This was an enlightening book, not just about honeybees, but about the brokenness and precariousness of our entire food system. The planting of monocultures is detrimental to pollinators, nature, and ourselves. Bees are uprooted and brought by the millions of hives to pollinate these monocultures (almonds, for example) leading to stress, overwork, infection, mites, escalating chemical treatment, and ultimately hive collapse. As a beekeeper, I intuitively knew that the chemical treatment regimen I learned in Bee School was not good for living things — I even refered to it jokingly as “factory farming for bees,” not really realizing how true that was. So I began organic beekeeping as well as planting more and more native plants in my edible landscape. My healthy bees have thrown off several swarms now, colonizing the neighborhood (I hope).
At the back of this wonderful book, Jacobsen goes into the importance of multiple layers of resilience, much in line with ideas in the Transition Handbook (Rob Hopkins). Switching to natural comb, tob-bar hives, small cell foundation, and other techniques can save individual populations of honeybees, but these practices are best done by backyard beeks, rather than at the commercial level. Jacobsen also includes great information about research on the health benefits of naturally antimicrobial honey. (I have used it many times for wound treatment and cough syrup–which the reported research backs up!)
Finally, he quotes Ross Conrad as saying “Bees are one of the only animals I know that don’t hurt a single thing to survive. They take nectar and pollen that plants want them to have and turn it into these amazing healing substances: honey, propolis, bee pollen, even stinger venom (used for arthritis). A hive is an incredible pharmacy… [bees:] are an integral part of a sustainable future because of their ability to heal.” So, get out there and keep some bees!