Friday, April 17, 2009

Book Review: A World Without Bees

Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum shed light on a fascinating (and previously unknown to me) topic: the unexplained, and so far unstoppable, deaths of honeybees around the world in recent years. Some blame viruses, or parasites, or pesticides... other options explored by the authors include the overworking of honeybees and climate change. They don't seem to come down on the side of any particular theory, which is refreshingly objective and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions from the information presented. However, whatever theory readers prefer, in the end we're as much in the dark as the authors, beekeepers, and bee researchers are on this issue.

As much as I enjoyed learning about a new and interesting thing, I was disappointed by the way the book was written. The structuring of the material was incoherent, and was presented so repetitively that the book was very annoying to read in some ways. There was no logical progression from one theory to another, and no helpful collation of information about each theory in one place. Instead it jumped back and forth from one to another, over and over again. It felt like the authors were writing the book in a hurry and hadn't bothered to organise it better, and that they had tried to make it longer than it needed to be by repeating themselves constantly.

So, I would recommend that people read the book because the issue is such a fascinating and important one, but that if anything else on the subject comes out which is clearer and better written, go for that instead. I'll definitely be looking for some more books about bees in general - for example, I want to know more about the 'waggle dance' the bees do to communicate information back to the hive, very cool!

For all its faults, at least this book got my attention - I now know something about the issue of honeybee deaths, and how the world would fare without these important insects. I'm definitely interested in knowing more about what is causing this terrible phenomenon. Hopefully some governments somewhere will realise how serious the problem may get, and throw some money at solving it, because by the sounds of it, it's a bit low on the priority list right now...

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