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What we never knew about bees

Cave painting showing bee hive being harvestedDid you know that the lives of bees and man have been intricately intertwined for thousands of years?  That cave paintings on several continents (like the one reproduced here) depict epic journeys to rob honey from wild bees?

Did you know that a species of giant bee in Asia builds unprotected combs on the undersides of tree branches --- combs that are six feet long (shown below)?  People harvest these massive combs in the wild with rope ladders, woven buckets, and knives carved from bone since mythology suggests that the bees are angered by metal.

Giant Asian beesIn Mexico, the Maya took care of stingless bees.  They carted home inhabited logs then reached in with their unprotected hand to yank the honey out at intervals.  These stingless bees are still cultivated, though they have lost ground to the introduced honey bee which has the downside of stinging but the upside of producing more honey per colony.

As you can tell, Letters from the Hive was right up my alley --- a field entomologist's rivetting tale of the relationship between people and bees.  Really good non-fiction like this is a lot like really good science fiction --- it takes you to a world beyond your imagination.



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