Summary and book reviews of The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus

The Beekeeper's Lament

How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America

by Hannah Nordhaus

The Beekeeper's Lament
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  • Paperback:
    May 2011, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Book Summary

The honey bee is a willing conscript, a working wonder, an unseen and crucial link in America's agricultural industry. But never before has its survival been so unclear - and the future of our food supply so acutely challenged.

Enter beekeeper John Miller, who trucks his hives around the country, bringing millions of bees to farmers otherwise bereft of natural pollinators. Even as the mysterious and deadly epidemic known as Colony Collapse Disorder devastates bee populations across the globe, Miller forges ahead with the determination and wry humor of a true homespun hero. The Beekeeper's Lament tells his story and that of his bees, making for a complex, moving, and unforgettable portrait of man in the new natural world.

FAST CARS AND BIG TRUCKS

John Miller isn't fond of death. He takes it personally. A few years ago he even bought a Corvette, as if that could stave it off. It was a red C-5, number 277 produced that year, brand-new. He purchased it just before he turned forty-six, as the days lengthened to summer's zenith. Then he promptly fled California. East of Reno the highway emptied, and he inched the speedometer faster - 90, 100, 120, 170. He passed a souped-up Cadillac STS as if it were a dawdling tractor; the driver didn't even have time to turn his head and gawk. Miller likes numbers, so he clocked himself and did some silent math. Even going 90, the sucker in the STS had to wait forty-five seconds for a mile to pass. Miller? Twenty-two and a half seconds per mile. And just like that, he was nine hundred miles away, in Hudson, Wyoming. He stopped there for a meal at Svilar's restaurant with his old friend Larry Krause.

John Miller is a migratory beekeeper, and so is Larry Krause. They ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Beekeeper's Lament does a wonderful job at depicting the symbiosis between agriculture and bees, and it avoids contributing to the (occasionally) vapid media coverage that surrounds honeybees and CCD. It provides a story that is pragmatic, objective, and informative and is for readers who want to better educate themselves about ecological change and current agricultural practices without slogging through pages of scientific reports.   (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).

Full Review Members Only (548 words).

Media Reviews

American Bee Journal

This book is a terrific read.

Booklist

Miller is a complex and colorful man, and his story, along with the story of the bees, is an engaging read.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Miller, smart, antisocial with humans, but tender toward bees and prone to writing ironic free-verse e-mails, keeps the narrative lively despite its often grim content.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Author Blurb Bernd Heinrich, author of Winter World and Mind of the Raven
I loved The Beekeeper's Lament. With great reporting and great writing, Hannah Nordhaus gives a new angle on an ever-evolving topic. You'll learn a lot.

Author Blurb Trevor Corson, author of The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Story of Sushi
Rollicking, buzzing, and touching …You'll never think of bees, their keepers, or the fruits (and nuts) of their labors the same way again.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
Hannah Nordhaus has written an engaging account of the men and insects who put food on our tables. The Beekeeper's Lament is a sweet, sad story.

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Beyond the Book

Colony Collapse Disorder

honey bee According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which bees mysteriously disappear from their hives. "The main symptom of CCD is simply no or a low number of adult honey bees present but with a live queen and no dead honey bees in the hive. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present."

Though "scientific literature has several mentions of honey bee disappearances - in the 1880s, the 1920s, and the 1960s," specific cases of CCD began to occur in American apiaries in October 2006, and beekeepers across the country were confounded when thousands of honeybees began to disappear, leaving behind empty, healthy hives. Since then, the occurrence of...

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