From Publishers Weekly
With a passion that gives this exploration of colony collapse disorder real buzz, Jacobsen (A Geography of Oysters
) investigates why 30 billion honeybees—one-quarter of the northern hemisphere's population—vanished by the spring of 2007. He identifies the convergence of culprits—blood-sucking mites, pesticide buildup, viral infections, overused antibiotics, urbanization and climate change—that have led to habitat loss and the destruction of the beautiful mathematics of the hive. Honeybees are undergoing something akin to a nervous breakdown; they aren't pollinating crops as effectively, and production of commercial American honey, already undercut by cheap Chinese imports, is dwindling, even as beekeepers truck stressed honeybees cross-country to pollinate the fields of desperate farmers. Jacobsen pessimistically predicts that our breakfasts will become... a lot more expensive as the supply of citrus fruits, berries and nuts will inevitably decrease, though he expresses faith that more resilient bees can eventually emerge, perhaps as North American honeybees are crossbred with sturdier Russian queen bees. The author, now tending his own hives, invests solid investigative journalism with a poet's voice to craft a fact-heavy book that soars. (Sept.)
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*Starred Review* Whatever the disorder is called—colony collapse disorder (CCD), mad bee disease, stress accelerated decline (SAD), or bee autoimmune deficiency (BAD)—it has decimated honeybee colonies and imperiled the fertility of the earth’s flowering plants. Although Rachel Carson famously warned us about pesticides causing a “silent spring,” we now face a “fruitless fall.” Jacobsen explains why with compelling lucidity, carefully documented facts, and a deep respect for the sophisticated and diligent honeybee. After taking a “bee’s-eye view” of the complex and well-orchestrated workings of the hive, and reviewing the role this extraordinarily adaptable and productive European immigrant has played in North America’s phenomenal agricultural fecundity, he documents the many ways we’ve endangered the honeybee. We destroy wildflower habitats; truck bees cross-country to fertilize monocrops, especially California’s half-million acres of almond trees; dose them with neurotoxin-laced pesticides; and overuse antibiotics. The upshot of Jacobsen’s alarming exposé is that honeybees have been industrialized, just like cattle and poultry, and abused so severely hives are failing. But disaster can be averted if we revive our ancient, respectful, and mutually sustaining partnership with the miraculous honeybee. All it takes, he says, is our ability to work with nature, not against it. --Donna Seaman