Kirkus Star


How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America
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A crackerjack story of one American beekeeper’s days, with both his songs of joy and sorrow, presented within the context of beekeeping’s natural and social history.

While researching a story about beekeeping, journalist Nordhaus happened upon John Miller, a migratory beekeeper who shuttles his thousands of hives from California to North Dakota. The author struck gold with the colorful Miller, a man who “likes to pontificate, joke, write, say incendiary things, tell stories, drip with sarcasm.” As beekeeping has a fascinating, ages-old story to tell, Miller is an excellent ambassador, born to a long line of apiarists and a willing slave to his hives. Nordhaus is a lively writer who knows how to get to the nub of a topic, be it the architecture of a hive, the sting of a honey bee or the various nefarious infestations that beleaguer bee colonies. Since Colony Collapse Disorder has captured much national interest, she covers that plague, plus a host of other malefactors, such as mites and pesticides. Beekeeping has never been easy, but without the honeybees and their keepers, hundreds of crops would perish. The money in beekeeping, such as it is, is in the pollination fees, not the honey, and Nordhaus ably conveys the economics of the trade. She is just as able to describe the romance and miracle of honey, however. To make a pound, some 50,000 bees travel a collective 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers: “[B]ees carry the future from tree to tree, and honey is the reward for their labors, nectar distilled by desire and duty into something more.”

A smooth-as-honey tour d’horizon of the raggedy world of beekeeping.


Pub Date: June 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-187325-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2011


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