Book review: Honeybee by Marina Marchese

Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York. Copyright © 2009. This review refers to the Kindle edition.

Beyond a doubt, I believe the author’s heart was in the right place when she wrote this book. She has an empathy for honey bees and a love of nature that shines throughout the work. If you like to read about the adventures of other beekeepers–how they got started, how they learned–or if you have just a passive interest in beekeeping, this book can provide an entertaining afternoon. The best part is an appendix that includes descriptions of 75 varietal honeys.

However, if you are a beginner seriously interested in learning about bees and beekeeping, I would be wary of this one. Although I’m sure the author knows better, she makes the most-off-the-wall comments. The most egregious one I remember occurs at location 568 of the Kindle edition:

In between these activities she [the worker bee] takes time out to flap her wings to circulate air and provide ventilation inside the hive and to help remove moisture from the pollen, brought in by foraging bees, in order to create honey.

If you’re not a beekeeper, let me say this is just plain wrong on a couple of levels. Bees do not attempt to remove moisture from pollen and, more importantly, pollen is not used to create honey. Perhaps she just isn’t adept at explanations, but this is too confusing by far. And that’s not the only strange statement. At location 251 she writes:

Honeybees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 agricultural crops in the United States, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes, and sixteen types of flower species.

Only sixteen? What happened to all the rest? At location 531 she claims:

Once the egg cells are capped, the larvae actually begin to look like bees.

I disagree. First off, egg cells are never capped. Secondly, bees start looking like bees well into the pupal stage, not the larval stage. Perhaps I’m picking nits, but these less-than-accurate statements are curve balls for newbees . . . and the book is full of them.

I always see plenty of spelling errors in Kindle editions and I don’t know if they are the result of the software conversion or if they actually appear in print. In any case, at location 938 we find this:

The wagtail dance is preformed on the vertical honeycombs inside the hive.

Okay, I understood right away that the word should be “performed,” but not before I imagined a preformed dance template stamped into the foundation much like the honeycomb pattern. The bees could then follow the pattern and, like square dancers, end up in the right place at the right time. So Do Sa Do and Allemande left, but don’t use this book as your only guide if you are new to the keeping of honey bees.


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1 Comment

  • It’s like at the dance studios. There are little numbered and colored bee footprints painted in the comb.