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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, valuable, objective; a fantastically GOOD book
I read this wonderful book in one very long sitting; I really could not stop once I started. Having grown up surrounded, in my immediate family, by the 1950's acute nature-awareness of the early Soil Association days of Bob Waller and Harold Horne et al, it was like deja vu to me.
The authors have been very disciplined in producing a really worthwhile book; it is...
Published on 24 Jun. 2008 by Nicholas Horne

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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I had hoped.
A World Without Bees

I had eagerly awaited this book which I was expecting as a Christmas present and for the first few chapters I wasn't disappointed. The huge industrialisation of the honeybee world, particularly in the US, was a revelation to me as were the myriad of facts about bee behaviour revealed in a further chapter.

However, this is a book...
Published on 24 Jan. 2009 by Clare Topping


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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique, valuable, objective; a fantastically GOOD book, 24 Jun. 2008
By 
Nicholas Horne (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Hardcover)
I read this wonderful book in one very long sitting; I really could not stop once I started. Having grown up surrounded, in my immediate family, by the 1950's acute nature-awareness of the early Soil Association days of Bob Waller and Harold Horne et al, it was like deja vu to me.
The authors have been very disciplined in producing a really worthwhile book; it is almost perfectly objective, and therefore above cheap criticism. They have worked immensely hard to source a huge amount of sound material, and they have taken the trouble to understand it thoroughly before using it in their book. And the mystery at issue is no less than how terrifyingly detached from truth we are becoming, and how little we now understand our own misery and poverty of life in the midst of all our illusion of ease; how deprived of reality we have already become.
Read it! In the morning, the evening, on the train, in the bath, but read it. It is more real than most other stuff you will find on printed paper or glowing on a monitor any day of the year.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely, persuasive and necessary, 25 July 2008
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Hardcover)
If climate change doesn't get you, the disappearance of the honeybee will - this is the rather gloomy message of Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum's well researched and engagingly written new book on Colony Collapse Disorder - a honeybee `plague' which has already killed millions of bees worldwide. Some 90 commercial crops owe their continued existence to the pollination services provided free of charge by the honeybee so its fair to say that A World Without Bees is an important book. For it to succeed in its mission it has to put the fear of God into us without losing us to jargon. It does so admirably, taking us through the rather complicated but interesting world of honeybee health, politics and economics and delivering us to a conclusion which lays the blame firmly on our own shoulders. Time to start talking about bee rights? Could be.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honey bees, that is, 19 Jun. 2009
By 
John Williams (Apeldoorn, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
Alison Benjamin is a journalist who, together with her partner Brian McCallum, is also (like me) an amateur beekeeper. (I see that she has also written an introductory book on beekeeping.) Over the last year or two, fueled by the crisis that is hitting honey bee populations, particularly in the USA but also in the UK and Europe, public interest in honey bees has soared. This book feeds off that interest, and does so very well. It is written in a popular journalistic style that can be appreciated by anyone who is interested in the subject, which should be all of us. No background knowledge of bees or beekeeping is required. The authors themselves are neither scientists nor professional beekeepers, but have done their homework thoroughly, consulting a wide variety of professionals. They deal with a number of hazards facing today's bees, and a number of suggestions for alleviating (I doubt whether they would go so far as to say solving) the problem. For example, the role of other pollenating insects is explored briefly. There are no facile statements of the problem, and no proposed silver bullet; just a thorough exploration of the issues from a variety of angles. The first edition of this book came out in 2008, just two years after Colony Collapse Disorder was first identified in the USA, and it has been updated for 2009, so is very up-to-date as I write this review. Anyone interested in green issues, beekeeper or not, will learn a lot from it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An angry buzzing noise to warn..., 29 Feb. 2012
This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
In 2008 Society Guardian editor Alison Benjamin and her Geography teacher partner Brian McCallum, who keep bees as a hobby, wrote the book A World Without Bees.

A highly fluid text, the shocking truth on bees, their health and the commercial beekeeping occupation is easily read. Benjamin and McCallum cover all corners of the beekeeping globe, and all the problems, innovations, opinions and possible solutions to the flight of the bee from their homes in the latest epidemic - Colony Collapse Disorder.

