Fruitless Fall

The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis


Many people will remember that Rachel Carson predicted a silent spring, but she also warned of a fruitless fall, a time when “there was no pollination and there would be no fruit.” That fruitless fall has nearly arrived as beekeepers have watched a third of the honey bee population mysteriously die over the past two years. Rowan Jacobsen uses the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder to tell the bigger story of bees and their essential connection to our daily lives. With their disappearance, we won’t just be losing honey. Industrial agriculture depends on honey bees to pollinate most fruits, nuts, and vegetables—more than a third of the food we eat. Yet this system is falling apart. The number of these professional pollinators has become so inadequate that they are now trucked across the country and flown around the world, pushing them ever closer to collapse. By exploring the causes of CCD and the even more chilling decline of wild pollinators, Fruitless Fall does more than just highlight this growing agricultural crisis. It emphasizes the miracle of flowering plants and their pollination partners, and urges readers not to take for granted the Edenic garden Homo sapiens has played in since birth. Our world could have been utterly different—and may be still.

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“The apiculture industry now has its own Upton Sinclair. Fruitless Fall is an eye-opening, attitude-changing, and exceptionally engaging examination of America’s most overlooked multi-billion-dollar industry.” —May Berenbaum, Professor of Entomology, University of Illinois, and Chair, National Research Council Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America

“One of the best books of the year. Each chapter reads like a script from The X-Files, with all the drama, colourful characters and macabre plot twists.” —Toronto Globe & Mail


“Written with a passion that gives this exploration of colony collapse disorder real buzz… Jacobsen invests solid investigative journalism with a poet’s voice to craft a fact-heavy book that soars.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“A spiritual successor to Rachel Carson’s seminal eco-polemic Silent Spring… You can’t finish this book unconvinced that our food supply is in serious danger.…Jacobsen’s concern for the fate of the honey bee population is easily contagious…The Verdict: Read.” —Time

“Rowan Jacobsen tells the fascinating—and alarming—story of honey bee decline with energy and insight.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe

“One of the Best Books of 2008. A timely, thought-provoking examination.”—Seattle Times

“A passionate sequel to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.” —New York Observer

“Although Rachel Carson famously warned us about pesticides causing a “silent spring,” we now face a ‘fruitless fall.’ Jacobsen explains why with compelling lucidity, carefully documented facts, and a deep respect for the sophisticated and diligent honeybee.” Booklist (starred review)

“Striking… Jacobsen takes readers on a roller-coaster journey through the crisis, reviewing the science of beekeeping and the habits of bees, the story of modern pollination and the science of the disease, in an engaging mix of mystery and storytelling.” Seattle Post Intelligencer

“Essential reading, posing as it does the fundamental question of how we human beings should coexist with nature.” —Tatsuya Kumagai, Tokyo Shinbun Newspaper

“Full of thrills and suspense, Fruitless Fall sends shivers down our spines as it affords us a glimpse of the terrible effect we are having on the world’s plants and animals.” —Toshiko Watanabe, Shukan Shincho Magazine

“Past a certain point, we can’t make nature conform to our industrial model. The collapse of beehives is a warning—and the cleverness of a few beekeepers in figuring out how to work with bees not as masters but as partners offers a clear-eyed kind of hope for many of our ecological dilemmas.” —Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

“Intelligent, important assessment of a confusing phenomenon and its potentially catastrophic implications.” Kirkus

“A delightful yet sobering look at how different our lives would be if bees disappear…an important book about one of our natural allies that, like us, is caught in difficult times.” Arizona Republic