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Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  882 ratings  ·  138 reviews
Holley Bishop loves bees. No, more than that: she idolizes them. She marvels at their native abilities and the momentous role these misunderstood and unjustly feared creatures have played in the development of human history. And with her book, Robbing the Bees, she succeeds in making the reader love bees, too. Take this nifty bit of information, one of countless ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 1st 2006 by Atria Books (first published February 22nd 2005)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  882 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Jan 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Erin Bond, Rachel Jenkins, Kathleen Jewell
Recommended to Visha by: Pomegranate Books
This is the type of book that Barbara Kingsolver wished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was: unlike Kingsolver's text, Robbing the Bees perfectly blends a narrative of the writer embarking upon a foreign experience (keeping bees and learning about bees and their importance and impact upon the earth, influence over people, etc.), meeting interesting and unusual people (Don Smiley, Professional Beekeeper from Wewahitchka, Florida) and the flawless integration of fascinating research that spans the ...more
Accessible. Easy writing style. Other writers could have been more scientific, but I would not have understood all they were saying. I understand what Ms Bishop is saying. Next time I read a bee book, I will choose one slightly more scientific and less memior.
Great medical information included in the text. Some food recipes included at end, a sort of Appendix.
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have a not-so-secret love for the sort of books that explain the amazingness of science to us everyday folk, books like "The Botany of Desire" and "Jacobson's Organ", because I like being reminded that the world is a sort of miraculous place. (Also, I like being able to regale friends, family and coworkers with obscure facts about things like honeybees and tulips.) I wasn't sure what exactly I would be reading about when I started this particular book. Bees? Beekeeping? Honey? All of the above ...more
Oct 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I am enjoying the book and find it interesting. However, I do think it could have been written better. I had some issues with the continuity and sequencing of the book which was confusing to me at times. Also the book was in sore need of quality photos, graphic organizers, and illusrations to support the text...the few that were included were too small. The book had an intimacy and personal approach that was endearing to the author's personal journey and relationship to honey. This personalness ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all readers
Recommended to Brent by: publisher, in galley
I loved this, though I put it down for years at a time, like I love Tupelo Honey. Bishop does participant observation with a great beekeeper in the Florida panhandle, and grows into beekeeping through their work together. Wewahitchka and surrounding panhandle counties were ruined by Hurricane Michael last fall. I am eager for news of the people - and bees - down there.
Highly recommended.
Steven Shook
Holley Bishop provides a wealth of information throughout her book, which is an admixture of personal narrative, natural history, and human history as related to honey bees and honey. While numerous references and facts are stated throughout the book, there are no footnotes, no end notes, and no bibliography. Given the scientific bent of the topic, as well as Bishop's own comments concerning her trips to the library to research her topic, one would have expected some sort of pointer to more ...more
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
All through history, we find references to our industrious bees, as military weapons, as nature's first aid box, as the world's first sweetener and as pollinators of plants.

Providing in-depth information about how to build your own apiary and keep your bees happy and healthy through the seasons, we follow one particular bee-keeper in Florida as he moves his hives from feeding ground to feeding ground, smokes his bees to remove the honey, repairs or builds new hives during the winter when the
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
While sometimes I can be hypercritical of these new pop-gastronomy books that are all the rage right now, I really enjoyed this one. Equal parts narrative and history, biology and memoir, the author did a good job with her pacing. There was only one section, the chapter titled "Medicine Ball" that I found a bit tedious. I love bees though, and beekeeping and honey and have read some texts on all those things from an agricultural standpoint, but this book includes some little gems of knowledge I ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Brian by: Jenelle
[close] Entertainment-1 Stars
Education- 1 Star
Readability- 1 star
Innovation- 0 Stars
Inspiration- .5 Stars

I liked the history of the bees and the way Holly draws you into her fascination with them. I know pretty much everything I would ever need or want to know about bees now. I also appreciate them more and when I am outside it is a lot more interesting to watch them and see what they are doing. I am not ready to set up a hive on my deck yet (I have enough reasons for them to throw me out),
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
I learned what products bees produce from this book, but the book could have been more direct. The descriptions of the life of a commercial beekeeper were all valuable. The history of uses of honey was much less so. That included lengthy quotes from a wide range of books dealing with honey throughout history. I could have learned just as much from and enjoyed much more a quick summary of the uses of honey in history. That part of the book read much like quack advertisements for bee products as a ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. I learned so much! For instance, beeswax- where do you think it comes from? Besides from bees, I mean. They secrete little flakes of beeswax, eight at a time, from their wax glands after a debauch on nectar and a nice long rest. The whole book was full of fun and fascinating information about bees and bee-keeping. Bishop's voice is warm and approachable but not the least bit blog-like. I enjoyed meeting the beekeepers to whom she introduced me.

The only real problem with this
Kimberly Ann
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
I didn't finish this, I perused it.... It was long, informative & boring.... Full of history of beekeeping.

Very dry
Feb 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
When spring limbers up and the first wildflowers start to bloom, bees get ready to suck up nectar and transform it into honey. Beekeepers, meantime, are shaking out their white cotton coveralls, netted veils and gauntlet-style gloves. They're dusting off their smokers and 8-inch wood-handled bee brushes. They're readying black wooden fume boards--hive lids lined in absorbent black felt on which they will drizzle butyric acid, the active ingredient in rancid butter. Clap a fume board on top of a ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Long before humans were human, back when our large-browed ancestors were experimenting with a groundbreaking (heh) technology we now know as "rocks," Apis mellifera was busy making honey.

