Review of THE BUZZ ON HONEYBEES by Cathy Kaemmerlen from the Sept Issue of the Jewish Journal

Honey is a symbolic metaphor for the Jewish holidays, associated with thoughts and wishes for a sweet new year.  Sure we understand that bees make honey, but what else is there to know?  Kids will love getting the buzz about honey from Itty Bitty Betty, a storytelling honeybee.  Did you know that bees fly forwards, sideways, and backwards?  Did you know that if honeybees didn’t pollinate crops, there would be fewer cantaloupes, watermelons and summer squash?  This educational adventure will thrill young kids as they learn fascinating facts about bees and their behavior.  Colorful illustrations will tickle the imagination.

More Buzz About Bees!

So exciting for Europe, but not yet for us.  Hope we can come around to making Rachel Carson proud.  Article below…

We did it — Europe just banned bee-killing pesticides!! Mega-corporations like Bayer threw everything they had at this, but people-power, science and good governance came out on top!!

Avaaz bee die in, Germany

Bee “die in” at Bayer’s headquarters, Cologne > 

Vanessa Amaral-Rogers from the specialist conservation organisation Buglife, says:
“It was a close vote, but thanks to a massive mobilisation by Avaaz members, beekeepers, and others, we won! I have no doubt that the floods of phonecalls and emails to ministers, the actions in London, Brussels and Cologne, and the giant petition with 2.6 million signers made this result possible. Thank you Avaaz, and everyone who worked so hard to save bees!”

Bees pollinate two thirds of all our food — so when scientists noticed that silently, they were dying at a terrifying rate, Avaaz swung in to action, and we kept on swinging until we won. This week’s victory is the result of two years of flooding ministers with messages, organizing media-grabbing protests with beekeepers, funding opinion polls and much, much more. Here’s how we did it, together:

  • Keeping France strong. In January 2011, 1 million people sign our call to France to uphold its ban on deadly neonicotinoid pesticides. Avaaz members and beekeepers meet the French agriculture minister and fill the airwaves, pressing him to face down fierce industry lobbying and keep the ban, sending a strong signal to other European countries.
Bernie in Brussels
Bernie, the huge inflatable bee, helps deliver our 2.6m strong petition to Brussels
  • Tackling industry head on. Bayer has faced Avaaz and allies protesting at its last three annual meetings. The pesticide giant’s managers and investors are welcomed by beekeepers, loud buzzing, and massive banners with our 1 million plus call on them to suspend use of neonicotinoids until scientists reviewed their effect on bees. Avaaz even makes a presentation inside the meeting, but Bayer says ‘no’.
  • Making the science count. In January the European Food Safety Agency finds that three pesticides pose unacceptable risks to bees, and we jump in to ensure Europe’s politicians respond to their scientific experts. Our petition quickly grows to 2 million signatures. After many talks with EU decision-makers, Avaaz delivers our call right to the EU HQ in Brussels. Later that same day, the Commission proposes a two-year ban!
March of beekeepers
Beekeepers help deliver our massive petition to Downing Street
  • Seizing our chance. The battle to save the bees heats up in February and March. Across the EU, Avaaz members are ready to respond as all 27 EU countries decide whether to welcome or block the proposal. When farming giants UK and Germany say they won’t vote yes, Avaaz publishes public opinion polls showing huge majorities of Brits and Germans in favour of the ban. Avaaz members also send almost half a million emails to EU Agriculture Ministers.Apparently afraid of dealing with citizens rather than industry lobbyists, UK minister Owen Paterson complains of a “cyber-attack”, which journalists turn into a story in our favour! And then comes Bernie — our 6 metre bee in Brussels — a powerful visual way to deliver our petition as negotiations enter the final stages. Journalists flock to Bernie, and we hear we’ve helped get the Spanish ministry to look harder at the science and shift position . But we didn’t get the majority we needed to pass the ban.
Bernie in The Independent
Bernie the bee featured in The Independent
  • Turning the red light green. In April the bee-saving proposal is sent to an Appeals Committee, giving us a glimmer of hope if we can switch a few more countries’ positions. In the final sprint, Avaaz teams up with groups including Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth and Pesticides Action Network, plus beekeepers and famous bee-loving fashion designers to organise an action outside the UK Parliament. In Germany, beekeepers launch their own Avaaz petition to their government, signed by over 150,000 Germans in just two days and delivered in Cologne soon after. More phone calls rain down on ministries in different capitals as Avaaz responds to a last-minute wrecking amendment by Hungary, and positions Bernie the bee again in Brussels. Pesticide companies buy adverts in the airport to catch arriving officials, and take to the airwaves suggesting other measures such as planting wild flowers. But their slick messaging machine is ignored, first Bulgaria then — the big prize — Germany switch their stances and this week we win, with over half of EU countries voting for the ban!

