Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, October 11, 2013

Double Trouble For Bees

During this past spring and summer plants never having flowered before were covered in blossoms. Swarms of honeybees busily flew back and forth gathering nectar and pollen.  Sounds of their humming drifted on the air like the best kind of symphony.

Each year concern for the well-being of honeybees worldwide is ever increasing.  The front cover of Time magazine on August 19, 2013 featured an article titled A World Without Bees.  Our survival is closely entwined with their survival.  For a truly fascinating look at the plight of honeybees Sandra Markles's newest title, The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees:  A Scientific Mystery (Millbrook Press, August 1, 2013), is a must read.  Like the best kind of detective, Sandra Markle gathers clues, presenting readers with pertinent facts.

On a warm day in October 2006, Dave Hackenberg went to check on his workers.
Hackenberg is a beekeeper, and his workers are millions of honeybees.

What Hackenberg discovered was shocking.  Thousands of his bees were missing.  They had disappeared without a trace.

Honeybees are necessary for pollination.  Pollination is crucial for the growth of many of our food products.  Worker bees are not only vital to this task but are an essential part of the family unit of the hive, performing a variety of specific tasks.  Certain worker bees gather the nectar, others place it into the cells of the honey comb, still more use their wings to fan the mixture eliminating some of the water while others carry pollen to mix with honey to make beebread.  At every stage of their lives worker bees are expected to perform certain duties in this highly organized community.

This massive death of worker bees has been given the name of Colony Collapse Disorder, CCD.  Scientists, researchers and bee keepers have put forth contributing factors, theories, as to the cause of CCD.  It's possible over time their natural habitat has changed more rapidly than they can adjust. Plants depending on pollination by bees have been replaced with those dependent on wind.  Fields full of flowers are now cities full of homes, parking lots and business districts.

It's mind-boggling to learn how many miles hives of bees are transported by beekeepers each year to pollinate crops, to make honey.  It's been suggested bees are not able to rest as much as needed or get proper nutrition, thus lowering their resistance to disease. Can you believe one million beehives are needed for a four week period for a crucial crop?

Undeniable evidence is accumulating regarding blood-sucking mites, a symptom-free fungus and neonicotinoid pesticides as explanations for the honeybee deaths.  What is important is scientists are continuing to uncover the truth.  Beekeepers and their allies are striving to provide better lives for the honeybees.  This is a mystery needing a solution for the sake of the planet, for all of us.

As you read this captivating work of nonfiction by Sandra Markle your appreciation for the place honeybees have in the chain of life will grow.  Pollination is explained better than any science textbook, informing readers factually but with progressive sentences, more like a face to face conversation than a dry lecture.  Readers will be intrigued by the individual jobs assigned to each of the honeybees at a beehive especially the description of worker bees.

Page by page as your understanding of honeybees grows, the subsequent discussions, supported by research, on what may be causing CCD, while interesting and informative, are also unsettling.  Markle does supply readers with possible solutions, steps being taken to increase bees chances of survival.  The concluding five pages contain an author's note, additional facts about honeybees, how readers can help on a local level, efforts being made on a global scale, a glossary, books and websites for further information and an index.

Adding to the more informal but still intriguing aspect of this title is the color of the opening and closing endpapers, a warm golden tone which serves as a background for all the pages.  Text and photographic images are framed in shades of gold and brown honeycombs.  Photographs and drawings in varying sizes and perspectives further enhance the facts.

You will never look at honeybees the same way after reading The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery written by Sandra Markle.  In fact, you will probably be compelled to do some research on your own, research on how to set up beehives in your own backyard.  I highly recommend this excellent piece of nonfiction.  Share it with someone today.  It needs to be read.

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