Apis mellifera is the same species of honeybee people keep in their backyards today as a hobby. They existed in more or less the same form millions of years ago and have been doing the same exact thing every single day since. During that same millions of years, humans have gone through four or five (or six, idk)
Fraser Sherman
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, science, food
The book is a mix of beekeeping/honey lore and history, Bishop's own efforts at beekeeping, and the work of a professional big-league beekeeper down in Wewahitchka, Florida (this stands out because it's a small town a couple of hours from where I used to live. So small it's hard to imagine it turning up in a book I'm reading). Normally find attempts to balance science history with personal anecdotes fall flat, but this one worked for me. And it is indeed very interesting in covering the uses of ...more
Maxwell Jesme
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bees are often overlooked within modern society, in the debates about animal welfare and environmental security. This book sheds light on the hidden industry of honey and the workers that sustain it, both human and insect. An exploration of the history of human relationships with bees lends context to our modern and future relationships; it's shocking how much bees have affected human culture over the years. This book was a really interesting read, especially for someone who has bees but even ...more
Kym Lucas
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Though a bit old (and therefore somewhat outdated in describing pests and prices), this memoir/history is an informative and pleasant read. Recommended for anyone with an interest in honeybees and beekeeping.
Bobby Jones
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An astounding book. To anyone curious about beekeeping (and intimidated by the technical tomes), I would highly recommend this book. By the end, you will be looking up nucs, veils and doing some price comparisons- I know I did.
Kevin Donahue
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic read, very interesting
Rebecca Rogers
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bishop's book was so entertaining as well as informative. Her trips to Florida are wonderful and make me look forward to owning hives of my own this spring. One of my favorite books.
Kathryn Ovenden
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Bees and honey are cool so it was interesting. I just feel like it could have been better.
Lani Fernance
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kicked off a total obsession with bees.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Every beekeeper should read this book! Lovely winter reading. Have rerea a few times.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not a beekeeping "how to", but certainly offers a lot of useful insights for raising bees. Bishop travels to Florida to work with a beekeeper with fairly large-scale operation, so provides many insights about the logistics and difficulties of beekeeping with 100s of hives that are moved from site to site following the flow of nectar as flowers mature in different areas. The most unique aspect of this book is probably the historical perspective it provides. Bishop extensively researched the ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
What? A history of bees and honey interesting? YES!!!! I loved reading this book, looking forward to my daily "smackerel" (as Winnie the Pooh might have put it). How, you might ask, can an author accomplish this? In Holley Bishop's case, she simply shares her own budding love affair with bees and honey and then introduces us to Don Smiley -- an independent Florida apiarist who agreed to be shadowed by the author and featured in her "subject of inquiry" -- interspersed with fascinating historical ...more
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the book that inspired me to become a beekeeper. The writing is clear, concise and always interesting. Much like Mary Roach, Bishop's style delivers facts via humor and obscure information that keeps your attention throughout. A must read for natural history buffs as well as anyone interested in honey and/or honeybees.

My Amazon review: I don't think I can add much to all of the valid points the other reviewers have touched on (although I take issue with the scientific criticisms of one
Laura Rittenhouse
Dec 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Having recently acquired beehives, I've read and skimmed quite a few bee books lately. This one is a bit different than the others in that the author spent quite a bit of time with a commercial beekeeper and documents his practices. It's a mix of a memoir, how-to, and history book. I found the memoir entertaining, the how-to dubious (I honestly doubt some of the stats provided) and not always applicable (commercial beekeeping obviously is different than backyard beekeeping in many ways) and the ...more
Nev Percy
Jun 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who's into bees and honey
Recommended to Nev by: Eileen Clarke (Christmas present)
Shelves: non-fiction
Beekeeping is a pastime that seems to really engage the love of those who take it up. And most of them seem to be moved to write a book about it.

Holley Bishop differs from most in that her writing endeavour isn't a manual rehashing the same 'how to' details as everyone else, but a collection of bee-lore, honey-lore and wax-lore from down the ages, full of interesting snippets.

She also went beyond her own personal experience, attaching herself to a laconic professional beekeeper with nearly 1,000
Sep 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Naturalists, Historians, bee enthusiasts, gardeners, holistic healers
I'm really enjoying this book. I've always been fond of bees. I've never feared them, although I've had a sting or two, and I don't have an allergy to beestings, so I think they are amazing creatures. I love gardening and flowers and bees are so essential to both, even without the amazing honey and medicines they provide. I've often wondered what it would be like to become a beekeeper.

This book explores that process, but also traces the development of beekeeping historically, in myth, religion
Q. Cassetti
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Robbing the Bees, by Holley Bishop has me captivated from her descriptions of the hierarchy of the bees, the understanding of the Queens and Virgin Queens through to the development of the hive as we know it today has me in raptures. The stories she so skillfully weaves of history and present tense, of science and biology, art and magic, alchemy and mythology is spellbinding...and I count the hours until I can dive back into her amber colored story and submerge myself in her thought. Lets just ...more
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“At the turn of the century, Edwin Binney and his nephew, C. Harold Smith, who were in the paint business, thought there might be a market for colored wax sticks and began experimenting with beeswax and some of the newer petroleum-based varieties. In 1903, they produced the first rainbow box of eight wax crayons, which they sold successfully to schools. Alice Binney, Edwin’s wife, christened them “Crayolas” by joining the French word craie, or chalk, with “ola,” short for “oleaginous,” or oily. Many” 1 likes
“Thomas Edison was testing wax and sound. Edison’s phonograph was first developed using a steel needle and tinfoil to capture the audio impressions of his voice. Tin tore easily and produced a muted recording, so Edison turned to beeswax, aware of its ability to capture detailed impressions. He substituted a wax cylinder for the tinfoil and recorded tiny scratches and grooves of sound. Applying the ancient technique of lost wax, he applied a micro-thin layer of gold atop the wax so that heavier layers of metal could then be added to create a mold. When the wax was lost and vinyl was added to the mold, the permanent record of sound was gained. Wax” 1 likes
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