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Keeping the Bees Hardcover – May 18 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (May 18 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155468109X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554681099
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.2 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #292,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Quill & Quire

No matter what you eat, how you dress, or where you live, your life would change for the worse if a few key insects disappeared. Although there are only a handful of pollinators among the more than 19,500 known species of bees, the human diet would be severely diminished without them. Since the advent of colony collapse disorder in late 2006 – which resulted in millions of mysterious honey bee deaths – extinction is no mere science fiction scenario. (And the danger is not restricted to one species, either.)

York University biology professor and bee specialist Laurence Packer has written a love letter to these amazing creatures. It is also a wake-up call for anyone who is more apt to swat a bee than let it do its important work.

True, major crops like wheat and rice are grasses, and therefore wind pollinated. But we do not live on bread alone. Coffee, almonds, berries, tree fruits, most vegetables, and alfalfa – all worth billions of dollars per year – rely on bee pollination.

The typical agent of pollination is the domesticated honey bee. Back-up pollination duty is performed by a host of species such as bumblebees. Human activities like habitat destruction and pesticide use endanger these essential cogs in the food chain. Any way you look at it, we hurt ourselves by failing to protect bees.

Packer is a very witty, lucid writer, whose passion for melittology (the study of bees) is unmistakable and quite infectious. His book is far from a depressing, finger-wagging treatise on impending ecological doom. He conforms to the fashion of alternating personal details (in this case, anecdotes from his field work in exotic locales) with factual information, and the bee lore that forms the book’s focus is truly fascinating. Keeping the Bees is an engaging, illuminating read from start to finish.


"Laurence Packer's wonderful book about the world of bees offers the sheer delight of learning about these diverse animals, their basic biology and the role they play in ecosystems. Keeping the Bees revels in the lives of bees but clearly shows how much more we have yet to learn and therefore makes a powerful case for being far more cautious in the way we exploit the Earth. A world without bees would be a world without people." --David Suzuki

"Keeping the Bees is an entertaining and amazing journey into the world of beautiful and hard-working wild bees. Laurence Packer ... explains with passion and humour why wild bees are so important to our society and how we can help save them even in our own backyards." --Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds and The Bird Detective

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The title of his book suggests that it is about something many of us have heard a lot about already - the one-two punch of the central role of bees in human food production followed by the spectre of colony collapse disorder and a world without bees. And it is about these things, in part. But this book is so much more.

This book is actually a biology of bees, from the tiniest solitary bees to communal, semisocial and eusocial species. It is a biology in the grand tradition of Jean Henri Fabre, the 19th century French polymath whose books introduced the world to the engaging lives of insects.

Bumblebees play a leading role in Packer's narrative. He touches on everything from their life history to their social behavior and their diseases, parasites and predators. Packer tells us why bumblebees (and indeed all bees) appear to be at greater risk of extinction than other organisms.

Packer isn't afraid to introduce us to some of the specialized terminology that goes along with his field of study (a bee biologist, for instance, is a melittologist). But in general he works hard to keep his story in everyday language. He has a tremendous knack for making even the most complex subjects understandable in human terms. Bees that maintain a communal nest burrow system are just like human condo dwellers, he tells us, with a common entrance and private apartments.

Those who are looking for fresh evidence that we need bees and that bees are endangered will find it here. And there is also advice for those who want to do something to help bees, including the completely original and delightful suggestion of walking on the grass.

This is a book for anyone concerned about the future of the environment.
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Format: Hardcover
Laurence Packers clear and interesting writing style make this a great book for anyone interested in knowing more about the world of bees. Highly recomend this to naturalists, managers, gardeners who want to undrstand these important insects and thier role in pollination and some of the other interesting facets of thier life.
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Format: Hardcover
Laurence Packer loves what he does. That is evident in his thoroughly researched book on the amazing world of bees. What makes this book work for me is the way the information is crafted into an engaging style including witty anecdotes and down-to-earth story. The reader is taken on a tour into the world which most of us are unaware of. But after reading Packer's "Keeping the Bees," our eyes will be forever opened and on the lookout for these amazing insects.
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By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 1 2010
Format: Hardcover
You don't have to be too far into this book before you realize that its author has a life-long passion for everything connected to the world of bees. As a leading expert in the field of bee habitat, Packer provides us with a fascinating look at how the many varieties of this furry little insect struggle to survive in their natural environment full of all kinds of nasty little challenges. Part of Packer's purpose in writing this book is to educate the likes of you and me as to the true nature of the bee. Everything gets covered in this book: nest-building, food-gathering, honey production, division of labor, defense mechanisms, and biodiversity. Because of the integral role bees play in our world, the public needs to know that this insect forms a diverse global culture that has an amazing variety of habits evolving over time in response to a radically changing natural environment. Packer, in a very entertaining way, treats his reader to accounts of how endangered the bee has become as a result of mounting external and internal changes. Natural and manmade forces like colony diversification, mite infestation, genetic mutation, crop spraying, land development, and climate change have all conspired to traumatize the bees' domain. While this book is technical in places, it is well written and easy to understand. Packer brings a lot of color to his many descriptions and explanations of the life of various bees found throughout the world. In the process of elaborating on the different behaviour patterns of bees, Packer takes the time to knock down a few fallacies we may have previously held about their existence. One, most bees live in the ground, with only a few species occupying hives or nests. Out of sight, out of mind mentality might lead us to think that all is well when it isn't.Read more ›
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