A History of Innovation

kritskyhive painting

“Gene Kritsky’s charming book is like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for honey bees. For over 10,000 years, humans have tried to design accommodations for the world’s most useful insect that not only take into account the bees’ remarkably sophisticated behavior but also allow human landlords to help themselves to the products of their industry. Engagingly written and gorgeously illustrated, this book offers a uniquely entertaining and thought-provoking perspective on the longstanding partnership between honey bees and humans.” — May Berenbaum, author of Bugs in the System: Insects and Their Impact on Human Affairs.

Gene Kritsky’s The Quest for the Perfect Hive: A History of Innovation in Bee Culture traces the evolution of hive design from ancient Egypt to the present. Each technological advance is noted and copiously illustrated — from hollowed out log hives and mud daubed cylinders, to the straw skep (in use for over 1,500 years) and Lorenzo Langstroth’s breakthrough innovation: the movable frame hive (pictured below). Even Christopher Wren (architect of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral) came up with his own hive design!

hive of langstroth

The books and manuals of bee culture are many. Here’s three authoritative tomes from the Land Library’s shelves:

langstrothdadantross conrad
Langstroth’s Hive and the Honey-Bee by L.L. Langstroth, The Hive and the Honey Bee, Dadant & Sons, Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture by Ross Conrad

Gene Kritsky sees no end to innovation when it comes to bee culture:

Today, honey bees are in trouble. These valuable insects, so critical to $16 billion worth of food production, are suffering from mites, diseases, the large-scale use of pesticides, and Colony Collapse Disorder. The history of beekeeping may provide clues that could help beekeepers and researchers as they struggle to save honey bee populations. Beekeepers will have to build upon this history of innovation, of successes and failures, or art and science, if they want to save not just an industry, but a way of life.

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