Duck Duck Book

24 – following the bloom
09.7.2005, 12:01 am
Filed under: technology

Following the bloom : across America with the migratory beekeepers / Douglas Whynott.
New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004.
[MCL call number: 638.1 W629f 2004; two copies, one hold]

I’ve had a bit of a fascination with bees lately (you may have noticed this if you’ve been reading this booklist carefully), and this book is one of the more compelling I’ve found on the subject.

Migratory beekeepers truck their hives from Florida or California north in the summers, to the blueberry fields in Maine, the clover fields in North Dakota, and other places where pollination assistance is welcome and where bees will make wonderful honey. Then in the winter they travel south again, combining the work of pollinating crops with that of producing honey and wax. Whynott spent a few years following these beekeepers on their journeys, talking to them about bees, about their lives, their work, and their thoughts about bees and honey and politics and whatever else came up.

He tells the story of his travels in a journalistic style, with side notes about various bee-related subjects, such as federal honey subsidies (chapters 19, 20, and 21), the concept of “bee space” (the room bees leave between combs, chapter 5), how bees collect pollen and communicate where it is to other bees (chapters 10, 27, 39, 41, and 43). But Whynott’s stories are mostly of individual beekeepers, the operation and histories of their mostly family-run businesses, and the political and social context within which they work. It is really a book about people and their connection to the work of tending bees.

Following the Bloom is easy to read — the everyday exploits of real, specific people are interesting, and the bits of practical information about bees, beekeeping, farming, and the honey industry are folded so smoothly into the beekeepers’ stories that I was surprised to feel quite a bit smarter (bee-wise) when I was finished reading the book.

There is no index, but the text is followed by a useful bibliography.


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