Jul 26, 2011

The Beekeeper's Lament

by Hannah Nordhaus

Journalist follows a large-scale beekeeping operation around the US to study the plight of the honeybee.This book answered all the questions I had left over after reading The Hive Detectives, and then some. The Beekeeper's Lament gives a lot of detail into the world of beekeeping. Readily apparent that this is a very complex and fragile system. So very many of our crops depend upon the bees, who are in turn dependent upon humans now, to keep them alive. Apparently all the feral hives have disappeared (honeybees were never native to the US but introduced from Europe) and those under the care of beekeepers are constantly assailed by a myriad of diseases, pests and maladies. Lots of theories on what is causing the colonies to collapse, but no real answers yet. I am full of new admiration for the beekeepers who work like John Miller (the man most featured in this book) who drive their thousands of hives all around the country chasing the flowers. He, like many others who keep bees, make most of their money off renting the hives out to almond farmers. It was fascinating to learn about how the industry has grown and changed- for example oranges used to need pollination too, but now that consumers prefer seedless oranges, citrus farmers are trying to keep bees out of their orchards. There's a little bit about the history of bees and their keepers here, but it's mostly about the workings of the industry, the failure of the bees' health, and how it is becoming harder and harder for beekeepers to make a profit at all. I was most intrigued by reading about how it all worked, like the different methods the "bee guys" use to get their bees through the winter- feed them artificial stuff like syrup, put them into hibernation, or truck them to warmer climes.

Very intriguing, and alarming, stuff to read about. Sorry this post is so jumbled, I'm typing it out in a hurry while the baby sleeps. Read a few of the reviews linked to below, for something more comprehensive! Or better yet, just read the book. I borrowed my copy from the public library, when curiosity on the subject just made me search the catalog.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 269 pages, 2011

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bermudaonion said...

This sounds interesting. I never knew bees were brought over from Europe.

Jenny said...

I thought they had discovered what was killing the bees! I thought it was some weird insane combination of a fungus and a bacteria. Or something like that. I remember thinking: Gross. But good that they figured it out. Did I manufacture that memory out of the whole cloth?

Jeane said...

Bermudaonion- Yes. We do have some native bees- ones like mason bees and bumble bees that live solitary, but social, honey-making bees were introduced.

Jenny- I hadn't heard of that. I guess this book was written before they figured it out? I'm really glad if it was discovered!

Gavin said...

Having seen honeybees hanging around the Lavender in my garden I am adding this and The Hive Detectives to my TBR list.

Stephanie said...

I was lucky enough to attend a luncheon at Harper Perienial in May and they told us all about the publishing process (using this book as an example)! It was truly facsinating, especially the fact that they went through many, many cover designs before agreeing on this one.

Chris said...

Oh I can't WAIT to read this book!! i actually just bought a copy. I love bees :)