The Beekeeper’s Lament
How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America
By: Hannah Nordhaus
I read this nonfiction title on my kindle as one of the free reads from Amazon Prime and was totally surprised! I really loved it. Going in I thought it was going to be a very dry, well above my intelligence type of read. I was wrong—it was thoroughly readable and entertaining with a “cast” of quirky characters and a bit of mystery.
The Beekeeper’s Lament explains the history of the domestication of the European honey bee, and the complications that comes along with that domestication. By focusing mainly on one beekeeper (John Miller) as well as his family and some of his compatriots it provides a personal, intimate angle, plus including occasional macro views of the industry shows the impact of this world-wide issue.
This fairly objective view of bees, agriculture and the beekeeping industry, doesn’t have too much science in it (see The Buzz About Bees for more on that) but does provide a fascinating and thought-provoking story. I went through a gamut of emotions during my reading; curiosity, anger, sadness, guilt, happiness and humor; with many of them happening at the same time. And while this is a “Green” story and I did feel a touch of guilt occasionally, I never felt lectured to or scolded, the story just played out what was/is happening and theories on why.
I found Hannah Nordhaus to be a great storyteller with this book. I definitely recommend this and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads (I am very stingy with my stars).
”This annual bee migration isn’t just a curiosity; it’s the glue that holds much of our agricultural system together. ”
”Because of the varroa mite, wild honey bees are now, for all practical purposes, extinct in the United States.”
“But bees are living things, with short life spans to begin with—about six weeks from larva to winged maturity to senescence. Riding in trucks and eating fake flowers and living in a constant state of natural or artificial peak bloom can take it out of a bee. There are too many crops to pollinate, too many miles between them.”
“The phrase I use,” says John Miller, “is that honey bees are free-flying insects, and though a beekeeper may provide habitation, shelter, or equipment to house them, the beekeeper owns the equipment but not the bees. They can elect to live in the equipment I provide but the door is open and they may come and go as they please.”
“Farm chemicals clearly stick around in hives in greater numbers and for longer times than had previously been believed.”
RATINGS & Awards
Goodreads: 3.93 Stars
Amazon: 4.5 Stars
Barnes & Noble: 3.9 Stars
Audible: 4.3 Stars
IndieBound: June 2011 Indie Next List
Finalist, PEN CENTER USA BOOK AWARDS
Finalist, COLORADO BOOK AWARDS
Winner, NATIONAL FEDERATION OF PRESS WOMEN BOOK AWARD
Did you like John Miller? The other beekeepers? Do you enjoy their lifestyle?
How did you find the pace of the book?
What did you find to be the most interesting part of the book? The least interesting?
Did you feel the book was well researched and accurate?