By now, most of us have read the reports that attest to the mysterious and troubling decline in honeybee populations worldwide, partly to do with the syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder, which can erase healthy colonies overnight and about which little is known. Over the last century, beekeeping farms went from numbering 5 million to just over 2 million in the United States—and are still spiraling downward.
Thank goodness for Susan Brackney and her charming new book, Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest-Working Creatures On the Planet (Perigree). A passionate beekeeper from Bloomington, Indiana, Susan wants everyone to grasp the extraordinary importance of the culture of the honeybee, a tiny non-native insect that contributes enormously to the health and wealth of our planet. The book is much more than the history and biology and behavior of the honeybee; it’s a guidebook full of tips on how anyone—whether an urban, suburban, or rural dweller—can don the protective gear, build a nesting box, and start beekeeping in their own backyard.
Speaking of backyard beekeepers, we will be featuring John and Peggy Thodos’ rural garden retreat in a northwest suburb of Chicago in the Fall 2010 issue of Country Gardens, which hits newsstands this August. Not only do “heirloom tomatoes, buzzing beehives, and clucking chickens cozily coexist” here (in the words of writer Marty Ross), they boast certified organic soil so they can produce truly pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. Are you a backyard beekeeper? Share with us your closest honeybee encounters.