Pollinators are the Rodney Dangerfields of the animal world: They just don't get no respect. So claim entomologist Buchmann (Hayden Bee Research Center) and Nabhan (Director of science/Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) in this at once delightful and disturbing tour d'horizon of those for whom the flowers bloom. ``One in every three mouthfuls of food we eat, and of beverages we drink'' is served up to us by pollinators, notes E.O. Wilson in his introduction. Butterflies are out there working for us, as are the hummingbirds and fig wasps, pygmy gliders and panurgine bees, carrying pollen to stigma, allowing seeds to set. Pollination is one of nature's vital processes, fine-tuned and mesmeric in its endless cycles, feedback loops, checks and balances. But as in so many other instances, humans are busy as the bees disrupting the process, bombing pollinators with pesticides, fragmenting their habitat, cutting off the nectar corridors, such that the ``current rate of species loss constitutes a biodiversity crisis of unprecedented proportions.'' Buchmann provides the hard science of the pollinators' world: flower stalk architecture and nectar chemistry and flowering sequences; Nabhan contributes a felicitous dose of pleasing prose, framed as anecdotal remembrances: He's never happier than when poking about in a sere landscape, following the monarch butterflies on their winter migration, taking stock of the floral pantries. While this book can only be considered a preliminary investigation, trends indicate that pollinators may be getting ever more limited in supply as their world shrinks around them. Buchmann and Nabhan make the case for increased wildlands, intact forests, an ecological approach that prevents pollinator habitat from becoming islands, thus coffins, in a developed landscape. A cautionary tale: Kill the pollinators and you might as well kill yourself. Another of nature's elegant loops. (b&w illustrations) (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-55963-352-2
Page count: 302pp
Publisher: Shearwater/Island Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


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