Weird  News Alert

Man Found Dead in Home Filled with Bees

Warning to the faint of heart:  this story reported in the MIAMI HERALD, worthy of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

A teenage girl found her father dead inside his home that was infested with thousands of bees living inside the walls, report the Miami Herald.

Donald Mason, 49, was found in the upstairs bedroom of a Miami home that he was renovating. Investigators have not determined the cause of death, but his brother told the paper, Mason hit fell from a chair while swatting at a swarm of bees and hit his head.

Mason was trying to renovate the home on a limited budget and had tried to fog spray the hive in the wall, and then tried to patch up the hole in the wall with tape.

Police told the Herald that Mason’s death is considered unclassified, but it’s more likely his death was due to the fall, rather than anything to do with the bees.

Willie Sklaroff, also known as ‘the bee man,’ who runs a bee extermination company was called into help and said there were at leas 60,000 bees living inside the walls of the house, reports

*My notes:  I agree his death was more than likely from the fall, but the investigative reporter in me asks the following questions:  any dead bees found around him?  any stingers found in his body? was he allergic to bee stings?  Any evidence of anaphlyaxic shock?

Word to the wise:  let the experts remove the bees.  Not worth it to go on the cheap.  Trying to kill them with bug spray just leaves a sticky mess when the hive is unattended, wax moths take over and chew the wax that seals the honeycombs, which then start to drip and make an even bigger and more expensive mess to clean up.

What a story for Itty Bitty Betty to tell.  She’d come to the defense of the bees.

Smithsonian magazine has been buzzing with honeybee articles!

Honey Was the Wonder Food That Fueled Human Evolution (And Now It’s Disappearing)

Brains take a ton of energy to keep ticking, and human brains are proportionally huge. Therefore, humans need to consume a lot energy through their diets. For Last Word on NothingHeather Pringle explains that one food, maybe more than any other, could have allowed for our ancestor’s ever-expanding craniums. Starting 2.5 million years ago, she says,

Our hominin ancestors may have dined extensively for the first time on energy-rich honey, a food that may have fueled the evolution of our large, metabolically costly brains. The earliest member of our genus, Homo, emerged some 1.5 to 2 million years ago, equipped with brains significantly larger than their predecessors. Moreover, they possessed smaller molars, suggesting that they were dining on an easily consumed food. Honey.

As a modern analogue, Pringle points to the hunter-gatherer society of the Hadza people, a culture in eastern Africa that “prize honey above all else in their diet.” This preference for honey has lead the Hadza hunters to develop a symbiotic relationship with a local bird species know as the greater honeyguide. Pringle says,

The bird dines almost entirely on beeswax and bee larvae, but it needs help to crack open hives. So the honeyguide calls to both honey badgers and Hadza hunters. When human hunters whistle back, the bird gradually leads the men by call-and-response song to the nearest colony.

The Hazda’s preference for honey may have stemmed from the same drive as some of our earliest ancestors: honey is energy dense and can even provide protein and fat on top of its abundant sugars.

But if it’s true that honey is one of the pillars that brought us so far as a species, that lends extra gravity to the recent epidemic ravaging honeybee populations known as colony collapse disorder. Potentially caused by a combination of pesticides, food stress and parasites, colony collapse disorder is wiping out bee populations across the western world. The disorder has so far had a profound effect on honey production, with 2011 being “one of the lowest crops in recorded history of honey production.”

Read more:

The American Bumblebee Is Crashing, Too

Colony Collapse Disorder targets honey bees. But now American bumblebees are missing, too

You may have heard of a little thing called Colony Collapse Disorder—a “disorder” with no pinned-down cause that leads bees to abandon their hives or get lost on the way home. Beekeepers, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture, report hive population losses of up to 90 percent, but the cause of CCD isn’t definitively known. Possible culprits range from stress to parasites to pesticides to fungus, or a combination of them all. Colony Collapse Disorder, however, has not been affecting all bees—it targets honey bees. But now, says the Associated Press’ Seth Borenstein, bad news for the American bumblebee:

 ”It was the most dominant bumblebee in the Midwest,” [University of Illinois entomologist Sydney] Cameron said, saying it now has pretty much disappeared from much of its northern range. Overall, its range has shrunk by about 23 percent, although it is still strong in Texas and the West, she said.

