The New Zealand Collection presents: This Week in History 15th – 21st March

“I eat my peas with honey.
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny.
But it keeps them on the knife.”

This Ogden Nash quote is a clue to the ‘This Week in History’ topic. As usual this week’s selected topic comes from the Today in History page at The New Zealand Collection is located on the second floor of The Central Library. Each week we feature topics in the This Week in History display in the NZ Collection.

On the 19 March 1839 Honey bees were first brought to NZ
Mary Bumby landed at the Wesleyan Mission Station at Mangungu, Hokianga, in March 1839, she brought two hives of honey bees from Sydney (where they had been established since 1822). New Zealand had native species of bees, but they were not suitable for producing honey. Mary Bumby was born at Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1811 and she sailed for New Zealand aboard the James in September 1838. Mary kept a diary and she wrote about her first impressions of New Zealand from when she left her Yorkshire home until she became to busy when her first child was born three years later. Sadly Mary Bumby died at sea on a return voyage to England in March 1862.

There are some really interesting books about bees in the New Zealand collection but unfortunately some of the older publications do not have much information about them in the catalogue. We have a 1976 reprint of A MANUAL FOR NEW ZEALAND BEE KEEPERS that was first published in 1848 and starts with the following introduction “The following manual is intended for the use of all persons in this island who wish to keep bees, but do not like to do so, because they feel they know not where to apply for instruction.” We also have a New Zealand Department of Agriculture Bulletin titled BEEKEEPING from 1926. This one has a section on “Beekeeping for Ladies” and I guess it’s heartening to think that in 1926 the bulletin states “That there is nothing connected with bee-farming that a young women cannot accomplish”. Pictured below is a women who perhaps decided beekeeping was for her, although I’m not sure why the people either side of her have been shaded out.

women with honeycombs
Outdoors on rough ground with trees behind, an unidentified woman holding three honeycombs covered in bees, probably Christchurch region. Maclay, Adam Henry Pearson, 1873-1955 :Negatives. Ref: 1/2-163842-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

The NZ Collection also holds the 1961 edition of the Department of Agriculture bulletin No.267 BEEKEEPING IN NEW ZEALAND.
Beekeeping was an important factor in the National economy and was supported by the government who in 1905 announced it’s intention to increase the number of hives at Ruakura Apiary and for it to be run as an experimental station to keep apiarists up to date. Downloaded from Papers Past was this report from the The New Zealand Herald on the 5th September 1905.

Bee Industry

The collection holds several editions of this next book and this is the 2011 fourth edition which has been updated with information on the varroa mite and it’s effects on New Zealand beekeeping.

Syndetics book coverPractical beekeeping in New Zealand / Andrew Matheson and Murray Reid.
“For more than 25 years Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand has been the bible for New Zealand beekeepers. The only comprehensive guide to keeping bees in New Zealand, it provides both amateur and professional beekeepers with details on honey bee management throughout the year, advice on handling hive products and information about many other beekeeping subjects. As well as being a guide to beekeepers, Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand appeals to those interested in apiculture and deciding whether to keep bees, and horticulturalists and farmers find it of particular interest for crop pollination. Given New Zealand’s reputation in world beekeeping the book has also been keenly sought after by beekeepers overseas.Three editions of the book have been published since 1984. It has now been comprehensively updated to incorporate the latest information available, particularly on new approaches to beekeeping now the parasitic varroa mite has become established in New Zealand and changed the face of beekeeping forever.” (Syndetics summary)

This one is about the history of gardening in New Zealand so isn’t really about bees but bees need gardens and gardens need bees so I wanted to feature it and anyway it’s such a beautiful book. The other thing to note is that the authors name is Bee so I can claim that as a connection as well.

Syndetics book coverA history of gardening in New Zealand / Bee Dawson.
“An Englishman’s home is his castle, but for the first European settlers who came to New Zealand, their first priority was to create a productive and, later, ornamental garden. Bee Dawson traces the development of gardening in New Zealand, from the Maori gardens of pre – and early contact times through the optimistic efforts of missionaries and the other early settlers, the magnificence and productivity of the Victorians and Edwardians and the Dig for Victory campaigns of the 1940s. Illustrated throughout with historic photographs, paintings and ephemera, Dawson’s lively writing style brings to life the successes and failures and the sense of achivement felt by New Zealand gardeners through the years, as they coaxed plenty and beauty from a new earth. This book is both beautiful to look at and a delight to read.” (Syndetics summary)

The last two books are not in the New Zealand Collection but you can find them on the ground floor in the fiction collection. These are two great stories set in such very different times and places but the thing they have in common is that they both feature the life of bees as a back drop or as a parallel to the human stories. They are both great ‘bee’ inspired reads.

Syndetics book coverThe beekeeper’s pupil Sara George.
“In 1766, at the age of 15, Francois Huber learns that he is going blind. As the darkness descends, he sets his mind on an extraordinary scientific inquiry into the violent and sexually competitive world of the bee. He teaches his manservant to observe in his place and together they document their astonishing findings, with extraordinary obsessiveness and insight. Set against a backdrop of the scientific and intellectual idealism of the Enlightenment, Sara George’s fascinating new novel is a story of passion, knowledge, and human limitations.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret life of bees / Sue Monk Kidd.
“Lily has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother when she was four. She not only has her own memory of holding the gun, but her father’s account of the event. Now fourteen, she yearns for her mother, and for forgiveness. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her father, she has only one friend: Rosaleen, a black servant whose sharp exterior hides a tender heart. South Carolina in the sixties is a place where segregation is still considered a cause worth fighting for. When racial tension explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is compelled to act. Fugitives from justice and from Lily’s harsh and unyielding father, they follow a trail left by the woman who died ten years before. Finding sanctuary in the home of three beekeeping sisters, Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother.” (Syndetics summary)