Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation
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" 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.
his findings in German magazines. Samuel Wagner translates his work, only to meet Langstroth later and promote Langstroth’s concept of bee space. Dzierzon and Langstroth became friends. Eburne, Richard: Seventeenth-century English clergyman who encouraged his parishioners to go to the New World by using bee terms in his sermons. Fonda, Peter: Son of a beekeeper (Henry), Peter starred in Ulee’s Gold and accepted Florida Beekeeper of the Year on behalf of his character, Ulee Jackson. Harbo,
bee,” he says. “It has been the emblem of diligence since antiquity. No symbol of labor could be more appropriate than the bee hive, the abode of great industry. Masonry signifies labor. Toil is noble. Idleness is dishonor.” 2.3. Certificate of membership for the Salem Charitable Mechanic Association. Courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum. This association’s motto, “Let Prudence Govern, Fear Not,” emphasized moderation and control as the country was in transition. Overseeing the developments is
only the order of the hive. In early nineteenth-century narratives, the bee hunter moved on the margins of a society, searching for a liquid gold rather than cities of gold. In the increasingly secular American West, that was as close as the bee hunter would come to a church. Even as these bee hunters were living off the land, settlers were changing the land in ways that would end bee hunting as a professional career. Plows meant that settlers would till up the prairie wildflowers, and trees
use their skills. Eventually, the Icarians got into a massive food fight. The cooks became angry at the elitist attitudes shown to them by some of the Icarian members and rebelled by throwing food, pots, pans, and plates. Among the Icarians who moved to Illinois was a man named Marinelli, who had been a tailor in France. When he married, he and his wife had a daughter named Marie, but after the disaster at Nauvoo, they relocated to St. Louis with some of their fellow Icarian friends. Others went
concludes: “One hanger had five swarms.”129 Even Harry Laidlaw served as an army entomologist, and one soldier refused to leave the bees behind. The First Battalion proudly welcomed all bees to its “Bee Platoon.” There was even a water dish. 5.16. World War II bees. Courtesy of Bee Culture. This soldier shows off the headquarters for some of the war’s busiest recruits. The military continues to use bees to gather information about chemical weapons. Some beekeepers chose to stay stateside.