Saturday, October 05, 2013

{Whatcha Reading?} Buzz

My husband keeps bees. I help out when I can and try not to get stung. Most of what I know about bees is what he's told me, or what I've gleaned from watching documentaries with the family. They're fascinating little bugs.   Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee seemed like a good way to learn more about them, and I was curious about how people manage to keep bees in a big city.

From the book's Amazon page:

Bees are essential for human survival--one-third of all food on American dining tables depends on the labor of bees. Beyond pollination, the very idea of the bee is ubiquitous in our culture: we can feel buzzed; we can create buzz; we have worker bees, drones, and Queen bees; we establish collectives and even have communities that share a hive-mind. In Buzz, authors Lisa Jean Moore and Mary Kosut convincingly argue that the power of bees goes beyond the food cycle, bees are our mascots, our models, and, unlike any other insect, are both feared and revered. 
In this fascinating account, Moore and Kosut travel into the land of urban beekeeping in New York City, where raising bees has become all the rage. We follow them as they climb up on rooftops, attend beekeeping workshops and honey festivals, and even put on full-body beekeeping suits and open up the hives. In the process, we meet a passionate, dedicated, and eclectic group of urban beekeepers who tend to their brood with an emotional and ecological connection that many find restorative and empowering. Kosut and Moore also interview professional beekeepers and many others who tend to their bees for their all-important production of a food staple: honey. The artisanal food shops that are so popular in Brooklyn are a perfect place to sell not just honey, but all manner of goods: soaps, candles, beeswax, beauty products, and even bee pollen.
Buzz also examines media representations of bees, such as children's books, films, and consumer culture, bringing to light the reciprocal way in which the bee and our idea of the bee inform one another. Partly an ethnographic investigation and partly a meditation on the very nature of human/insect relations, Moore and Kosut argue that how we define, visualize, and interact with bees clearly reflects our changing social and ecological landscape, pointing to how we conceive of and create culture, and how, in essence, we create ourselves.

I was hoping to read about the nuts and bolts of urban beekeeping -- how the beekeepers maneuver the equipment onto rooftops and what the bees feed off of (The landscaping in parks and around businesses? Window boxes?  Are there more dangerous pesticides in an urban environment?)

What I found was a somewhat overwhelming explanation of people's fear of bees and the ethics of beekeeping. It's all very different from our family's relationship with our own bees. We're annoyed when they swarm, and sad when we lose a hive. When one wanders into the house, I'll try to get it back outside, if I've got time. If I don't, I'll let the little bug fend for itself. And if one is caught in my hair, I'm going to try to squish her before she stings me. I just don't look at our bees the same way as I see our chickens, or geese or cats.

The book's title on Amazon (which I didn't see until I pulled up the page to link to it) says that it's part of the Biopolitics Series. That probably would have been a clue that it wasn't for me.

Disclosure -- the publisher provided me with an electronic ARC of Buzz

1 comment:

Jessica Hadden said...

Just finished Elizabeth Berg's A Tapestry of Fortune and now I am starting the newest in the Blossom Street series by Debbie Macomber.


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