Who Was Eva Crane? Quick Facts

Eva Crane Illustration

Eva Crane was a prolific author and researcher who dedicated much of her life to studying apiculture. She wrote over 300 papers, books, and articles over her lifetime.

Crane founded the Bee Research Association, now named International Bee Research Association. She was also instrumental in transforming Bee World into a widely-read international publication.

Also read: The top beekeeping visionaries who redefined how we keep bees.

Quick facts

NameEva Crane (née Widdowson)
Place of BirthDulwich, London
OccupationBeekeeper, entomologist, author
Notable Beekeeping AchievementsFounded the Bee Research Association. Authored Bees and Beekeeping: science, practice and world resources (1990) and The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999)

Early life and education

Eva Crane was born in 1912 in Dulwich, England. She grew up in a household with parents, Harry and Rose, and an older sister Elsie. Her sister gained notoriety as a nutritionist in the 1900s.

Eva attended Sydenham County Grammar School for Girls along with her sister. The two were academic students, winning numerous awards and scholarships.

Crane studied mathematics at the University of London. It was a male-dominated faculty, with only one other woman in her year. She excelled in her field and completed the degree in just two years before attaining a Masters in Quantum Mechanics.

In 1941, Crane earned a Ph.D. in nuclear physics.

Why did Eva Crane begin studying bees?

Eva Crane received a hive as a wedding present in 1942 during World War II. The gift-giver hoped it would provide a helpful sugar substitute during wartime rationing.

The hive sparked an interest that would become a lifelong passion. Her scientific mind became obsessed with understanding how bees worked, a lot like François Huber or Jan Dzierżon.

Eva Crane: Important contributions

Eva Crane dedicated her life to researching bees in over 60 countries. She is considered one of the best writers on the topic of melittology. Some of her work includes:

  • Honey: A Comprehensive Survey (1975) – contributed several chapters.
  • A Book of Honey (1980)
  • The Archaeology of Beekeeping (1983).
  • Bees and Beekeeping: science, practice and world resources (1990)
  • The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999)

In addition to Crane’s tireless research, she was also the secretary of the British Beekeepers Association.

Eva founded the Bee Research Association in 1949, which became the International Bee Research Association in 1976.

Crane worked within Bee World, a small journal that Ahmad Zaki Abu Shadi started in 1919. With the help of Eva, the publication grew into a large, much-respected science magazine.

Related reading: Another bee researcher working around the same timeframe as Eva was Karl Von Frisch. If you want to go back earlier, read about the life of Petro Prokopovych.

Summary of Eva Crane’s work

Below is a selection of contributions by Eva Crane, which we have summarized for easy reading.

Source: Reprint – Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England (1972)

Discusses the importance of bees in seed crop production, focusing on the role of bees in pollination. The anatomy and instincts of bees make them effective pollinators, but they require specific conditions, such as access to sweet nectar and blooms that aren’t blown around by the wind.

  • Researchers actively seek out bees that are efficient pollinators for specific crops.
  • New methods for using honeybees are being developed.

The research emphasizes the importance of staying up to date with relevant research on crop pollination, as it can have practical applications for growers in different countries.

Source: Acta Horticulturae 288 (Proc.6 Int. Symp. Pollination): 29-48 (1991)

Crane presents several recommendations for studying crop pollination by native Apis species in Asia.

These recommendations include:

  1. Publishing recommendations on experimental methods for studying pollination.
  2. Conducting further studies on pollination by native Apis species in Asian countries outside India.
  3. Encouraging beekeeping with A. florea for honey production and pollination.
  4. Assembling data to estimate the economic value of honeybees in pollinating individual crops.
  5. Generating interest in native honeybees to encourage their preservation.

Source: Bee World 31(9): 65-72 (1950)

This work describes experiments carried out by beekeepers in England in 1948. It compared colonies fed sugar syrup or honey in the spring with those that received no food.

Fed colonies were significantly stronger, with more bees and brood. The benefit of feeding was greater for smaller colonies and colonies located further from water.

The results suggest that the water in the syrup may be more valuable to the bees than the sugar.

Source: Chapter in: Plants for arid lands, Ch. 13, pp. 163-175 ed. G.E. Wickens, J.R. Goodwin, D.V. Field. London: George Allen & Unwin (1985)

Using bees for crop pollination provides additional harvest and improves crop quality.

Beekeeping offers developing countries a valuable food source and income source. However, constraints still need to be studied quantitatively. A lack of knowledge about honey sources in different tropical and subtropical habitats has been a limitation.

The “Directory of important world honey sources” helps to remove this constraint. Seventy three important honey sources in the arid and semi-arid lands of the tropics and subtropics are identified, sixty seven of which have other economic uses.

Crane examines the degree of drought tolerance, habit, distribution, and salt tolerance coupled with drought tolerance and recommended plants for honey production.

The research recommended that bee and honey production information should be linked with broader plant databases for developing countries.

The IBRA is willing to take responsibility for this specialized aspect of work if provided the financial support.

Source: Lecture for Central Association of the British Beekeepers (1949)

This text discusses the water balance of a bee colony throughout the year.

Bees remove water from nectar in the summer to prevent fermentation and use water drops to reduce hive temperature.

In the winter, extra water must be disposed of. In the spring, water becomes a valuable commodity for the bees. However, these “seasons” are flexible and can recur at different times.

The research notes that there is still much to learn about this subject.

Source: Proceedings of the 25th International Beekeeping Congress, Grenoble. (1975)

The paper describes a woodcut from the late 1600s that depicts a triangular relationship between bees, humans, and the environment.

The woodcut includes a Latin motto, a cleric eating honeycomb, a scholar in his study, and symbols of plant life. It represents the idea that bees gather natural resources to make honey, which humans take from them.

Crane suggests that bees are creatures of instinct and cannot understand or regret their exploitation by humans.

Eva’s legacy

Eva Crane died in Slough, U.K., at the age of 95. The spirit of her research continues through the Evan Crane Trust, formed in 2002.

It was put in place to “advance the understanding of bees and beekeeping by the collection, collation, and dissemination of science and research worldwide as well as to record and propagate a further understanding of beekeeping practices through historical and contemporary discoveries.”

If you enjoyed this article, also learn more about the contributions of Quinby, Brother Adam, or L.L. Langstroth.

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