Medical Aspects of Beekeeping
by Harry Riches

Published by the author. 86 pages, Paperback. Illustrated with diagrams

Front Cover of Harry Riches Book

This book was so fascinating that I read it through in one sitting when a winter Mediterranean storm raged around our home. The author, Dr Harry Riches, needs no introduction from me as he is so much part of the beekeeping scene that for me to comment on his credentials would be superfluous. It is sufficient to say that his long years in both beekeeping and medicine, holding high positions in both, combine to make him a unique expert on the topics within the book.

Harry Riches

Whilst some of the book contains papers previously published, particularly regarding allergies to bee stings, their inclusion within one volume makes this a useful resource for beekeepers and shows how things have moved on in the medical sense over the last few decades. But these papers too have been edited in places giving us an up to date account of what is now known. Regarding problems associated with stings, Dr Riches outlines the biological events (quite technical, but so clear it is easy to follow with the aid of useful diagrams) which take place and shows how different groups of individuals can react to stings in different ways. He gives advice to beekeepers who are worried about stings, explains how they can be avoided and what treatment is possible both before and after someone is stung, or even in the long-term should immunotherapy be necessary. Anyone who reads this part of the book carefully will soon have all their fears allayed.

The rest of the publication deals with products from the hive - honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom. He gives us information on each of the constituents - their make up, nutritional or medical value and is not afraid to be scornful of some of the fanciful or unsubstantiated claims which have been made about such products. Indeed, he doesn't hold back his punches for, whilst writing about royal jelly he says quite plainly "Royal jelly is of no benefit to humans. A waste of money!" whilst he is happy about the antibacterial and antifungal activities of propolis and its application externally he has strong reservations about its internal use. He questions too the value of bee stings for the relief of arthritic and other conditions and shows how `magical cures' attributed to bee venom have other more likely causes.

An excellent book in which current information available on the topics has been provided, making it a practical, easily readable (with useful end of the chapter summaries), reliable and objective resource for beekeepers.

Beekeepers' Quarterly Issue No. 64.