In the book, the writers show the ancient and continuing importance of bees to humans, exemplified in their inclusion of such prominent people's words on the fuzzy fellows and cultures, such as Aristotle, the Egyptians, Pliny the Elder, the Aztecs, Anglo-Saxon feudal lords, medieval Russia and Britain, Christianity and the Pilgrim Fathers to name but a few.

The co-authors also show that the bee and its hierarchy have been used to justify and explain feudalism, parliamentary rule, the French Revolution and industrialisation. (The last being one reason why we've chosen to start a project on trying to save bees since it is the symbol of Manchester, where industrialisation began, and where you can see bees in our neo-Gothic town hall and on our bollards.)

But they also get down to the nitty-gritty, interviewing scientists and beekeepers from all over the world and all walks of life, looking at the evidence and trying to evaluate what is happening. We start in California's almond orchards that stretch millions of miles across (and today happens to be Almond Day in the USA, coincidentally). We learn that beekeepers 'truck' (to use the Americanism) their bee colonies across vast stretches of land to pollinate these trees, and then onto blueberries and pumpkins and other such areas so the crop is bountiful. They also get paid a pretty penny for the hard work of their bees.

But the transportation, the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides on the plants and the bees themselves, global warming with frequent change in weather, monoculture, the lack of fallowing and crop rotation, loss of habitat, urbanisation, pollution, GM crops, malnutririon, mites and viruses and overworking the bees that we put them through are all possible reasons why the bees are on the decline. And all these reasons are chased by the beekeeping duo.

Bees provide us with food to feed ourselves and our animals through pollination, to feed herbivores and the animals that feast on them through pollination, to clothe us and provide wax for our cars and make-up, to give us live-saving ingredients for cancer treatments and heart treatments; the bee is the heartbeat of the world, and if the bee were to vanish than the world will go into acute myocardial infarction. Or collapse, to be frank. This book highlights the need for bees, not just for our economies, not just for our food and clothing and medicines, but the importance of the Earth's life itself.

A truly fascinating read. You'll be buzzing about this book for a long time after reading it. The authors even have a blog which you can visit: [...] .

If you're into bees, saving the planet or even economics, this book will provide the right information for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read, even if you've seen the documentary, 9 Mar. 2010
By 
RosP (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
As a novice but recently trained beekeeper, I bought this after seeing the documentary on the same topic, rather expecting not to learn anything new but I was pleasantly surprised and found it a fascinating read. It goes much deeper into the historical significance of bees and discusses the issues of bee loss and Colony Collapse Disorder very clearly. It's easy to follow and understand but very enlightening and thought-provoking - a good read all round and suitable for anyone interested in bees, our planet's future and the security of our food production, whether or not you intend to keep bees yourself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imagine a summer without the hum of the honeybee..., 4 Mar. 2011
By 
This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
`A World Without Bees' is a fascinating and timely book exploring the possible reasons behind the massive decline of the western honeybee over recent years. Every spring beekeepers are opening their overwintered hives and finding that a huge percentage of them have only the queen and a handful of dead bees left inside. Where have the rest of the bees gone - and what is causing this mass destruction, now known as `Colony Collapse Disorder' or CCD?

Benjamin and McCallum, amateur beekeepers with a keen interest in their charges, take the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the potential offenders and key theories in the CCD mystery, offering up a devastating menu of the ways in which humanity is slowly destroying one of the most important creatures on the planet. They also offer a comprehensive look at bee viruses, pests and pathogens that could be contributing to their downfall, and the ways in which beekeepers and scientists are attempting to fight back. Without honeybees, agriculture would collapse, and many of the foods and other natural products that we take for granted, including fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy products and cotton, would become far harder to produce and thus much more rare and expensive. And yet we continue to bombard our master pollinators with pesticides and fungicides, truck them long distances throughout the year, and work them harder than ever before, thus denying them the proper nutrition, time to rest and strength to fight off disease that they need to survive.

