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

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Overview

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 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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Library Journal
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"This utterly charming, informative book on the care of bees is attractive from its dust jacket and gold and black binding matching the color of bee skeps and bees respectively to its many archival illustrations."— Chicago Botanic Garden

"Gene Kritsky's The Quest for the Perfect Hive is a fascinating exploration of th[e] history of beehive innovation, from the early days of mud and straw hives to the commercial hives now used around the world. His well-sourced book contains detailed accounts of the patent battles and bizarre inventions—like glass-jar beekeeping—that have transformed the practice of keeping bees into a $16 billion industry."—Seed, Books to Read Now

"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

"Kritsky covers it all in this profusely illustrated, easy to read book. ... [A]nyone 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

"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

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195385441
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/24/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gene Kritsky is a Professor of Biology at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, and Adjunct Curator of Entomology at the Cincinnati Museum Center. He is Editor-in-chief of American Entomologist, the magazine of the Entomological Society of America.

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