People call them the big fuzzies,” Cameron said. “They’re phenomenal animals. They can fly in the snow.

A research team who spent weeks in the field cataloguing southern Illinois’ bees could find but one lonely American bumblebee, Borenstein reports. And, the humble bumblebee wasn’t the only thing missing: compared to the observations of a 19th century naturalist, the researchers could find only 54 of 109 expected bee species. The current dearth of bees, he says, could be due to forces similar to those affecting honey bees—”a combination of disease and parasites,” according to the AP.

The absence of bumblebees aligns with previous research described by Smithsonian Magazine‘s Sarah Zielinski a few years ago:

A group of biologists from Illinois and Utah examined the current and historical distributions of eight species of bumblebees from the genus Bombus, looking at thousands of museum records and data from recent nationwide surveys. They found that the abundances of half of those species (B. affinis, B. occidentalis, B. pensylvanicus and B. terricola) have declined by up to 96 percent and their ranges have contracted by 23 to 87 percent in the last 20 years. The other four species, however, remain abundant and widespread.

Read more:

THE BUZZ ON HONEYBEES goes to press!

I made the final edits yesterday and it looks beautiful with the soft, whimiscal watercolor illustrations by Kathy Coates of Charlotte, NC.  Itty Bitty Betty, she’s a honey of a bee, is the star of the book, sharing the news she’s collected.  She’s a bit of a gossip, but an interesting one, full of facts and information told in a fun way about Georgia’s state insect and the state insect for 17 other states.

Bee facts are called BEEZNESS in the book.  BEEZNESS number one (not in the book, by the way):  did you know that bees were brought into this country by some of the first settlers from Europe? Imagine bringing honeybees in hives on a several month voyage on a sailing ship.  Bees are not native to the Americas.  The native Americans called them white man’s flies.  The settlers knew the importance of honeybees pollinating their crops.

More beezness to follow in other blogs.  Am off tomorrow to Birmingham, AL for the Southern Breeze fall conference.  They’re my region’s branch of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and illustrators.)  Am hoping to come back with lots of marketing and social networking ideas for promoting a book once it’s out.  Am also having a manuscript  critiqued about Sowbelly, the largest wide mouthed bass on record, caught in Georgia during the Depression.  So far no luck on finding a publisher.  Maybe the manuscript is to blame?  It’s difficult to hear anyone criticize your work.  Perhaps it’s easier coming from a stranger. So I’m hoping to come back with some good ideas to make this story come across more effectively.  It’s a fish tale that needs to be told once again and treasured.


Other beeziness happening now as I get ready to leave tomorrow for two days of performances at the Thomasville, GA Ars Center, some four hours away from Atlanta.  Looking forward to revisiting this beautiful, historic city that was once a get away resort town for the wealthy, and hosts the Big Oak–one of the largest, widest oak trees in the south.  Performing TURN HOMEWARD, HANALEE, a Civil War tale for fourth and fifth graders who’ll come in bunches of 400 plus.  Don’t often get to do this show or any other on a real stage with lighting and sound.  Really looking forward to it.  Now to load up with a wonderful book on tape for listening pleasure.  Back to the bees when I come back in town!

Starting the Buzz

So excited to create a blog diary with news and updates.  And so excited to start the buzz about my first children’s book THE BUZZ ON HONEYBEES due out in early spring through Pelican Press, starring Itty Bitty Betty, she’s a honey of a bee (pun courtesy of good friend David Fore of Tiger, GA.)  Itty Bitty Betty collects gossip instead of nectar and she’s all a buzz with swarming stories, all true!  More to come.

Have a day off from shcool performances to work on the frustrating stuff-how to link blogs, how to twitter, how to start new self promotion as a children’s author–stuff I’m all thumbs with and witless to boot.  Ah to become mofre savvy???? How??? Slow learning curve.  Mostly have to undo the mistakes I make messing up my systems that are already in place.

Am frustrated enough to take a break and go on to a new project–rewriting my script as Rhoda Kaufman for the Oakland Cemetary Halloween Haunts coming up this month. This I can do!  And enjoy doing!

