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63 of 65 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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37 of 43 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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 July 2014
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Good, read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We need to stop exploiting them, 27 Nov 2013
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Great book. Alison writes many informative articles for the Guardian, and reflects the desperate plight of the honey bee. We need to look after them in a bee friendly way and not just exploit them for their honey.
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Research good; writing style...mmm..., 1 Jun 2010
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M. Oxby "victheviking" (Messingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
This reads more like a thesis than a book which seems (when it was first published especially) to want to bring the plight of bees to the general knowledge of the public. The trouble is that there's a lot of repetition and it's quite turgid, to be honest. Not something to get you enthused; but it is trying to. Could do better though. If you just have a general lover of nature interest, I'd choose something else. Unfortunately, I'm not well read enough on bees to point you in the right direction! I'm sure someone will...?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A World Without Bees, 2 Dec 2009
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Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
`A World Without Bees' explores the effects of the diminishing worldwide Bee population and possible causes. It is well written and easy to read, but it is also very America centric and focuses on the mass Bee industry in America a great deal. The initial chapters that explain how Bee's live are especially interesting and the latter chapters exploring possible causes for their decline make for sobering reading. You quickly realise that human intervention in Bee life and mass agriculture have played a huge part in Bee life and having read other books of an ecological nature, makes me want to use organic products and care for the environment all the more. Bee loss is classed as an environmental indicator (like the canary in the coalmine) and if this is true then the environment is in a very sorry state indeed. There is a middle colour photo plate section in this book and whilst not extensive, it does illustrate some of the points raised well. The authors come across as very enthusiastic about Bee's in general and this topic in particular and that leaps off the page at you and makes the book more engaging. It wasn't quite as good as I'd anticipated (I'm not totally sure why) and whilst I enjoyed it I didn't absolutely love it, but it is an interesting book and worth a read if you have passing interest in ecological issues, Bee's or the environment.

Dedicated to Stephen A. Haines whose reviews inspired me to read some amazing science books and who will be greatly missed.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Life without bees could have been better, 17 Aug 2011
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I expected this book to be informative, which it was. However, it was so repetitive that I couldn't wait to finish it. I actually got bored, despite that fact that I am really concerned about loss of bee populations. If this had been condensed into a 20 page leaflet it would have been more than adequate.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but maybe a little over the top, 14 May 2010
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A. P. J. Jansen (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
I found this a fascinating book that teaches you a lot about bees. It is amazing how important these little animals are. The large reduction of their numbers therefore certainly deserves more attention than it has received so far. I am not sure however just how bad things are. After reading the book I have started looking at articles about the topic in popular science magazines. My impression is that it is a bit premature to talk about a catastrophe as is done on the cover. Maybe this was done to boost sales figures. Nevertheless I very interesting and well written book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars too much Buzz, 4 Aug 2009
This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
While this is based on an intriguing topic and one that is important we all read, I did feel that this book repeats itself too frequently. I reckon the page extent would come down to a third of its current amount if more concisely edited.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A damp squib, 25 Aug 2009
This review is from: A World Without Bees (Paperback)
This book is written by a couple of novice beekeepers who have no special knowledge or experience of bee health problems. The chapters give the impression of being hurredly thrown together to quickly cash in on the current concerns about honey bees. Although the authors have clearly interviewed many experts, the content is disappointing and contains mostly already well-aired material. Some of the comments are extremely naive e.g their expectation of finding 'rows upon rows of scientists in white coats working around the clock in hundreds of huge laboratories' tackling bee problems in America. Other comments are just plain wrong e.g. in discussing the pesticide Gaucho they say 'Like all pesticides, it fails to differentiate between good or bad insects' - have they never heard of aphid-specific insecticides? It even fails to give any facts or figures to back-up the scare line on the back cover that 'A third of what we eat relies on pollination by honey bees' a statement which ignores the contribution of wild solitary bees. The back cover even tells us that the honey bee workers are black and yellow which makes one wonder if the authors really know the difference between bees and wasps.
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A World Without Bees
A World Without Bees by Brian McCallum (Paperback - 4 Jun 2009)
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