Jason Goodwin

Sting in the tale

Bees are news. The advent of a sinister condition dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder has concentrated many minds on the future of the honey bee, not least in the US where the disorder is prevalent and pollination by bees accounts for billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural produce.

Bees are news. The advent of a sinister condition dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder has concentrated many minds on the future of the honey bee, not least in the US where the disorder is prevalent and pollination by bees accounts for billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural produce.

Bees are news. The advent of a sinister condition dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder has concentrated many minds on the future of the honey bee, not least in the US where the disorder is prevalent and pollination by bees accounts for billions of dollars’ worth of agricultural produce. Over here, CCD isn’t officially a problem, but numbers appear to be down. Both these new bee books address the issues.

The focus of The Beekeeper’s Lament is John Miller, a long-distance bee-keeper who, as Hannah Nordhaus reports, ‘likes to email. He also likes to pontificate, joke, write, say incendiary things, tell stories, drip with sarcasm. Most of all, he likes to talk.’ Nordhaus too. She has a crush on Miller, who drives his bees around the interstate; he’s part bee-keeper and part trucker and his operation is on a continental scale. He has literally millions of bees, hundreds of hives. The bees are required by the almond growers of California to pollinate the trees in spring, and then get taken to Florida, and then to the wilds of North Dakota to make honey.

In this country we don’t do much long-distance bee-keeping; though hives have been kept on barges and boats. In the States honey bees aren’t native, but were brought over by the early colonists; nevertheless it was an American, Lorenzo Langstroth, who invented the modern beehive in 1851. With him, commercial bee-farming was born. It isn’t easy. Fifteen years ago there were 5,000 beekeepers; now their numbers have declined by three quarters.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.

Or

Unlock more articles

REGISTER

Comments

Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in