Southern Breeze/SCBWI Conference 2011

Attended a fascinating regional children’s book conference in Birmingham over the weekend and had a critique on a manuscript I’m hoping to sell.  There are some wonderful, knowledgeable, and giving people in this industry. Was thrilled to hear Young Adult author Lisa Yee in a keynote and the creator of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)and Lin Oliver deliver her 10 success stories keynote to end the daylong conference.

I attended Gail Karwoski’s (of Watkinsville, GA) workshop called The Nonfiction Expedition.  She was really my first introduction to non-fiction and to what is called narrative non-fiction (I learned this term today–used to call it creative non-fiction) through her book SEAMAN, Merriwether Lewis’ dog from the expedition. I’ve always recommended this book when I perform SACAJAWEA SPEAKS for fourth grade audiences.  She is energetic, a very thorough researcher, full of curiosity, skill, prolific, and truly genuine.  She writes with a passion for her subjects.  I could very much follow her research paths that lead to so many tangential material, material you hate to not include as sidebars, etc.  I think in going this route, we’re encouraging our readers or listening audiences to use our material as a starting point (first off) and then to show them that we too find connections and side stories that take us to more interesting facts and stories.  Learning is a never ending process.

Secondly I attended Linda Pratt’s session on achieving tension in your work and by accepting diagnostic evaluations by editors, agents, critics.  I had a private critique session with her and found her very insightful.  I trusted her “diagnosis” and plan to utilize her suggestions. Unfortunately she feared my book garners regional interest, not national.  I hope to prove her wrong as I love this story.  Don’t all authors fall in love with their story?  This one will be a hard one to put down or file away.  She’s an agent who formed her own agency with another woman.  They deal specifically with children’s and young adult authors, but not really with non-fiction writers.  She told me adapted folktales books were popular 10 years ago. Sigh.

From Alexandra Cooper, an editor with Simon Schuster Readers (ages 1-4) I learned that the children’s book market is very narrow these days, with Borders closing and Barnes and Noble doing away with their children’s book wall and leaning more towards educational material.  Isn’t that the purpose of chains like THE SCHOOL BOX, etc?  She said she’s looking for books with 500 or less words!  And here I’m thinking 1200 words is slim for a children’s book.  Apparently you’re allowed more words if you’re in the non-fiction genre.  Talking about making every word matter.  It is a special gift and skill to economize your writing.  At first I thought how can you have any substance in a 500 word book?  But I saw some truly beautiful and artistic ones, such as Jane Yolen’s SCARECROW DANCE, written in rhymes (something a lot of editors, etc. DO NOT LIKE!)  I can see how this is a challenge–just having completed narrowing my 7,000 word manuscript to a 1200 one.  This is where the rewriting and thinking about the value of every word makes writing children’s books so difficult.

From Lola Schaefer (also from Georgia), I saw beautiful narrative non-fiction books, some are her own. I purchased her book JUST ONE BITE and heard her “tell it.”  She serves a a consultant in schools, as well as an author in the schools.  Her passion, skill, knowledge is infectious.  I wanted to see her more in action, with children.  She is a force, very animated and skilled.  Her subjects deal more with science and nature.  I’m thinking this way I guess, obviously, since my book coming out is on honeybees.  But obviously my own work as a performer and playwright, for the most part, deals with historical subjects.  She got me thinking about symbiotic relationships…and I think I’m beginning to find the answer to a book/subject I’d like to tackle.

Lots of things to follow up on from this one day.  Was grateful to have a 3 1/2 hour drive home, to mull over some things.  To be around people who’s full time focus is on writing was wonderful…getting published, of course, is the hard part.  Great to hear and see so many success stories and witness would-be writers as well as on-the-way writers to very successful ones.

I’ll conclude with one of Lin Oliver’s morals of the story…DO THE WORK.  Perseverance and hard work are certainly the first prerequisites.  And now that my first children’s book has gone to press, it’s a different kind of work for me–GETTING OUT THE BUZZ.  More to come.

I found some google links to the debate over what’s narrative non-fiction; what’s memoir; what’s historical fiction. Google away or check out bookendslitagency.blogspot or

In the meantime I’ve got to go back to working as a storyteller.  Performances tomorrow at the Atlanta History Center–Halloween tales.

