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What Women and Bees Can Teach Us about Local Trade and the Global Market

Tammy Horn

Publication Year: 2011

Queen bee. Worker bees. Busy as a bee. These phrases have shaped perceptions of women for centuries, but how did these stereotypes begin? Who are the women who keep bees and what can we learn from them? Beeconomy examines the fascinating evolution of the relationship between women and bees around the world. From Africa to Australia to Asia, women have participated in the pragmatic aspects of honey hunting and in the more advanced skills associated with beekeeping as hive technology has advanced through the centuries. Synthesizing the various aspects of hive-related products, such as beewax and cosmetics, as well as the more specialized skills of queen production and knowledge-based economies of research and science, noted bee expert Tammy Horn documents how and why women should consider being beekeepers. The women profiled in the book suggest ways of managing careers, gender discrimination, motherhood, marriage, and single-parenting—all while enjoying the community created by women who work with honey bees. Horn finds in beekeeping an opportunity for a new sustainable economy, one that takes into consideration environment, children, and family needs. Beeconomy not only explores globalization, food history, gender studies, and politics; it is a collective call to action.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv


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pp. v

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pp. vii

I’ve been told by literary experts that the refined reader who needs plot, pace, action and a body on the hearthrug in the first chapter will recoil from the wearisome and comical statement of our drudgery. ...


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pp. ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

Ibsen once wrote that he could not afford friendship. I have never known that kind of poverty. “Friendship” is too simple a term for the debt I owe to many people. Among international circles, numerous people such as Penny Walker, Keith and Trish Chisnall, Richard and Jane Jones, Nicola Bradbear, Kunal Sharma, Stan Glowacki, Gro Amdam, Jeremy Burbidge, Karl Showler, David Clemmons, Elise Sabatini, and Liann McGregor illuminated corners of their homelands in ways that left indelible memories of their kindness. ...

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Introduction: Piping Up

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pp. 1-11

I have been asked, why write a book about women and bees? The subtext of the question is that we surely do not need a book about women beekeepers. Nor do I offer any new beekeeping secrets. I am certainly not the best writer on this topic, and neither is my gender considered adequate qualification. ...

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Africa: The Garden of Plenty

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pp. 13-36

A blowtorch focuses its flame on me as I walk across the windy airport tarmac: that is how Johannesburg feels. The safari leader, Keith Chisnall, asks me why I have come to South Africa. I am a beekeeper, I answer. I have an atavistic desire to be in the cradle where bees evolved. ...

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India: The Heart of the World

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pp. 37-52

India’s plethora of honey bees, its honey-hunting history, and its diverse faith-based religions have imprinted women primarily through artistic, literary, and femininity rituals such as bridal and maternal rites of passage. There are four overlapping areas in which women have been shaped by or are in the process of shaping India’s contemporary bee culture...

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Asia: A Peaceful Renaissance

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pp. 53-83

Although much about women and beekeeping remains shrouded in mystery, we know Asia was the first continent to correlate honey bees with goddesses and icons. Since Asia is the largest land mass in the world, it had diverse theologies that created divinities such as the ancient bee goddesses Artemis and Hannahanna in Asia Minor and Hitam Manis in South Asia. ...

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Europe: A Bridge of Honey Bees

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pp. 85-145

Europe has the most consistent, readily transparent, and best-documented history of women beekeepers when compared to the areas discussed in previous chapters. The process of tracking the societal transfers of bee analogies has been easier. As economies, theocracies, and social policies ebbed and fl owed, the bee-related values first ascribed to women by the Hittite culture fl owed west to Greece and Europe and later coexisted with northern Europe’s iconic bee goddesses. ...

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North America: The Great Experiment, Part 1: Deputy Husbands, True Women, Honey Hunters, and Inventresses

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pp. 147-191

Unlike the continents discussed in previous chapters, North America does not have an ancient honey-hunting tradition. The lack of Native American female bee goddesses stands in stark contrast to the bee-centric stories, songs, or prayers in other cultures. North America once had a native honey bee, until the Miocene Epoch cooled the continent considerably, severely affecting habitat. ...

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North America: The Great Experiment, Part 2: Women Beekeepers in Industrial Agriculture

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pp. 193-274

In his book The Fruits of Natural Advantage: Making the Industrial Countryside in California, scholar Steven Stoll suggests that five factors merged to create a highly industrialized agricultural landscape in North America at the turn of the twentieth century: unique land conditions, university research and extension, innovative farmers and orchard growers, an independent yet inextricable relationship between farmers and the federal government...

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Australasia; A Cornelian Continent

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pp. 275-293

Honey bees are not native to Australia, and from its inception as a penal colony in the late seventeenth century, the English arrivals to the country were never charged with that Christian ideal of creating a land of milk and honey. There were no ancient iconic goddesses as with Asia or cave drawings of honey hunts as with Europe, India, or Africa. Yet honey bees did well in Australia if they were able to survive the difficult oceanic journey. ...

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South America: The Continent of Tomorrow

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pp. 295-314

South America brings this book full circle. South America was the first continent to undergo a cultural and biological revolution through the human-assisted migration of African honey bees. The introduction of the African honey bee, Apis mellifera scutellata, to South America in 1956 has made South America a type of “observation hive” in more ways than one. ...

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Conclusion: Counting for Nothing

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pp. 315-318

The Greeks once worshipped two gods of time: Chronos and Kairos. Chronos came to be associated with linear, measurable time; the word “chronology” is our best-known, most widely used etymological reference to this god. For most of us, chronological time is all we have ever known. It was the only form of time taught in my school. As I negotiated a career, I followed its “forced march” toward academic success: college, a graduate program, a doctorate. ...


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pp. 319-336


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pp. 337-354


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pp. 355-376

E-ISBN-13: 9780813134369
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813134352

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 42 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2011