The Honeybee Man
by Lela Nargi
illustrated by Krysten Brooker
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Bee's barf = Honey.
This is probably all it takes to fascinate some kids.
Where do bees keep their honey? How do we get to the honey? Why do they let us take it? And, who keeps the bees?
The book blends fact and fiction about a Bee Keeper in New York City, Fred, who keeps bees in 3 little houses, beehives, each with two white stories and one red, up on the roof top, way up high on the building, so bees can fly in and out of their houses easily. Each beehive has a queen which Fred names Queen Mab, Queen Nefertiti, Queen Boadicea. (His cat of course is simply named 'Cat').
Queen bees can live anywhere from 2 to 5 years. Drones,the male bees, stay in the hive and tend to the work there, with a life span of about 2 months. Hives become active in spring when it starts getting warmer and continues all the way till end of autumn when it starts getting cold.
The buzzing activity inside the hives is brought out with straightforward description. The queens are laying eggs. Some workers are building wax rooms, some are feeding babies, some are making the hive tidy. Others are getting ready to forage in flowers abloom all across Brooklyn.
Female worker bees gather pollen and nectar all day long buzzing about busily, live anywhere from 1 to 4 months. From blueberry bushes to sweet pea, to squash flowers, to sage and linden tree flowers they fly and suck nectar and store it in their honey sacs in their bellies. They perform their waggle dance to show where the best flowers grow.
Bees store the honey for their food during long winter months when no flowers bloom and it is too cold to buzz about. So, what happens if we take away their food? Do they die? This was a question that came up when we read that Fred sends puffs of smoke to make bees burrow deep inside their hive so that he can take the honeycombs and not be stung non-stop during the taking.
As it happens, ideally, Fred takes only a bit from the top (super) level and not all of the honey so the bees still have enough for their food.
The details about the wooden frames in the beehive, the honeycomb with wax caps, and how Fred slices it off to get to the rich thick honey, and the spinning machine that squeezes every last drop of honey into the barrel were easy to follow. And finally, Fred pours the honey into jars, labels them and shares with his friends.
The illustrations complement the narration well, bringing it all together. Front and back inside covers of the book shows diagrams of flower, side view of a bee, beehive sectional view, queen, drone and worker bee and a close up look at the stinger.
Notes at the back provide Some Amazing Facts About Honey, Honeybees, and Beekeepers.
[image source: barnesandnoble.com]