Queen of the Sun by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (editors)

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Queen of the Sun by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (editors)

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Andy Lancaster
Reviewed by Andy Lancaster
Summary: Sometimes you come across books that you wish you had read many years ago, and this study of 'what the bees are telling us' is one such book. A collection of essays, and beautiful images, looking at different aspects of bees and beekeeping in the contemporary world, this warns, reveals, astounds and conveys the essence of beekeeping, while at the same time revealing much more, the ways in which we can understand our own place in the ecosystem.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Clairview Books
ISBN: 978-1905570348

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I kept bees for 5 or 6 years and read many books about the subject, all of the 'how to..' or 'the science of… variety. But this book is a revelation as it genuinely tries to celebrate bees, capturing the real 'feel' of beekeeping - I wish I had come across this much sooner. For Siegel and Betz have collected a series of short articles, poems and essays not about the technique and science of the craft, but about the purpose and 'soul' behind it.

The main theme behind the book (and film they made) is the problem of Colony Collapse, the sudden death of whole hives, and what this should tell us about the health of the bees and of our whole ecosystem. Writers like Hauk and Patel try to explore the possible roots and causes of Colony Collapse, and predict how this might affect the whole business of pollination of plants, and thus of agriculture and gardening.

But this isn't merely a doom and gloom treatise. These writers and others also try to demonstrate there is an 'interconnectedness' of things on earth, and in fact the demise of so many bees is actually sending an important signal for us to change our behaviour and attitude towards agricultural production.

And the eclectic range of material in the book isn't just apocalyptic science, for the most powerful passages are the poetic and lyrical. Some of the best writing for me describes the fascination of the hive itself, and of the inexpressible sense of warmth and beauty that seems to ooze from the hum and warmth of the bees en masse.

Although some sections might reiterate key ideas, and some may be a little too 'New Age' for some tastes, in fact they all combine to create something of that spirit which you will see in stunning photographs of beekeepers themselves – a sense of complete wonderment that has kept me and I'm sure many others stood beside hives on a warm day doing nothing but watching the intricate dances and flights of thousands of insects, as they fly in and out of the hive.

So this account captures some of the transcendent joy that is keeping bees, but contrasts this strongly with the major case common to all the writers in this anthology, that treating agriculture as a commodity, turning bees into mere honey producers as opposed to living, elegant colonies of life and living beings is a sure way in the end to court disaster.

Perhaps it is because I have only just read it, but the general thesis of this book reminds me a great deal of Escape from Bubbleworld by Keith Skene, a very scientific approach to just the same ideas of an interconnected ecosystem which feeds back its problems and 'sickness' if only we are prepared to listen. And of course this interconnectedness of things is nowhere better or more beautifully expressed than in Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

Buy Queen of the Sun by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (editors) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen of the Sun by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (editors) at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Queen of the Sun by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (editors) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen of the Sun by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (editors) at Amazon.com.


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