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Book Review: Queen of the Sun

February 28, 2012

By Thea Maria Carlson

NABDAP and BING Coordinator, Biodynamic Association


Just as the critically acclaimed film that came before it, Taggart Siegel and John Betz’s new anthology Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? brings together a vibrant array of ideas, information, musings, and art about the honey bee. From the poetic and esoteric to the scientific and specific, there is something for everyone in this book, which seeks to answer: “What are the bees telling us?”

Opening with an account of their journey through making the film and the book, the editors then offer a diverse collection in three parts: an exploration of the bee and the bee colony; an investigation into colony collapse disorder and other related environmental crises; and, finally, a reverent and hopeful closure.

The book expands upon what was presented in the film, with many of the same beekeepers and prominent thinkers featured, as well as new voices. As a farmer and a beekeeper, I was impressed by how much I learned from watching the film, and the same holds true for the book. I gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of how bees maintain health through David Heaf’s “Preserving the Integrity of the Super-Organism: Individual and Social Immunity.” From Kerry Grefig’s “The Miracles of Honey,” I learned exactly why honey has antiseptic properties: the bees produce enzymes that they use to turn some of the sugars into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide.

As important as this fascinating knowledge about bees is the contextualization that several contributors provide. Gunther Hauk notes how colony collapse mirrors many other large-scale crises that seem to accelerate on many fronts, from economic crises to the childhood obesity epidemic. He points out that looking for one specific culprit, be it a fungus, a pesticide, or a disease, misses the point that these crises are the unintended dark side of our society’s increasing industrialization, mechanization, and alienation from the web of life. Vandana Shiva and Raj Patel, furthermore, draw connections between the plight of the honeybee, the green revolution, GMOs, and the food crisis.

Interspersed among the texts are dozens of Taggart Seigel’s beautiful full-color photos, the still complement to the rich imagery of the film: bees and hives, honeycomb, flowers and fruit, and the people who strive to steward and craft harmonious relationships with the bees.

Every time I open a beehive I feel a sense of wonder. Bees have so much to teach us, but they need us too. Through words and images, this book evokes the same feeling. It is a call to action as well as an inspiration, appealing to our hearts and minds. It invites us to open our eyes to what is happening around us and to forge a bold path forward, towards the future we want to live in.

I find it intriguing to think of the entire flowering world in conjunction with pollinators. Both depend on one another, and together form a still greater organism, nourishing all life on earth like a mother. Bees live between heaven and earth, at that place of embrace between them where the entire atmosphere is pervaded by sunlight. This vastness is the home of the bees. They are a sun being. — Michael Thiele, “The Bien: The Oneness of the Honey Bee Colony”

Until our agriculture turns away from destructive, life-estranged practices, it will be the task of hobby beekeepers to create islands, corridors of safety for honey bees and the other pollinators; places where the bees are cared for and nurtured, where their own needs are met and their instinctual wisdom respected. Such places will be sanctuaries in the true meaning ofthe word: where holistic thinking — heart thinking — creates such beauty and wholeness that the honey bee can, once again, be considered a sacred creature. — Gunther Hauk, “Is the Queen Still Royal”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 16, 2013 10:44 am

    Your own article, “Book Review: Queen of the Sun Biodynamics Blog” was indeed worthy
    of writing a comment here! Just simply needed to mention you actually
    did a superb job. Thanks for your effort -Jeanne

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