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on 4 May 2013
This is a book about bumblebees, their ecology and behaviour, and why populations of many species have declined. It's also a book about what it's like being a research ecologist and a plea for conservation action.

The book starts with the author's childhood and describes the start of his fascination with, not just bumblebees, but wildlife in general. In this respect it has echoes of Gerald's Durrell's classic "My family and other animals" and is similarly entertaining as well as educational. The following chapters are each self contained stories focussing on a particular aspect of bumblebee ecology that the author has researched, but with a good dollop of the history behind natural history. One chapter looks at how bees know whether a flower has been visited recently (it turns out they have smelly feet!), another at trying to train the world's first bumblebee sniffer dog to find nests. The author also travels to New Zealand to find bumblebees introduced there from the UK over 100 years ago, and to Tasmania where they have appeared more recently.

The thing I liked most about this book is that it gives you an insight into how science progresses, not just what was found. There are amusing tales of the people behind discoveries, serendipitous events that led to them, how things often don't go to plan but may lead to answers the researcher had not originally thought of.

This is not just a book about bumblebees, however, but also a call to action as it highlights some of the disastrous consequences of human actions on nature and what we stand to lose if we do nothing about this. Given the current focus on the plight of pollinators in the countryside, this book is very timely and should appeal to anyone interested in the natural world. It should be required reading for anyone who isn't.
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on 8 May 2013
SITT is brilliant. I love the conversational way it's written, with real passion and imagination, full of amusing, quirky and creative analogies and anecdotes, such as describing a bumblebee nest as an idyllic nunnery, the larvae as cuddly polar bears, keeping a visceral display in ones bedroom, a species gone extinct thanks to Hitler, a tryst with a long dead male, and fashioning prosthetic legs for a accidental-leg-free feathered pet, to mention but a few.

It is delightfully hilarious, while at the same time delivering a bloom of fascinating and remarkable bumblebee (and other) biology, with an all important conservation message. I think it's just the right balance between the wider conservation/save the world message and the central theme, passion for the bumblebee. I really like the blend of personal experience with science and history. Each time the author digs a bit deeper into the science he soon delivers an anecdote that keeps it alive. It also gives a real insight into how scientists and the like reach conservation decisions.

It is beautifully linked together with (other than bumblebee) themes throughout (the author's appetite for pies for example). The structure keeps you interested - a cliffhanger starting chapter with an uplifting finish and the promise of an explanation. I love how the author drifts off while explaining something. It feels like it takes a while to get to the point, in a good way. I often got drawn into some unrelated (and yet related) anecdote and I forgot all about the bees, until inevitably they creep back in. I'm sad not to be able to read more - but can't believe the author will stop there (tell us more about the distinctive French buzz and goggle-eyed creatures!).
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on 25 May 2013
I bought this book after hearing it on Radio 4's Book of the Week. What a fantastic book, laugh out loud funny at times and engaging and captivating throughout. I thoroughly recommend it and as in my case having no prior knowledge or special interest in bees should not put you off.
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on 17 May 2013
A book about bumble bees sounds esoteric but the quality of prose and the author's enthusiasm make this an excellent read . it certainly makes the importance of bees to us well known but it is the organisation of the bees which is astonishing . This is a wonderful read
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on 24 May 2013
Always been a big fan of bumblebees but hadn't realised how vital they are to agriculture. Written in an accessible style this book serves to make us sit up and take notice of the plight of the bee and what can be done to ensure they remain part of our ecosystem. Fascinating and amusing
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on 4 August 2014
Excellent book. I read it cover-to-cover in a matter of days and enjoyed it immensely. The style is such that one can absorb much information about bumblebees without having to feel like you're studying. It has inspired me to go and learn yet more about bumblebees, try and make the outdoors more bumblebee friendly (maybe some guerrilla gardening clover seed dispersion) and I am now boring all my various colleagues and friends with tit-bits of information about our fuzzy insect friends.

I find the complaints about the lack of pictures in other reviews slightly ridiculous. This book doesn't claim to be an illustrated guide to identifying bumblebees and indeed the author mentions in his text the relevant books for people seeking such a publication.
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on 3 June 2013
If you are interested in wildlife in general or insects then this book is for you, it gives an insight into the natural history and science of bumblebees in a very readable way by a leading academic. Highly recommended.
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on 11 April 2015
Having caught the back-end of an interview with the author on Radio 4, was sufficient to pique my interest enough to seek out his book. I am not an aficionado of insects per se, but do appreciate their role in the 'order of things' and especially bees and the great debt we owe them. Like most people, I have over the last couple of years been woken up to the disappearing bee and the consequences through the media, where it has been generally portrayed as a mystery. However, after reading this book it seems there is little mystery at all but simply the consequence of modern farming methods and the dwindling of their natural habitat. The bee has been around a lot longer than us (around 30M yrs vs. 200K yrs) but it is likely it won't be around for much longer unless the policy makers wake-up to the dire consequences of a bee-less World.

A 'chatty' and engaging style of writing which is very easy to read yet at the same time imparting a massive amount of information. So much so, that this year I will be dedicating some of my garden to bee friendly flowers and herbs. Last year I got a bumper crop of tomatoes, thanks to the little stripey fellas so the least I can do is give a little back, albeit in a very small way. Thanks to this book I shall never look at a bee, or tomato for that matter, in the same way ever again.
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on 24 October 2013
As a butterfly enthusiast I was surprised to find this as a birthday present! I am pleased to report that it is a beautifully written book; the passion the author has for his subject is evident. I particularly enjoyed the sprinkling of facts and brief vignettes that added to the detail without distracting from the narrative. I fear I shall take even longer to go for a walk next summer!
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on 21 August 2013
I first bought this book for my son. He is keen on natural history and this was a perfect book that he really enjoyed. It kindled a passionate love for bumblebees and now wants to start a hive. This book is well worth the money.
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