It’s Honey Day!

Sherlock Holmes was a beekeeper. According to Arthur Conan Doyle, he retired to Sussex in the early years of the Twentieth Century and divided his time “between philosophy and agriculture.” Later, details were provided when his hitherto unknown work on beekeeping played a role in breaking a spy ring on the very eve of the Great War:

“But you had retired, Holmes [says Dr Watson]. We heard of you as living the life of a hermit among your bees and your books in a small farm upon the South Downs.”

“Exactly, Watson. Here is the fruit of my leisured ease, the magnum opus of my latter years.” He picked up the volume from the table and read out the whole title, “‘Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.’ Alone I did it. Behold the fruit of pensive nights and laborious days, when I watched the little working gangs as once I watched the criminal world of London.”

(from “His Last Bow”)

holmes-booklet002However, Holmes’ Handbook then disappeared for decades, until The Language of Bees, volume nine of the Mary Russell memoirs, offered enticing glimpses of its contents.

Now, in celebration of the honeybee and in support of Heifer International’s efforts to provide poor communities with assistance in their agricultural (if not philosophical) endeavors, this exclusive facsimile booklet of Holmes’ Practical Handbook excerpts is available.

Just donate two hives ($60) to the Team LRK page of Heifer International by May 20, 2009, and you not only get the Holmes beekeeping booklet, but a pot of Heifer community honey, and a chance at having a character in the next Holmes and Russell novel named after you.

Heifer International is one of my favorite organizations, based on the idea that the best way to help people is to let them help first themselves, then their neighbors. I hope you can help me support this cause, and the industrious bee that keeps us all fed and healthy.


  1. Sara on April 26, 2009 at 6:26 am

    I just got my honey and Holmes’ book yesterday! What a treat!

    We love Heifer Int’l. My family has been buying donkeys, pigs, hives, and rabbits for years as Christmas presents for our parents. They always say they have everything, so we figured it would be good to get something for those people who have nothing. It’s a win-win. And the Heifer people do such Good Works. Very worthy cause.

    And fun stuff in return for the 15 weeks! 🙂 (Now, off for some honey on toast…..)

  2. strawberry curls on April 26, 2009 at 9:16 am

    What a “sweet” idea. I’m sorry I just couldn’t help myself. 🙂

    I found Heifer International a few years ago and loved the idea of giving beehives. I am awaiting my Practical Guide, which will be treasured when it arrives.


  3. TheMadLibrarian on April 26, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Stephen Colbert actually interviewed one of the higher-ups (I forget the lady’s name) from Heifer International earlier this week. More publicity out there!

  4. Laidee Marjorie on April 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Right you are, TheMadLibrarian! I ask everyone to take a look at this and meet Daisy and then be able to resist helping others:


  5. Meredith T. on April 26, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I have signed up for my beehives, book and honey just before hitting the road (plus the ferry, for the Ferry Bldg.) I can’t help wondering how the er..literary assistants? to Mr. Holmes had time to fit this in, amongst their other duties. the mind boggles. It is nifty that as pictured it is just the book which Herr Von Bork stared at, before the chloroform showed up; what a gem. best to all//Meredith

  6. Canzonett on April 27, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Since donating money to Heifer seems to be a complicated affair for a credit-card-less person living outside the US, I will have to find some other way to support the spirit of this action. At least I have already managed to contribute a minuscule puzzle piece to Honey Day this morning: I’ve saved a bee, who had got lost in the sunlight, from my office room.

  7. Ruth @ Bookish Ruth on April 27, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    What a wonderfully sweet surprise (literally!) to find honey and Holmes’ commentary on beekeeping on my doorstep this weekend. Heifer International is truly an amazing cause; it’s great to see it getting more recognition.

  8. Ann-Marie Wehrer on April 28, 2009 at 8:22 am

    What a lovely gift to get in the mail! And they arrived the same day we picked up our two new packages of bees! We hived the new bees, then had a nice piece of toast with our new Heifer Honey! And I loved the little gem of wisdom from the pamphlet about all we as beekeepers can hope from the bees is “to be ignored”! Too true. Thanks Ms. King, for everything! Now I’m off to my local independent bookstore to pick up my copy of The Language of Bees! weeeeeeeeeeee

  9. Bill Mosteller on May 4, 2009 at 7:36 am

    In on this. When she said at the Cleveland Park Library to when one is traveling as much as she is on the book tour, one ought to be saving I decided I had to sign up. Besides, the goodies are irresistable.

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