Time for a disclosure: I have been interested in honey bees for a long time and co-authored some lesson plans about honey bees during the 1990’s. I think all bees are really cool, and especially honey bees. So, when I found this book at our local library, I grabbed it.
I was not disappointed. Burns starts into the topic with a visit to Mary Duane’s backyard. Mary calmly works the bees as she explains many aspects of honey bee biology and the culture techniques she uses. I love the photographs of the brightly-colored hives.
The author moves next to colony collapse disorder or CCD – the problem with honey bees disappearing that has been in the news – by going right to the beekeeper who first noticed missing bees. Dave Hackenberg runs a large company, Hackenberg Apiaries. He moves thousands of hives around the country. When he found 400 empty hives in Florida, he knew something big had gone wrong and he sounded the alarm.
Burns then introduces us to four bee scientists who are at the front lines of CCD research, and explains their roles in the investigation. The honey bees have been hit with Varroa mites, tracheal mites and a parasite called Nosema in recent years, but none of those seemed to be correlated with CCD. Diana Cox-Foster has identified a virus that is correlated with CCD called “Israeli acute paralysis virus.” She is now running experiments to establish causation.
Finally, Burns wraps up by taking us back to Mary Duane’s beeyard for a lesson about gathering and processing honey. Nice!
The author has also included substantial additional information at the end of the book, with an appendix, a glossary, a list of books, magazines, videos and websites, as well as some select references and an index. This book is a researcher’s dream.
I did question one sentence on page 13: “Wind, rain, spiders, and others animals pollinate plants, but nothing does the job as efficiently as the honey bee.” Okay, many plants are definitely wind pollinated. The “rain and spiders” part gives me pause, though. The author may have found some rare examples of rain or spider pollination, but on the most part rain and spiders are hazards that inhibit pollination.
The effect of spiders on pollination is demonstrated graphically in this video:
So, why didn’t the author mention the other beneficial pollinators such as a diverse collection of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, bats, and birds, instead of “other animals?” I’m not altogether sure. I think everyone agrees that honey bees do an important job.
The rest of this book is exemplary. You should take a look at it for the stunning photographs alone.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (May 3, 2010)
For some hands-on activities, try: