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Bees in America

How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation

Tammy Horn

Publication Year: 2005

" Honey bees--and the qualities associated with them--have quietly influenced American values for four centuries. During every major period in the country's history, bees and beekeepers have represented order and stability in a country without a national religion, political party, or language. Bees in America is an enlightening cultural history of bees and beekeeping in the United States. Tammy Horn, herself a beekeeper, offers a varied social and technological history from the colonial period, when the British first introduced bees to the New World, to the present, when bees are being used by the American military to detect bombs. Early European colonists introduced bees to the New World as part of an agrarian philosophy borrowed from the Greeks and Romans. Their legacy was intended to provide sustenance and a livelihood for immigrants in search of new opportunities, and the honey bee became a sign of colonization, alerting Native Americans to settlers' westward advance. Colonists imagined their own endeavors in terms of bees' hallmark traits of industry and thrift and the image of the busy and growing hive soon shaped American ideals about work, family, community, and leisure. The image of the hive continued to be popular in the eighteenth century, symbolizing a society working together for the common good and reflecting Enlightenment principles of order and balance. Less than a half-century later, Mormons settling Utah (where the bee is the state symbol) adopted the hive as a metaphor for their protected and close-knit culture that revolved around industry, harmony, frugality, and cooperation. In the Great Depression, beehives provided food and bartering goods for many farm families, and during World War II, the War Food Administration urged beekeepers to conserve every ounce of beeswax their bees provided, as more than a million pounds a year were being used in the manufacture of war products ranging from waterproofing products to tape. The bee remains a bellwether in modern America. Like so many other insects and animals, the bee population was decimated by the growing use of chemical pesticides in the 1970s. Nevertheless, beekeeping has experienced a revival as natural products containing honey and beeswax have increased the visibility and desirability of the honey bee. Still a powerful representation of success, the industrious honey bee continues to serve both as a source of income and a metaphor for globalization as America emerges as a leader in the Information Age.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

William Butler Yeats once said one must labor to be beautiful. I no longer deny I am a worker bee. I like the activity and anonymity that happens when I am immersed in a project I enjoy. Of all the bees, my favorite is the forager, the bee that finds flowers in the fields, collects dusty pollen and nectar, and carries these raw materials back to the hive to be turned...

Part One: Hiving Off from Europe

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pp. 1-2

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pp. 3-18

Von Frisch’s question has haunted me throughout the process of compiling this book. For those interested in how to keep bees, many fine writers already exist. For those who want to read about the joys of beekeeping,better books than this one are already on the market. Even scientists and researchers have found an appreciative general audience. Von Frisch ...

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Chapter 1: Bees and New World Colonialism

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pp. 19-38

European settlers often quoted this biblical phrase to justify their colonization efforts. As long as settlers had cattle and bees, they could be assured of the basic essentials—food, wax, medicine, candles, and clothing. So powerful was the Bible verse that even though cattle and honey bees did not exist in North America, colonizers envisioned the New World...

Part Two: Establishing a New Colony

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pp. 39-40

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Chapter 2: Bees and the Revolution

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pp. 41-62

Eighteenth-century America is noted for three interrelated but complex processes: European immigration, frontier migration, and political independence from England. Just as eighteenth-century American society was an intersection of ethnicities, so too was the honey bee a symbol for intersecting, and at times conflicting, values. European immigration had...

Part Three: Swarming West during the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 63-64

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Chapter 3: Before Bee Space 1801-1860

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pp. 80-100

American beekeeping history is generally divided into two periods: before and after Lorenzo Langstroth. Before Langstroth little was known about how the bee colony functioned. American beekeepers were at the mercy of two phenomena: a disease known as foulbrood and the bees’ natural instinct to swarm. Once Langstroth invented a hive that was...

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Chapter 4: After Bee Space 1860-1900

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pp. 101-142

Compared to honey, sugar always has been a more political commodity, but especially in nineteenth-century America. Until that time, Americans had relied on the sugarcane industry (which had been profitable because of slaves) to serve its collective sweet tooth and had neglected to address the conflict between democratic principles and chattel slavery....

Part Four: Requeening a Global Hive

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pp. 143-144

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Chapter 5: Early Twentieth Century: Industrialization, 1901–1949

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pp. 145-198

For much of the early twentieth century, America was balanced between a pastoral ideal of sustainable agriculture and an emerging commitment to a new form of agriculture that would characterize twentieth-century America. The two ancient symbols of sustenance—bees and cattle—were in forty-eight states as well as in the territories of Alaska and Hawaii. A...

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Chapter 6: Late Twentieth Century: Globalization, 1950–2000

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pp. 199-250

Almond trees dot the California valley like Degas ballerinas. The limbs, pruned precisely so that sunlight will strike the middle of the trunks, fan out like pink tutus. The blossoms have a dusky, dusty scent so thick it is almost cloying. Almost. Little did Franciscan priest Junipero Serra know how the almond trees he brought with him to California in 1767 would...

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pp. 251-262

In Hawaii, Michael Kliks, owner of the Manoa Honey Company, and his assistant Keoki Espiritu have invited me to see their hives on Oahu. We don bee veils and jackets, the garments setting each of us in relief against the smoky cloud-covered mountain. The pink jasmine vines threaten to overtake us. Tall banana trees shade the hives, a colorful...


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pp. 263-292


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pp. 293-296

Dramatis Personae

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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-316


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pp. 317-318


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pp. 319-335

E-ISBN-13: 9780813172064
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813123509

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2005