In The Quest for the Perfect Hive, 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. Kritsky 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 Quest for the Perfect Hive not only offers a colorful account of this long history, but also provides a guide for ensuring its continuation into the future.
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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. No one knows exactly how long humans have been keeping bees, but depictions appear in 5,000-year-old Egyptian paintings and sculpture, using a hive style that can still be found in Egypt today (horizontal mud cylinders stacked in walls). The first beekeepers of northern Europe tended wild hives, gradually domesticating bees with log hives. With the industrial and agricultural revolutions of the 19th century, bee hives were inevitably targeted for improvement, though the Victorian tendency to over-design didn't always result in practical structures; it was the late-19th century development of removable frame hives-the familiar "white box" style still in wide use-that led to major changes in beekeeping in the U.S. and Europe (though traditional methods still prevail in many countries). 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; though of limited appeal, this is an ideal introduction to the craft of beekeeping. 147 b&w illus.
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