Western civilization is in the middle of a renaissance around the venerable art of beekeeping. This was once, in North America and Europe, the business or hobby of a declining number of old beekeepers practicing a craft passed down by father and grandfather. Declining, in large part, because of the general decline of profitable farming and the invention of other time-consuming hobbies and distractions.
The advent of a bewildering range of exotic diseases and viruses, climate change and the homogenization of the genetics of many of the world’s disparate strains of honey bees has now made beekeeping a complex and sometimes unsuccessful art.
And yet beekeeping is undergoing a resurgence, thanks in large part to the growing “local food” movement, the popularized understanding that bees are threatened in their habitat, and the changing and relaxing attitudes municipalities have about backyard beekeeping.
That’s why McCutcheon’s book on the modern history of beekeeping in B.C. is so fascinating. McCutcheon, a well-respected author and beekeeper, follows his book on 100 years of Beekeeping in British Columbia by W.H.Turnbull, the first provincial apiculturalist (bee inspector). Turnbull’s book traced B.C.’s first century of beekeeping since two hives were imported from California in 1858.
McCutcheon’s book pays homage to the efforts of Turnbull’s successor, John Corner, whose efforts helped dramatically shape B.C.’s commercial pollination industry. He brought in the first formalized education courses for beekeepers and helped develop B.C.’s now-famous Peace River honey.
Readers of McCutcheon’s book will get a clear sense of the reach and importance of honey and pollination in society.
It necessarily stops at 2000 in part because this was a voluntary research project using the B.C. Honey Producers Association’s considerable archives. It also naturally breaks just before the advent of the new age of beekeeping complicated by the arrival of new foreign diseases that have once again altered the future of beekeeping.
It can be ordered through the BCHPA
A History of Beekeeping in British Columbia from 1950-2000
by Douglas McCutcheon
British Columbia Honey Producers Association