Archives For Bees


10 Recommended Kindle ebooks for $2.99 or Less!

Prices on these ebooks should not change before June 30, 2012.
But to be on the safe side, please refresh the Amazon page before ordering…

1) Good and Perfect Gift, A: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny
by Amy Julia Becker  – $2.99  [ Read our Review ]

2) Thin Places: A Memoir
by Mary E. DeMuth  – $2.99  [ Read our Review ]

3) The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food
by Amy Cotler – $2.99

4) The Bird Watching Answer Book: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Birds in Your Backyard and Beyond
by Laura Erickson – $2.99

5) Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement
by Neil M. Maher – $2.99

More titles after the jump…

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A Review of

Honeybee Democracy.
Thomas Seeley.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

There’s something about honeybees that captures – and holds onto – the interest of people who come into contact with them.  It’s the same for almost all beekeepers, and it has been for ages.  People who work with bees love them, are intrigued, captivated, and mesmerized by them, Thomas D. Seeley – the author of this book – notwithstanding.  So what is that something that causes people to fall for them and not just for their honey?  They are a superorganism, a collection of thousands of tiny, cold-blooded insects that together function something akin to a warm-blooded animal.  Bees don’t maintain their own body temperature, but a hive does. Bees don’t live more than a season, but a hive does.  Most bees don’t reproduce, but a hive does.  Bees don’t analyze information and make decisions based on that information, but a hive does.

Honeybee Democracy represents years of research on the part of Seeley and collaborators into the habits of a swarm of bees as it chooses a new home.  The book details various experiments performed by Seeley in order to test his and some of his predecessors’ hypotheses about several aspects of the behavior of a swarm as it looks for a suitable place to live.  Each chapter contains charts, graphs and diagrams representing data collected during his many experiments with the swarms.  The experiments, when taken in total, provide evidence that a swarm functions in much the same way as a primate brain; gathering information from an array of sources, deciding which option is the best, and acting upon that decision as a unit.

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An excerpt from the new book:

Natural Beekeeping:
Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture
Ross Conrad.
Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


Part Science Text, Part Horror Story

A Review of
Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee
and the Coming Agricultural Crisis
by Rowan Jacobsen.

By Mary Bowling.


Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee
and the Coming Agricultural Crisis
Rowan Jacobsen.

Hardback: Bloomsbury, 2008.
Buy now from:
[ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

Rowan Jacobsen’s book Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of The Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis is part science text, part horror story and certainly a cautionary tale aimed at a global audience. In a time when huge-scale economies are the driving force behind agriculture, farmers and beekeepers alike have felt enormous pressure to grow not food primarily, but rather business. A small farm cannot compete to support itself, not with all of the inputs necessary to make it run, like seed, fertilizer, pesticides and plenty of heavy machinery, not to mention the farmer’s time and transportation costs. Likewise, a small apiary (bee farm) cannot compete with the ridiculously low price consumers pay for foreign honey. Factor in the multitude of uncertainties that come with keeping bees and the similarly high price of inputs, and it’s a wonder anyone is still even willing to try to produce honey.

            But honey is not really what most bee farms are about anymore. Honey used to be regarded as the most important product of a beehive, but in recent years and with recent trends in agriculture, pollination is as important as anything else in farming. For years, small farms and beehives co-existed, with bees doing their work almost invisibly and providing their rich rewards to people without a whole lot of fuss. But when farms decided to go big, the scale became such that bees couldn’t effectively pollinate crops on their own and pollinator rental became common, even necessary.  Now bees are responsible for making billions of dollars worth of food possible each year in the U.S., and by traveling constantly from one huge mono-crop to another when the season is right, honeybees have come to function as both marathon runners and workhorses.

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Liberty Hyde Bailey

The building bees are humming

About the angled comb

And yellow bees are coming

With treasure laden home,

And other bees are going

To orchard and to bloom

To fetch new sweetness flowing

For ev’ry honeyed room;

Ten thousand blooms are vying

Wherever they may roam

In hurst or fallow flying

The journey leadeth home.

(from LH Bailey Wind and Weather, orginally published 1916,
reprint from Doulos Christou Press now available, see review above).


