Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis

Rowan Jacobsen, Author . Bloomsbury $25 (279p) ISBN 978-1-59691-537-4

With a passion that gives this exploration of colony collapse disorder real buzz, Jacobsen (A Geography of Oysters ) investigates why 30 billion honeybees—one-quarter of the northern hemisphere’s population—vanished by the spring of 2007. He identifies the convergence of culprits—blood-sucking mites, pesticide buildup, viral infections, overused antibiotics, urbanization and climate change—that have led to habitat loss and the destruction of “the beautiful mathematics of the hive.” Honeybees are undergoing something akin to a nervous breakdown; they aren’t pollinating crops as effectively, and production of commercial American honey, already undercut by cheap Chinese imports, is dwindling, even as beekeepers truck stressed honeybees cross-country to pollinate the fields of desperate farmers. Jacobsen pessimistically predicts that “our breakfasts will become... a lot more expensive” as the supply of citrus fruits, berries and nuts will inevitably decrease, though he expresses faith that more resilient bees can eventually emerge, perhaps as North American honeybees are crossbred with sturdier Russian queen bees. The author, now tending his own hives, invests solid investigative journalism with a poet’s voice to craft a fact-heavy book that soars. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2008
Release date: 09/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 282 pages - 978-1-59691-639-5
Open Ebook - 978-1-60819-253-3
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