Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Hive Detectives: Chronicles of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns

The latest title in Houghton Mifflin's Scientists in the Field series is another well-written tale of an environmental catastrophe that fits in with the series.
Burns starts out by introducing readers to Mary Duane, a hobbyist beekeeper, as she inspects a beehive. Mary loves her bees, and as she interacts with them the reader is almost there in the moment with her -- able to see bees as friendly and giving, rather than evil little stinging creatures (sorry, I'm allergic.) The reader is given an understanding of the complex system that is a hive and the necessary care that it takes to maintain it.
When the book then jumps to Dave Hackenburg, whose livelihood depends on the 3000 hives he keeps, it makes it much easier to understand his dismay and the magnitude of the disaster not only for him but also for the bees and the larger ecosystem when Dave discovers that 400 of his hives -- containing 20,000,000 bees -- were empty. The bees had vanished.
Solving the mystery of what caused what came to be called CCD, colony collapse disorder, was assigned to four scientists. Readers are introduced to them in notebook-styled pages that give their specialties and follow them through bee collecting, autopsies, and much pondering over pests, viruses, pesticides and bee nutrition. While these are ongoing considerations, progress has been made and readers will enjoy both the clear and close-up photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz and the lovely, readable prose.

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