The Joy of Bees (Translated by Paul Tout)

Bees as a model of sustainability and beekeeping as an experience involving nature and human history

Paolo Fontana’s book was first published in Italian in 2017. It has, I understand, sold several thousand copies which is quite remarkable for a specialist book on bees.
I have had a career spanning academia, education and publishing. It is not surprising, therefore, that I have done a lot of reading and I love books. Indeed I still add to my own modest library on an almost weekly basis. However, this book, The joy of Bees, is very different from anything else I have read. Indeed, the whole style, method and manner of communication differs from most books I have ever read! Having said that it is easy to read, informative and enjoyable once I managed to cast off my stick-in-the-mud conservatism, bred from years of reading texts with a conventional approach.

Afier the literature on the Human Race bees are generally recognised as being the second most written about creature. This is not surprising. They have been around for almost 80 million years, a good deal longer than 2 million years for recognisable humans. Humans and bees have been linked for many thousands of years and the links are well described from very early cave paintings onwards. But these bountiful and beneficial insects have never been domesticated. Oh yes, we have placed them in what we would arrogantly consider to be better, purpose-built homes, than those they could provide for themselves. We encour­age high reproduction so numbers increase more rapidly than Nature intended. We remove their hard won natural food supply replacing it, of course, with a special (but balanced!) diet. We even “help” them by providing wax founda­tion, although that wax may contain damaging chemical build up from repeat­ed use and we regularly invade their home blowing clouds of smoke before us as we do so! All this is done to the poor bees in the peaceful safety of their home which should be an animal’s (insect’s) birth right. Outside the hive we modify and rearrange the environment with pharmaceutical products and vast monocultures. One day there is forage, of a sort, in plenty the next day all has been harvested and a bee desert remains. Even the havens of small woodlands and hedgerows have been ripped out in the name of agricultural production.

Paolo addresses all these issues. His enthusiasm shows as his thoughts, ideas and explanations pour out through the uncluttered and homely text.

“This book may not suit traditional scientists but it will certainly appeal to beekeepers and to the large sector of the public who are now concerned about our present natural world and the way it is being abused. In other words it has something for just about everyone and everyone would be better informed and hopefully a more thoughtful citizen for reading it.”
Richard Jones, Chairman, The Eva Crane Trust

“In spite of it being a scientific publication, we read it with the same pleasure as a great novel.”
Susanna Tamaro (Italian Novelist)

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