Just saw the blurb of this book, looks like it will be a goodie to read and really informative. Hopefully will appeal to everybody not only beeks. Super excited, due for release Oct but hoping to get a copy earlier. Cool cover too.
The buzz about monoculture and pesticides
jeopardising the future of the humble honey bee, and therefore global food
security, has become so animated it’s entrenched in popular culture.
Bees have become the ‘poster insects’ for environmental sustainability.
They are a sort of ‘canary in the coal mine’ for worries about our ability
to exist for very much longer on the planet.
But Cliff Van Eaton, author of a new book, Manuka: the biography of an
extraordinary honey, argues that it is not just a decline in bees, but a
decline in beekeepers that is the real sting in this environmental tale.
Cliff has long been involved with bee disease control in New Zealand. He
says that while the media has reported hive numbers going down in the United
States and parts of Europe, New Zealand beekeepers actually increased their
hive numbers from 290,000 in 2005 to over 450,000 in 2013.
While the threat to bees is real, with the wild bee population of New
Zealand’s North Island now all but completely eliminated by the destructive
varroa mite, Cliff points out that commercial beekeepers have the ability to
rapidly expand the populations of their bees, potentially doubling the
numbers of their hives in a period as short as six weeks.
What separates the story in New Zealand from that of places where bees are
in real decline is the economic conditions of the beekeepers.
“The economy is something of an ecosystem, too, and if US beekeepers, for
instance, struggle to make a go of it because they can’t achieve a
reasonable profit from the honey, they are less likely to want to carry on,
regardless of how important their bees are for the pollination of the
nation’s crops”, Van Eaton said.
Conversely, as he chronicles on his book Manuka , which is the first ever
biography of a honey, the future of the honey industry in New Zealand is
much sweeter. Thanks to the efforts of Kiwi beekeepers and an inquisitive
and dedicated scientist, manuka honey has become a ground-breaking medicine,
along the way turning into one of the most famous and valuable honeys in the
The industry is now worth $140 million a year and the story of manuka
provides hope for the future, sounding a note of optimism in a world that
for good reason is concerned about the future of the relationship between
humans and honey bees.
Because of varroa, honey bees can no longer exist as wild creatures in most
parts of the world. As a result, beekeepers have become the modern
equivalent of an ancient priesthood, whose job it once was to maintain a
flame forever burning in the temple. Now, however, that flame is the honey
bee, and the temple is the food-giving environment we all live in.
Rather than merely wringing our hands over the plight of disappearing bees,
doing something about it requires casting an economic vote.
What beekeepers need, and in long run what all of us who depend on bees to
pollinate the foods we like to eat need, is for everyone to buy more of all
of the honeys that are produced around the world, and at higher prices.
“Think of it as your offering to those modern-day versions of the ancient
priests,” says Cliff. “They’re the beekeepers keeping alive the spirit of
our age-old relationship with honey bees.”
Cliff Van Eaton is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is
co-author of two books on bee diseases used by beekeepers in New Zealand and
overseas. For over 30 years he worked as a beekeeping adviser and consultant
in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as
the Solomon Islands, Uruguay and Vietnam.