This is definitely an important book, and well worth reading. It's very accessible, though occasionally repetitive, and gives a good overview of the current bee populations, issues and research from various countries across the globe. There is a note of hope by the end - that all is not lost and that the honeybee can be saved - but I would have liked to have seen a more extensive account of what the world would be like without honeybee products and pollination services (it is the title of the book, after all) and a longer section on the most up-to-date research, potential solutions and ways to help. Most of these are covered very quickly at the end, in a kind of updated add-on to the first edition, which felt a bit rushed and not particularly satisfying. But hey, read it anyway; it's a big issue and not one that most people probably think about all that much. Our bees deserve better!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important, informative and unsettling, 26 Oct. 2010
By 
Emma Cooper (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
`A World Without Bees` takes an in-depth look into why honeybees all over the world are disappearing and what that might mean for us. It doesn't make entertaining reading - the message is too bleak, and at times the text itself it dense, littered with acronyms for bee viruses and scientific names for parasites.

The book is divided into 11 chapters. The first looks at man's use of honeybees over thousands of years. The second investigates why the honeybee is so important to us, looking beyond honey to its role in pollination. Chapter 3 looks at the effects that selective breeding has on honeybee populations.

Chapters 4 to 9 look at CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder, the phenomenon of bees simply disappearing from their hives with no apparent warning) and some of its possible causes - including pesticides, GM crops, pests and diseases, environmental pollution and climate change and the industrialization of bee-keeping.

Chapters 10 & 11 examine the likelihood that honeybees will become extinct in our lifetime, the consequences that would follow, and what we might do to stop that happening.

Although many characters in the honeybee world (bee-keepers, scientists, farmers, chemical companies and governments) have their own opinion on what is effecting the honeybees, there is little consensus on what may be causing CCD. There's not even a global consensus that CCD exists. Research is fragmented and under-funded and strongly influenced by politics.

What unfolds in the book is an environment that is seriously detrimental to Western honeybees (Apis mellifera). We've transported them across the world, exposing them to viruses and parasites they have no resistance against. We've inbred them to the point where they just don't have the genetic diversity to cope with adversity. They don't have robust mechanisms to deal with toxicity, and so the modern world with its pollution and widespread pesticide use is not a healthy place for them.

In the US, honeybees are trucked across the country to provide pollination services to huge farms of one crop (California's almond plantations being the largest) after another - spending long days on the road and never having a chance for a holiday. The increased industrialization of agriculture and urbanization means that bees diets are becoming more limited, and they are suffering nutritional stress. And we're adding GM pollen to their diets. Climate change is affecting bees too, with different flowering times for plant species and changing weather conditions that affect foraging bees.

A must-read for anyone who wants to understand what's happening to the bees, and what it means for us.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To bee or not to bee. Is that really the question?, 24 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Hardcover)
Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum are two British reporters and amateur bee-keepers. Benjamin works for the British daily paper The Guardian. Their book "A world without bees" was published earlier this year, and deals with the mysterious mass deaths of honeybees all around the world, the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). While some people belive that CCD doesn't really exist, for instance the current Wikipedia writer on the subject, others consider it a serious, global threat to bee-keeping. Benjamin and McCallum certainly belong to the latter camp, claiming that one third of US beehives and two-thirds of those in France have been wiped out by this mysterious condition. Most scientists seem to agree that CCD does exist, but so far no good explanation have been offered, at least none everyone agrees with. The two authors have interviewed researchers who blame pesticides, fungicides, the varroa mite, climate change, new viruses, or even mobile phones (that's a fringe position). Indeed, CCD could be a combination of several different factors. Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV for short) is a prime suspect, but correlation is not necessarily the same thing as causation. Perhaps something in the environment is causing bees to loose their resistance to killer viruses?

