The age of mass production has not been kind to bees.
Before humans intervened, before the days of agribusiness, bees left to their own devices had hard, short, and sometimes violent and vicious lives. Since we've started helping them, their lives are worse. And we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.This fascinating book looks at the lives of bees and at one cantankerous commercial beekeeper, John Miller. It is no small irony that someone who “isn't fond of death,” who takes it personally is involved in death everyday; it is part of the business.Like many, I had heard of CDC, Colony Collapse Disorder, that has wreaked havoc among bees and their keepers. What I didn't realize that CDC is only a part of the problem, that bees are susceptible to a whole host of fatal and really nasty diseases. And the solutions of dosing the bees with drugs, forcing them into unnaturally early springs, transporting them around the country, feeding them with cheap corn syrup instead of their own honey – these things are not making the situation better. Neither is monocropping.The politics of beekeeping is really eye-opening. Beekeepers are a dying breed, and agriculture as it is practiced today couldn't exist without them. You don't have to be especially interested in bees to find this book very informative. If you eat, their lives affect your life more than you probably know.There were a couple of places in the book where the writing seemed a touch dry to me. Statements like “in the wild, honey bees have disappeared entirely” made me wish for footnotes and a bibliography, although the statement was explained later in the book. As was “bees began bringing that nectar home to evaporate into honey....” Even in my ignorance, I knew that honey isn't just evaporated nectar, oh no, not anything that straightforward, burp.The next time you are spreading that big ol' glop of honey on your English muffin, give thanks for the dozen bees who together spent their whole lives making just a teaspoon of the stuff.more