If you’re looking for a book with all the answers, “A World without Bees” will not be it, especially because, well, no one actually has them. Nor will you find apocalyptic, “The end in nigh!” type of scaremongering. What you will find is an overview of the history, importance and possible causes of what became known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
Bees affected with CCD just suddenly disappear: one day a beekeeper has a healthy beehive, the next all he’s left with is the queen and a few helpers. The phenomenon seems completely random, as it can affect only one hive in a group or all, there are reports of the same symptoms across the globe and in all sorts of environment, from farms where chemicals are used, to cities and places off the beaten track. It’s a veritable, old-fashioned, scientific mystery.
It’s not an easy topic to transform into a book that’s accessible to everyone (lots of chemistry and genetics) but Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum managed to pull it off. They picked up a myriad of theories, studies and contradictory opinions and put them together in simple and (in my non-expect opinion) trustworthy chapters. They start with how bees work, move on to why they’re important, how CCD was first “discovered”, its dimension, possible theories and end with what would happen in a world without bees. (By the way, no, the human race would not become extinct – give us a little credit! – but it would make everything more expensive and much less fun. For instance, no strawberries or chocolate!)
It’s obvious the authors put a lot of work into the book and crossed the world to talk to the right people. They did such a great job that their book comes together as a very strong argument for a holistic view of the world. Call it an ecosystem, call it the butterfly effect, call it cause-consequence, but the bottom-line is: everything is connected. Globalization, with its widespread exchange of animals, insects and viruses has not been kind to honeybees.
It was also interesting to read how the research community, especially the one funded by the industry, seems to focus on creating a stronger honeybee through genetics instead of dealing with the problems which seem to be at the heart of CCD: the industrialization of beekeeping, widespread monocultures, declining bee-friendly areas, pollution, chemicals, GMOs, and the lack of biodiversity in bees and in general. As the authors very well put it:
The danger of creating a superbee, is that a superbug would more than likely follow in its wake, and the western honeybee already has enough ordinary foes to contend with.
Now I must confess something. Although I really enjoyed the book, my favorite part was not the focus on CCD but the first chapters, where Benjamin and McCallum describe life inside a beehive and how honeybees actually work. I was ab-so-lu-te-ly fascinated and really glad I chose this theme for the One, Two, Theme Challenge. What remarkable creatures they are! I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the theme, which will focus more on the bees and less on what threatens them.
Did you know that once a bee discovers a good source of food it passes on the information to the rest of the hive through a “waggle dance”? They can transmit things like time to target and direction according to the sun. They even make adjustments to the dance considering the sun’s changing trajectory since they started the ritual.
This book made me want plant more flowers in my terrace – bee-friendly flowers. If you have a urban garden, take a look at this Guide to a Bee-Friendly Garden.
Book read for One, Two, Theme Challenge
Theme 4: Bees/Honey