Two amateur apiarists draw attention to the alarming plight of the honeybee.
In 2007, newspapers began carrying reports of a strange and widespread disease affecting the hives of honeybees. The bees were dying in droves. The potentially catastrophic situation was dubbed colony collapse disorder (CCD), and it touched beekeepers and farmers throughout the world. Benjamin and McCallum sound an alarm, beginning by drawing readers into the fascinating cultural history of bees, providing examples of their metaphorical and symbolic associations. As the authors explain, honeybees are the uber-pollinators, their hives trucked from farm to farm, setting in motion the fertilization of untold numbers of crops, from blueberries in Maine to almonds in California. The authors launch an intelligent, open-minded investigation into possible agents of collapse—first noting that such collapses have been periodic in the bee industry—including parasites, pesticides, global warming, genetically modified transgenic pollens and stress from long shipping times. The hives, write the authors, “can easily cover 11,000 miles…each year, going up to the apple orchards in Washington State, then over to the north-east for cranberries and pumpkins, before finishing with blueberries in Maine.” Most likely, the causes are a combination of many different agents. Neither Benjamin nor McCallum will be hailed as prose stylists, and they often pack information into laundry lists. But CCD is a compelling subject, and the authors ably convey their knowledge, perspective and passion.
Awkwardly written, but provides dozens of good reasons to care about the disappearance of bees.