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Beekeeper’s Notes February 2019: Wartime Book On Bees Shows Life Goes On

Published on: 1 Feb, 2019
Updated on: 1 Feb, 2019

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon.

The Golden Throng by Edwin Way Theale. Written in 1940, life and beekeeping go on, despite the Second World War horrors.

Winter is a quiet period for beekeepers.

The bees are surviving the cold snap by clustering together to keep warm and by eating their hard won honey stores.

There is an anti-varroa treatment to apply but that doesn’t take long.

So winter is a good time to read.

I found a brilliant book in the Oxfam shop in the Upper High Street, The Golden Throng by Edwin Way Teale.

It is a very gentle and poetic stroll through beekeeping by a naturalist who knows what he is talking about. He hadn’t kept bees before writing the book so his observations come across as very fresh.

He writes beautifully and tries, with some success, to express the wonder of the hive, the wonder of all living things.

From the thought provoking “..virtually the only insect that can be considered to be domesticated by man” to interesting ‘factoids’ such as “(the drone) has a grandfather but no father”, it was a fascinating read.

One thing that struck me was the feeling that life and ordinary pursuits go on, they can’t cease, despite the momentous and horrific events that were happening at the same time.

The book was written in 1940 and printed in the UK in 1942 during the Second World War.

Newspaper cutting found in the second-hand book, presumably a bookmark.

A scrap of a newspaper, presumably a bookmark, was inside the second-hand book when I bought it. The cutting shows a picture of five German aircraft crashing towards the sea on one side and articles about Nazis selling stolen art on the other.

We somehow think that the war would blot every thing else out. The book on beekeeping shows that not to be the case. The ordinary things in life have to go on.

On the back of the dust jacket, there is a quaint reminder that salesman techniques haven’t changed that much even from this pre-email age.

The publisher pushes, but ever so nicely, his future best sellers saying: ‘Messrs. Robert Hale Limited will be pleased to send copies of all future announcements on receipt of a postcard ……”.

Declaration inside the cover. Rationing started in 1940 and this presumably affected paper supplies and printing standards.

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