Apiculture, more informally known as beekeeping, reaches back almost 10,000 years. In the UK, there are over 250 species of bees, only one of which is the Honeybee. Bees are extraordinary creatures, who rely on their physical and social structures for survival, as this set of bee facts illustrates. A recent study even proved that bees can do simple math! Unfortunately, bees have been in distress in the world in recent years, as Colony Collapse Disorder has plagued their survival. Simultaneously, there has been an explosion of interest in beekeeping. While organizations such as the British Beekeepers Association have existed since the 19th century, local groups and classes have proliferated throughout the UK and the US.
Getting started as a beekeeper involves specialized training and equipment. In Constellations, Roland makes do with his limited resources but as this recent article in Popular Science indicates, contemporary beekeepers are encouraged to take advantage of educational resources, in order to properly care for their colonies. In 1976 Ted Hooper published Guide to Bees and Honey and it is still considered by many to be the definitive guide on beekeeping.
Timing is everything when it comes to the harvesting of honey. And the types of honey generated are contingent upon the plants and flowers the bees have access to. As the British Beekeepers Association notes, “In the autumn, some beekeepers move their hives onto the moors to harvest the nectar from wild heather.” Roland mentions his efforts with this very technique in Constellations. Beyond its culinary attraction, honey has been praised for numerous health and beauty uses.