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The honey bee is a miracle. It is the cupid of the natural world. It pollinates crops; making plants bear fruit and helping 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. In steps John Miller, or rather in he bounds. Miller tasks himself with the care and safe transportation of billions of bees. He is descended from N.E. Miller, America's first migratory beekeeper, and trucks his hives from crop to crop, working the North Dakotan clover in summer and the Californian almonds in winter. He provides the crucial buzz to farmers who are otherwise bereft of natural pollinators, and does so for a price.
But while there is steady demand for Miller's miracle workers, especially from the multi-billion-dollar almond industry (without bees an acre of almonds produces no more than 30 lbs of nuts; with bees, 2,000 lbs), he's faced with ever-mounting hive losses. In addition to traditional scourges like bears, wax moths, American foulbrood, tracheal mite, varroa mite, Africanized bees, overturned tractor trailers, bee thieves, PPB (piss-poor beekeeping), etc., 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 an inspiring sense of humor. "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.