The authors own position isn't entirely clear-cut, but their favorite hypothesis seem to be loss of genetic diversity. Most honeybees around the world apparently belong to the same group of Mediterranean subspecies, and the same goes for feral honeybees. These have interbred with wild honeybees, creating a situation in which the honeybee gene pool is virtually the same the world over. When the varroa mite struck, and developed resistance to pesticides, millions of honeybees quickly succumbed - their gene pool was too narrow to develop defenses against the parasite. Benjamin and McCallum therefore strongly supports conservation efforts aimed at preserving local subspecies of wild honeybees. They mention a particular attempt in Denmark, and describe the conflicts this has created between different factions of bee-keepers (the local bees are less productive than the Mediterranean breeds).

The bee-keeping industry seems to take the opposite position from that of the authors: the industry wants to genetically engineer a resilient, resistant and high-productive superbee. The authors fear that this will narrow the gene pool even more. What happens if (or when) the superbee is challenged by an equally resilient superbug?

The book then describes the chilling effects of a world without honeybees. If you think only the honey would disappear, think again! Many important crops are dependent on honeybees for pollination, including alfalfa, apples, almonds, cotton, citrus, soya beans, onions, broccoli, carrots, sunflowers, melons, blueberries, cherries and pumpkins. A world without bees would be a world without fruit, vegetables, juice, health food (the soya) or clothes (the cotton). Alfalfa is used as cattle feed, so a world without bees would also be a world without meat! To drive home the point, the two authors have visited California, where the highly profitable almond orchards are pollinated by honeybees from all over the United States, driven there on enormous trucks. If the honeybees would be wiped out by CCD, an entire industry would be gone. Already today, food prices are going up, due to ethanol production and other factors. CCD doesn't exactly help...

One solution to the crisis mentioned in the book is to use other insects as pollinators, including solitary bees and bumblebees. There are several research projects to that effect in the US. Meanwhile, habitat change have driven bumblebees to near-extinction in some areas, and other insects live too far away from agricultural land to be of much use. Once again, the authors feel that a more environmental-friendly policy is the bottom line.

Is the author's alarmist perspective true? No idea. Until I picked up this book, mostly by chance, I never even heard of CCD. (Of course, I have heard of the varroa mite.) However, Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum have written an easy-to-read introduction to the issue, after talking to both scientists, migratory bee-keepers, almond growers, and even conspiracy theorists. I recommend the book, and call on everyone to continue researching the topic.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I had hoped., 24 Jan. 2009
By 
Clare Topping (Northamptonshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Hardcover)
A World Without Bees

I had eagerly awaited this book which I was expecting as a Christmas present and for the first few chapters I wasn't disappointed. The huge industrialisation of the honeybee world, particularly in the US, was a revelation to me as were the myriad of facts about bee behaviour revealed in a further chapter.

However, this is a book primarily about honeybees, not the other bees we regularly see in British gardens, and there does seem to be an emphasis on the problems experienced by American beekeepers. I was left wondering if the problems highlighted in the British press last year were completely unrelated to the problems outlined in this book.

It is obvious that the authors are enthusiastic about their subject, and there is no doubt that it is a subject that needs more attention and publicity, but, for me there was too much repetition in this book. It was like watching a documentary that was made for American television, with the main facts repeated after each advert break in case you forgot them whilst making a cup of tea. Topics covered in earlier chapters were repeated, albeit at relevant sections, but it felt as though the authors were short of things to write.

I wanted to give this book a higher rating, but, although it is an interesting and informative read, I was left feeling a little disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake up Call, 2 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
Although not quite through reading all the book it has delivered a serious wake up message to all who choose to read it. Bees along with other pollinating insects are basically vital for human survival on this planet. Unfortunatelly, today we live in a world consumed by greed a world, that is moving at a million miles per hour. As humans we need shelter, heat, food and jobs otherwise, a purpose of being. Only us mere mortals can make changes that are fair and most of all equel for all. This of course includes all living things on the planet as the bees demonstrate all serve a purpose. The only way forward today is to reach out to who controls the modern world today, not banks, but multi national organisations. They must be taught to recognise the importance of protecting the natural environment that they rely on to function only by doing this will we reverse all the damages done to our planet up to now. Readers may be interested in another book an, old one, The Soil and Health by Sir Albert Howard there may just be something in what he say's I, think so. Anyhow, well done to the authors of A World Without Bees for an excellent, informitive read.
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