ROBBING THE BEES – A Biography of Honey, The Sweet Liquid Gold That Seduced the World, by Holley Bishop


This book was such a pleasure to read. I have always loved bees, even as a child who often got stung on my feet due to lack of shoes. There is something about the magic of what and how they produce; the beautiful order of it; the circular give and take with plants; the perfection with which they work together as a community. Bless the pollinators!

If you share any of this fascination, I highly recommend that you read this book. Bishop has written a very readable, real biography of bees and honey. She describes the processes of hive building, honey production, communication, all of it. And then she deep dives into the historical uses of bees and honey, going back several thousand years. Though the book could have used some judicious editing in the latter sections – to my mind at least – and got a little “cute” or clever at times, I didn’t skip a single page. In the end, she even includes 14 pages of recipes, both ancient and modern.

Two asides. The first re a honey that is mentioned several times for its unique flavor. Leatherwood honey from Tasmania is often described as dense and spicy. I had to try it! Looked for it locally with no luck so ordered a small tin of it and it is unbelievably delicious. It is dense and creamy, and hits the tongue with a range of flavors – vanilla, nutmeg, citrus, whole cream. I am slightly obsessed with it.

The second aside re how I came upon this book. I was up in the Seattle area helping out my folks for a few days and we stopped at the store to get a couple things on the way home from the doctor’s office. It was cold, and though the sun was breaking through the clouds for a moment, it had been raining earlier that morning and the world was wet and puddly. Outside the grocery store, leaning against a sun warmed wall, stood a man. And he was reading. He looked, not homeless, but itinerant. Long, flowing hair, a long wool coat, open, with a scarf. And no shoes. I caught his eye on my way into the store because, well, seeing a person read just about anywhere is a rare thing these days, and he had those kind of eyes that seem to see straight into one’s soul. Jesus eyes, I call them. On the way out, I couldn’t resist, I stopped to ask what he was reading and this was the book. We spoke briefly about the book and I knew then that I would read it. I am so, so glad that I did…

9 comments on “ROBBING THE BEES – A Biography of Honey, The Sweet Liquid Gold That Seduced the World, by Holley Bishop”

  1. Worth the read just for the recipes 😉 This reminds me of The Secret Life of Trees I read a few years ago as part of a reading session. And also Oranges by John McPhee…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Three for McPhee! Think I need Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey before I try making the biscuits I saw on “Cook’s Country.”

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Had meant to include this passage –

    “Ace handed me a plastic bear full of his most recent harvest, and when I tilted to my mouth, head back, eyes closed, I really experienced honey for the first time, standing next to its creators. In that glistening dollop, I could taste the sun and water in his pond, the metallic minerals of the soil, and the tang of goldenrod and the wildflowers blooming around the meadow. The present golden-green moment was sweetly and perfectly distilled in my mouth. When I opened my eyes, tree branches and blossoms were suddenly swimming and swaying with bees that I had somehow not noticed before.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great review! Great encounter with a fellow reader! Great to know about Tasmanian Honey! Reading and eating special foods are great ways to live life! Thanks, JNaz.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Appreciating your enthusiasm, Barbara. And yes, here’s to ‘reading and eating special foods’ as a living practice. : )


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