word, the book was sweet. ;)
I actually had to stop reading this book or I was never going to read another book again. I just cannot get into it, it is boring me to absolute tears. Maybe I'll come back to it later and feel differently...
Jo Sl
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Good book for starting beekeeper and nature enthusiast. I liked it a lot.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Good history of bees, but dull at time.
Also impressed with recipes using honey at the end.
Rose Ann
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: gardeners, bee-lovers
Fairly interesting book about bees and the beekeepers year.
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it

This book provides much more information on primitive beekeeping than most books about honeybees. It also provides a fantastic section on medicinal uses for honey.
Aug 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very interesting look at the lives of bees and their keepers.
Jan 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
curious little creatures. the queen bee decides the gender of the eggs she is going to lay. a perk since she spends the majority of her life just laying eggs!
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Stephen Buchmann is a beekeeper and an associate professor of entomology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He served on a National Academy of Sciences committee on the status of pollinators in North America and is a member of the Pollinator Partnership. He coauthored two nonfiction adult titles, The Forgotten Pollinators and Letters from the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey and Human ...more
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