Beekeeping in the End Times is due to be published by Indiana University Press in March, 2024. The book explores effects of strange new weather upon local honey ecologies.
Local beekeepers are keen record-keepers of local weather and local places. Being attuned to their insects’ appetites and to intimate connections between hives’ inner rhythms and the weathered lives of plants, apiarists have been noticing effects of climate change that are at once subtle and profound in their implications.
The book conveys apiarists’ records of alterations within and beyond the hives. Beekeepers’ observations, in many ways, resonate with concerns put forth by climate biologists and ecologists, namely about the future of pollination under the conditions of changing seasons. Divergent responses of insects and plants to earlier offsets of springs, biologists worry, may result in uncoupling of the former insect-plant partners. The assumption is that wild and specialized pollinators are most at risk.
The honeybee, on the other hand, as a human-managed, highly adaptable, generalist pollinator (that is, the kind that is capable of harvesting nectar from a variety of flowers) is presumed to be more resilient. On the other hand, honeybees worldwide are endangered by forms of intense human management that alters their biology as well as their social lives. Monoculture, pesticides, and loss of habitat ensure that honeybees forage in highly hostile environments. Global colony collapses proved just how fragile is the modern honeybee and, by default, how precarious is the global food industry that leans heavily on an overworked, overused insect.
By contrast, bees across Bosnia and Herzegovina forage in nearly ideal conditions. Apiaries are small in scale and oriented towards harvesting of honey and other hive products. Local apiarists tuck their apiaries in villages and forests, far from pesticides, away from industrial pollution. They passionately plant flowering species that yield nectar and pollen for their bees. Mobile beekeepers travel cross-country to their favorite coves in pursuit of seasonal forage. Some of the best forage sites are sought across the former battlegrounds of the 90s war, now lush and rewilding with the native as well as the invasive species.