Food Fraud and Bees
BOOKFORUM reviews two new books
on the Food Crisis

Rowan Jacobsen monitors another distressing side effect of agribusiness consolidation in Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis. Jacobsen, a US food writer who has contributed to the New York Times and Saveur, examines colony collapse disorder (CCD), which hit the United States’ beekeeping industry in 2006. The syndrome affected half of the nation’s commercial bee operations, wiping out about thirty billion bees.

The most puzzling thing about the CCD outbreak was the abundance of possible triggers. Commercial bee operations were overrun with mites and viruses, and bees were kept on the go—fed corn syrup to stay alive between gigs pollinating monocrop farms. Meanwhile, the crops we have Apis mellifera pollinating are awash in pesticides; in some cases, plants are even genetically modified to produce the chemicals themselves. What’s more, monocrop farming is not conducive to bee health—all pollen is not created equal, and some types offer greater nutritional value than others. Bees need a mixture of pollen sources to sustain their health.

Read the full review:

Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud.
Bee Wilson.
Hardcover: Princeton UP, 2008.
Buy now [ Doulos Christou Books $21 ] [ Amazon ]

Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee
and the Coming Agricultural Crisis.

Rowen Jacobsen.
Hardcover: Bloomsbury, 2008.
Buy now [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]

Ron Sider reviews

Many have lamented the meager giving of American Christians. Others have questioned the data on which this criticism was based or pointed out that American Christians give more than those in most other nations. Now we have a careful, scholarly analysis of how much—i.e., how little—American Christians give, plus a sophisticated sociological analysis of why.

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money is a powerful study about the pitifully small charitable donations of the richest Christians in history. In spite of the fact that most Christian denominations support tithing (see Appendix A), only a tiny fraction of American Christians actually tithe. Christian Smith, Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell set out to discover why. Using a number of the best currently available data sets plus a survey and personal interviews of their own, the authors offer the best available information on what American Christians actually give to charitable causes and then try to figure out why such rich Christians give so little.

Read the full review:

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians
Don’t Give Away More Money
Smith / Emerson / Snell.
Hardcover: Oxford UP, 2008.
Buy now  [ Amazon ]

The NY TIMES review of Toni Morrison’s
newest novel A MERCY

A horrifying act stood at the center of Toni Morrison’s 1987 masterwork, “Beloved”: a runaway slave, caught in her effort to escape, cuts the throat of her baby daughter with a handsaw, determined to spare the girl the fate she herself has suffered as a slave. A similarly indelible act stands at the center of Ms. Morrison’s remarkable new novella, “A Mercy,” a small, plangent gem of a story that is, at once, a kind of prelude to “Beloved” and a variation on that earlier book’s exploration of the personal costs of slavery — a system that moves men and women and children around “like checkers” and casts a looming shadow over both parental and romantic love.

Set some 200 years before “Beloved,” “A Mercy” conjures up the beautiful, untamed, lawless world that was America in the 17th century with the same sort of lyrical, verdant prose that distinguished that earlier novel. Gone are the didactic language and schematic architecture that hobbled the author’s 1998 novel, “Paradise”; gone are the cartoonish characters that marred her 2003 novel, “Love.” Instead Ms. Morrison has rediscovered an urgent, poetic voice that enables her to move back and forth with immediacy and ease between the worlds of history and myth, between ordinary daily life and the realm of fable.

All the central characters in this story are orphans, cast off by their parents or swept away from their families by acts of God or nature or human cruelty — literal or figurative exiles susceptible to the centrifugal forces of history. There is Jacob, an Anglo-Dutch trader, whose memories of his own parentless years on the streets “stealing food and cadging gratuities for errands” have left him with a “pulse of pity for orphans and strays.” There is his wife, Rebekka, who as a girl of 16 was sent abroad to America by her father, who, happy to have one less mouth to feed, readily accepted Jacob’s offer of “ ‘reimbursement’ for clothing, expenses and a few supplies” in exchange for a “healthy, chaste wife willing to travel abroad.” And there is Florens, whose mother sees the kindness in Jacob’s heart and begs him to take her young daughter (as payment for a debt owed by their domineering owner) in the hopes that the trader will give her a better life and the possibility of a future as a free woman, not a slave.

Read the full review:

Toni Morrison.
Hardcover: Knopf, 2008.
Buy now [ Doulos Christou Books $20 ] [ Amazon ]