The honey bee is a miracle. A willing conscript, it provides an unseen and crucial link in America’s agricultural industry, pollinating crops and helping plants bear fruit and farmers make money. But in this age of vast industrial agribusiness, never before has so much been asked of such a small wonder. And never before has its survival been so unclear – and the future of our food supply so acutely challenged.
Enter John Miller. Miller tasks himself with the care and safe transportation of 10,000 honey bee colonies—about a half a billion bees. He is descended from N.E. Miller, America’s first migratory beekeeper, and trucks his hives from crop to crop, working the North Dakota clover in summer and the California almonds in winter. For a price, he provides the crucial buzz to farmers who are otherwise bereft of natural pollinators. But while there is steady demand for Miller’s miracle workers, he’s faced with ever-mounting hive losses. In addition to traditional scourges like wax moths, bears, American foulbrood, tracheal mite, varroa mite, Africanized bees, overturned tractor trailers, bee thieves, and just plain PPB (piss-poor beekeeping), beekeepers now lose hives in the most mysterious of ways, when whole colonies simply fly away, abandoning their combs, in an epidemic known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
While bad news is in constant supply, Miller forges ahead because he can’t imagine doing anything else. He copes and moves on. He works and sometimes triumphs, all with the determination and wry humor of a true homespun hero. The Beekeeper’s Lament tells his story and that of his bees, creating a complex, moving, and unforgettable portrait of man in the new natural world.