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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: The Buzz on Bee Books

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March 18, 2009

Book Roundup Wednesday: The Buzz on Bee Books

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. Today we're recommending books about bees.

Bees: Nature's Little Wonders (by Candace Savage, $26, Greystone Books, 2008): In the introduction to this charming little volume, Candace Savage reveals her goal: to give readers "a new alertness, a quickening of wonder." She proceeds to intertwine a thoughtful study of bee biology with poems, fables, and ancient religious texts, weaving a unique history of the honey-makers that have enchanted humans for centuries.

A Spring Without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply (by Michael Schacker, $25, Lyons Press, 2008): If this book had a patron saint, it would be Rachel Carson. Admittedly inspired by Carson's ecological legacy, Michael Schacker sounds the alarm on the newest pesticide-driven crisis. A compelling examination of the mysterious colony collapse disorder builds to a terrifying conclusion regarding the threat that massive honey bee die-offs would pose to our food system. The book is not without hope, however. The final chapters address possible solutions.

A Short History of the Honey Bee: Humans, Flowers, and Bees in the Eternal Chase for Honey (by E. Readicker-Henderson, $20, Timber Press, June 2009): Perhaps the most striking element of this introductory primer for curious naturalists and aspiring beekeepers is E. Readicker-Henderson's unabashed, almost obsessive love for honey. Indeed, when this honey connoisseur speaks of the sweet substance as "the truest distillation of the landscape," it's easy to be seduced by the idea. You'll want to participate in a honey tasting after finishing this book.

The Buzz About Bees: Biology of a Superorganism (by Jurgen Tautz, Translated by David C. Sandeman, $40, Springer, 2008): This book has a textbookish quality that, while off-putting to the casual reader, could be extremely satisfying to bookish apiarists. Jurgen Tautz approaches the bee colony as a "superorganism," and examines the emergent intelligence in this group of insects that in some ways mimics the workings of the human brain. If you want to see bees from a new angle, consider Tautz's thesis that honey bee colonies could be deemed "honorary mammals."

--Della Watson

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