Oh No … End of Summer

School has been open for a week here, but August is my slow month, really my vacation month.  Or so I like to think of it that way.  After a busy summer with too many projects and work commitments and personal obligations/ complications, I like to think of August as my personal time to crash and recoup.  After all I have a year of school performances facing me starting after Labor Day.  But then I forget–what about all those projects I’ve not completed, including the new school shows planned and new study guides, not to mention all the cleaning and reorganizing I need to do to prepare.  And then there are the phone calls and emails of people wanting to schedule and the contracts/invoices to do.  And there are the Olympics to watch.  And all the books I meant to read.  And the tan I never got. And the great shape I was going to get in. And before you know it the month is slipping away and all I want to do is vegetate and take note of all the things I need to do.

Panic is about to set in.  But not just yet.  I’m at the point in my August hiatus (which is not really one) that I can’t get to sleep at night.  And I stay up late.  The wee, quiet hours, would be a perfect time for a burst of energy. But I don’t really accomplish much.  Do you know you can do do overs in spider solitaire until you figure out how to win the game or realize it’s futlie, but in the meantime two hours have passed. I’m waiting for my energy and drive to kick back in. Just one more game.  I look around and see all the incomplete projects–now messes throughout the house and I wait for the urge to go around like a madwoman and accomplish nine tasks at once.  But that’s what I do all school year.  And after all, this is my summer hiatus and I’m allowed to procrastinate.  So I indulge.  But this week, I really mean to turn things around.  Or do I?

What a Summer

What a summer!  I’ve been thinking that I should be blogging instead of playing spider solitaire these anxiety ridden late nights when my brain won’t shut down and my body is wishing it would.  My now 91 year old mother has been living with us and I’d love to blog about that experience, which has turned out to be wonderful when I thought it would be stressful.  She is sweet, thoughtful, wanting to be helpful, with a very dimiinshed short term memory, which she allows us to kid her about and she laughs it off.  She sleeps a lot… I had hoped we’d have a summer of reading together her love letters and my father’s during their World War II courtship.

However, this is the summer of drought in Georgia but when-it-rains-it-pours in the Kaemmerlen/Gaare household.  We have been dealing with a terminally ill sister-in-law for me, sister to my husband.  And a series of medical disasters since March with only a week or two that hasn’t been crisis ridden.  I have been working/reworking my one-woman Rachel Carson show–during the research/writing of  her famous book SILENT SPRING, she suffered one medical problem after another, breast cancer, radiation treatments and chemo, with so many complications keeping her from finishing the book, so carefully documenting what DDT rampant sprayings were doing short term and long term to the balance of nature and ultilmately to the health of all living things.  And at the same time, her body was manifesting itself with the problems she was predicting would affect us all if we continued to use these chemical pesticides/weapons.

My sister-in-law’s health is… what we hate to admit… in a steady decline.  She is an end stage renal patient, undergoing hemodialysis 3 times a week.  Getting to that place was a process too–kidneys shutting down, peritoneal dialysis, peritoneal infections, hospitalizations, overcoming one crisis before the next one ultimately set in.  Her 7 week hospital stay this spring was the result of home dialysis, hemo needles that missed the mark, causing a giant hemotoma over her entire upper left side, leading to a staph infection that settled in her heart valves, and at first unbeknownst to us, hiding in her spine.  The vertebral decline led to the second spring hospitilization and spinal surgery and fusion.  Inability to walk. Hospital rehab, then off to a rehab center (formerly called nursing home) for a lengthy visit.  Then seemingly over the hump, positive about her progress, walking some in therapy, the left knee buckled and she broke her tibia and fibula.

The renal disease causes soft bones–falling in her case means something gets broken.  Back in the hospital.  One step forward, two steps backwards.  We start all over, dealing with many doctors, waiting for each and every one of them, trying to coordinate a diagnosis or two or three.  Ordering tests, which means days before the results, waiting for doctors, trying to find out the plan–so much waiting… and in the meantime, the patient lies in bed and gets weaker… Hospitals unfortunately make people sicker.  One thing I have learned is when you have to be hospitalized, get your family to advocate to get you out of there as soon as possible.  Is that the point of all this rambling?  I am supposed to have a point in here somewhere.  It’s hard to find the point when you’re dealing with the next crisis- in the fix this thing mode and then all will be okay.  But it’s never okay. So when do you get to the point?  When is everything fixed?  How long does the light at the end of the tunnel last?  When does reality set in?  No, I think you never give up.  There’s always hope.  You give up when there’s no longer hope.