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The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture

By: Gene Kritsky

198 pages, Figs

Oxford University Press USA

Hardback | Apr 2010 | #184083 | ISBN-13: 9780195385441
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £18.99 $23/€21 approx

About this book

Beekeeping is a sixteen-billion-dollar-a-year business. But the invaluable honey bee now faces severe threats from diseases, mites, pesticides, and overwork, not to mention the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder, which causes seemingly healthy bees to abandon their hives en masse, never to return.

In this book, entomologist Gene Kritsky offers a concise, beautifully illustrated history of beekeeping, tracing the evolution of hive design from ancient Egypt to the present. Not simply a descriptive account, the book suggests that beekeeping's long history may in fact contain clues to help beekeepers fight the decline in honey bee numbers. The author guides us through the progression from early mud-based horizontal hives to the ascent of the simple straw skep (the inverted basket which has been in use for over 1,500 years), from hive design's Golden Age in Victorian England up through the present. He discusses what worked, what did not, and what we have forgotten about past hives that might help counter the menace to beekeeping today.

Indeed, while we have sequenced the honey bee genome and advanced our knowledge of the insects themselves, we still keep our bees in hives that have changed little during the past century. If beekeeping is to survive, Kritsky argues, we must start inventing again. We must find the perfect hive for our times. For thousands of years, the honey bee has been a vital part of human culture. The book not only offers a colorful account of this long history, but also provides a guide for ensuring its continuation into the future.

A fascinating book for everyone concerned with understanding the origins of beekeeping as practised today in North America and UK. Bees For Development Kritsky covers it all in this profusely illustrated, easy to read book. ... Anyone remotely interested in the history of beekeeping should have this book. Bee Culture Salted with anecdotes and facts, Kritsky weaves an excellent chronicle of man's time with the bees. Here is a great read for the beekeeper as well as the curious historian. Illinois Beekeepers Association This is one of those books that will become a classic of beekeeping literature for its content, design, illustrations, and pure quality of the writing. No beekeeper should be without it. Capital Area Beekeepers Association Charming. Washington Post A concise and in-depth look at the development of beehives over the centuries. Any beekeeper, potential recruit or gardener will find this nuts-and-bolts history of hives, man, and honey, with illustrations, useful. Philadelphia Inquirer We may be overdue for a new revolution in hive design, and Gene Kritsky's comprehensive look at past innovations is a great place to start. Missouri Beekeepers Association In this charming book, entomology professor Kritsky (who describes himself as 'stung with the love of bees') incorporates material gathered over decades, from all over the world, to present a lively history of beekeeping. ... Kritsky's passion for his subject translates into gentle yet clear prose, abundant historical illustrations, and careful explanations of what bees need to thrive, and how humans figured it out. Publisher's Weekly The book is easy to read and has a very pleasant style. It will certainly appeal to beekeepers and the content will be of interest to a much wider readership.


1. Honey bees and the origin of beekeeping;
2. The forest beekeepers;
3. Skeps;
4. Bee niches;
5. Early box hives;
6. Beekeeping comes to America;
7. Glass jar beekeeping;
8. The Crystal Palace Exhibition, a beekeeping showcase;
9. Bars, frames, and the bee space;
10. Resistance to change;
11. The British invasion of America;
12. Transition;
13. Bee houses;
14. Bee calendars;
15. Beekeeper's Paraphernalia;
16. The end of innovation;

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