The bee is not a domestic animal, yet our relationship with this creature is one of the longest-standing between humanity and any other species. Since the earliest times the unique manufacturing and architectural abilities of the bee and its remarkable social organization have been regarded as miraculous. Because of this ancient relationship, bees always carry profound cultural meanings which can tell us much about who we are. Bees are also the subject of an enormous body of legend throughout the temperate world; no less extraordinary is the natural history of the bee, and the ways in which its biological and social organization have been adapted and encouraged by mankind in search of honey.
Claire Preston's Bee follows the natural and cultural history of our relationship with the bee and the development of these legends, from ancient political descriptions of the bee to Renaissance debates about monarchy, and the accompanying scientific discoveries about insects, to the modern conversion of the virtuous, civil bee into the dangerous swarm of the Hollywood horror flick, and finally to the melancholy recognition that the scientific study of bee behavior gives us a warning to beware our own awful technologies of destruction.
Written in a lively, engaging style, and containing many fascinating bee facts, anecdotes, fables, and images, Bee is also a wide-ranging, highly-illustrated meditation on the natural and cultural history of this familiar and much-admired insect. It will appeal to a wide audience: those who work with bees and in honey production; those who appreciate this industrious creature and its intricate, miniature society; and those too who have an interest in the way animals such as the bee have woven themselves into the fabric of our culture.
"Bee is excellent. I enjoyed every page of it"
– The Spectator
"It is an outstanding book: marvellously researched and annotated, superbly illustrated and exceptionally well written [...] Preston must have played the bee herself in her meticulous preparation for this book, and she has done this esteemed creature the great service it merits."
– Times Literary Supplement
"entomologists will enjoy reading this fascinating little book [...] The pictures and print quality are excellent, and the book is packed with little gems"
– Journal of the Entomological Society of America
"Even the most widely read beekeeper will find something new here [...] most pages of this beautifully presented book have excellent and interesting illustrations [...] it is a great book to read if you want to gain a wider perspective of bees' role within our human society."
– Bees for Development Journal
"an entertaining and informative book that reveals the animal's richly storied past and present."
– British Journal for the History of Science
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Claire Preston is lecturer in English and a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.