NATURE//A Sting in the Tale- Dave Goulson


By utter coincidence, it’s Bees’ Needs Week as I write this and I’m planning on joining the Bumblebee Conservation Trust once I’ve written my review. Although I’ve always been interested in helping bees (and I’ve started a blog that looks, in part, at the role I can play in helping bees), this book has had a huge effect on the way I look at the bees in my environment.

I initially came across the book via Twitter; I’d got really excited at the prospect of buying a bumblebee hive (with bees!) as a pollinating system for the garden, until Dave Goulson pointed out that there were problems with this system. I decided that I needed to read more and inform myself- after all, I didn’t want to damage the delicate eco-system in my garden and those in the surrounding area. And so, thanks to Brighton’s libraries, I soon had a huge reading list.

Goulson now works at the University of Sussex and his main interest is bumblebees- he’s the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and his work has taken him all over the world. In the book, he writes about some of his work in New Zealand and visits to the factories where they breed the bumblebees used in those commercially available hives. He also details the formation of the Trust and his childhood days as a butterfly hunter, which led to his interest in all sorts of bugs and insects, eventually bringing him to his current work.

I loved reading all of this, as well as his attempt to reclaim the land around a dilapidated French farmhouse for wildlife and numerous (slightly weird, to the layperson) experiments to understand just how bees do things. It’s fascinating to learn how a now-extinct British bee is buzzing away happily in New Zealand and the agonising attempts to reintroduce it to its native habitat. I also was able to read and sort of understand complex bumblebee genetics that allow colonies to work like well oiled (honeyed?) machines. Although not as precise as their honeybee cousins, bumbles definitely have a system that works.

This is a funny, important book that presents the science in a way that anyone can understand. It’s no exaggeration that it’s led to me becoming pretty obsessed with the wildlife in my garden. I’ve started putting out water sources and won’t even consider non-pollinator friendly plants any more, which means my rose purchases will be on the decline (bees find it impossible to get inside to the nectar). I’m also obsessed with watching bees as they work and I’m determined to learn all the different types. I’ve even got the rest of the family interested.

See you on a bee walk?




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