It’s Sara writing again! Today I’m weighing in on one of my favorite things about Michael Bush’s bee camp: the books! Hilary and I attended camp earlier this month, and if you didn’t see her post about the experience, be sure to check it out.
A 200-year-old book is like a dandelion gone to seed. The feathery pages hardly grip their bindings—a big exhale could release them into the air. This crossed my mind as I picked up an original copy of Francois Huber’s Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles at Michael Bush’s bee camp earlier this month. The book I held first hit the shelves in 1814. Leafing through it, I imagined the aspiring beekeeper who might have bought it over two centuries ago.
Huber’s 19th century treatise on honey bees was one of many antique books in Mr Bush’s collection. On the last night of camp, he stacked them all on the dining room table. It was close to midnight, and the display of rare books was a mid-conversation surprise. Many were over a hundred years old, practically priceless, and worthy of being museum pieces; yet, we were in no museum! That night, we were in a cozy farmhouse gathered around a family dinner table, a half-drunk bottle of wine between everyone. The checkered green tablecloth was also polka dotted with little white crumbs from our meals, and we were all grubby from spending the humid day outdoors. Despite this, Mr. Bush didn’t even say be careful before warmly inviting us to dig in and enjoy these books he spent years collecting.
It was fun to excavate books from the pile. With first-editions like Francois Huber’s Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles, we got to taste beekeeping terms in French—cellule, ruche, la reine-abeille. Leafing through other books, some campers quickly realized the pages were made with hand-cut paper. Hilary and I admired the detailed embossed-leather covers together, especially those that featured gold-leaf bees. At one point, Mr. Bush picked out a book and unfolded original plates, showing us some of the first pictures of bees drawn for science.
If you haven’t guessed yet, Michael Bush is a bibliophile, an extraordinary one to boot. He has an impressive library of beekeeping books, old and new; is an accomplished rare (beekeeping) books collector; is a writer of books; and, to top it all off, owns his own bee literature publishing company! By entrepreneuring X-Star Publishing, Mr. Bush supports new writing about bees by today’s beekeepers and preserves the old works of yore, reprinting and updating them for the modern reader. X-Star Publishing projects are super accessible too. They are found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and through www.bushfarms.com.
Michael Bush’s books and bibliophilism were one of the surprising best things about bee camp. Every day he left modern-day books on the table for us, many of them out of print and hard to find. The books were there for us to peruse after every meal. Mr. Bush often shared his passion for particular authors, which hooked me on the works of Eva Crane, for example, right away.
The book-sharing and book-talking was all to great effect: I left bee camp a long handwritten list of books, all found in Michael Bush’s personal library. It’s such a great souvenir! I slowly intend to add many of the books on the list to my own shelves, if I can find them. Since many of them are out of print, the search is on for good copies and deals. Bee camp inspired me to discover new bee literature with a keener eye, so I wanted to share a few of the gems from Michael Bush’s library with you all too.
Bees & Beekeeping
Science, Practice and World Resources
by Eva Crane
This is the Joy of Cooking for beekeeping. It’s a fine reference, loaded with drawings, tables, maps, world history, photographs, multiple indices, a bibliography, and two appendices. It’s also quite the tome, weighing in at 614 pages!
The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting
by Eva Crane
Another Evan Crane opus, this 682-pager covers humankind’s use of bees. It’s encyclopedia-like and chock full of descriptions about traditions, oddities, honey hunting all across the world. I loved reading about the different species of bees, like the dwarf honey bee; women’s roles in beekeeping (and their Rastafarian-esque exclusion from it); and bee brood as meat!
Honey Bee Colony Health
Challenges and Sustainable Solutions
by Diana Sammataro & Jay A. Yoder
This book is a grab bag of great scientific writing that summarizes the current status of honey bee health. It’s a great reference by itself, but, for the person who likes to delve deep, it’s also the best jumping-off point: there’s such a big list of many more reference! If you want to have information about genetic diversity, viruses, fungicide and bee bread, varroa, etc. at the ready, this is the book to have in your home. It’s 302 pages, by the way.
Photographs by Rose-Lynn Fisher; foreword by Verlyn Klinkenborg
If you think bees are amazing, wait until you see this book. It’s a picture book, full of close-up, black-and-white photographs of bees, that’s beautiful in its entirety. You can get lost in it! The macro bee-body views are bizarre, gorgeous, and just plain cool. Most photos come with short and interesting captions too. The detail is extreme: some of the shots were taken with an electron microscope!
The Bees of the World
By Charles D. Michener
This is a definitive reference on bees and probably the ultimate native bee book, featuring over 1,200 genera and subgenera. It covers everything from bee evolution, coevolution with flowers and other species, taxonomy, nests, and bee fossils. This is definitely not a light read (literally and figuratively, as it’s a big heavy book) or a quick reference, but its density would be part of the pleasure of having it.