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A Sting in the Tale [Hardcover]

Dave Goulson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

25 April 2013

Shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize

Dave Goulson has always been obsessed with wildlife, from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets and dabbling in experimental taxidermy to his groundbreaking research into the mysterious ways of the bumblebee and his mission to protect our rarest bees.

Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee now only exists in the wilds of New Zealand, the descendants of a few queen bees shipped over in the nineteenth century. Dave Goulson's passionate drive to reintroduce it to its native land is one of the highlights of a book that includes exclusive research into these curious creatures, history's relationship with the bumblebee and advice on how to protect it for all time.

One of the UK's most respected conservationists and the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Goulson combines Gerald Durrell-esque tales of a child's growing passion for nature with a deep insight into the crucial importance of the bumblebee. He details the minutiae of life in their nests, sharing fascinating research into the effects intensive farming has had on our bee populations and on the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224096893
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224096898
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up fascinated by insects, and by wildlife in general, and have managed to make a living from studying them, which makes me very lucky indeed. I'm now Professor of Biology at Sussex University. I've published over 200 scientific papers on bumblebees and other insects. My main focus is on why bees are declining and on working out what best we can do to help them.

In 2006 I founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a charity devoted to bumblebees which now has 12 staff and 7,000 members. In 2013 I won the Zoological Society of London's Marsh Prize for Conservation Biology.

I am author of "Bumblebees; their behaviour, conservation and ecology" (2010), an academic text, and A Sting in the Tale (2013), a popular science book about bumblebees and about life as a field biologist.

Product Description


"[Goulson's] book is not only enormously informative, but also hugely entertaining: its light touch and constant humour make cutting-edge research a pleasure to read about. For anyone interested in the natural world, this is essential reading." (Michael McCarthy Independent)

"Goulson reminds himself that he 'began studying bumblebees not because they are important pollinators but because they are fascinating, because they behave in interesting and mysterious ways, and because they are rather loveable.' It's worth reading A Sting in the Tale for the same reasons." (Hannah Rosefield Literary Review)

"A worthy book of the year." (Mary Beard Observer)

"Goulson has plenty of wondrous biological stories to tell, as well as the tale of his own struggle to return the short-haired bumblebee to Britain." (Patrick Barkham Guardian)

"This isn't one of those natural science books that simply tells you things - it admits how much we don't know." (Mark Mason Spectator)

Book Description

One man's quest to save the bumblebee.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
57 of 57 people found the following review helpful
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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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical 8 May 2013
By ERoth
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fantastic book 25 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this is no sting 17 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and thought provoking book 24 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEES!!! 21 Aug 2013
By ll077
Format:Kindle Edition
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice text but where are the pictures? 9 April 2014
This is an enjoyable,instructive and easy read about bumblebees written by an expert, but at a level that requires no prior biological knowledge. However, how a biologist can write a whole book about bees where the only pictures are on the dust jacket is entirely beyond me: every chapter cries out for pictures of nests, bees, amber, experiments etc. Worse (for the serious biologist), there is no way of linking the bumblebees listed on P 245 to the pictures on the dust jacket.

JB (also a biologist!)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 3 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
very interesting book. Wish it was illustrated though
Published 1 day ago by Granma Kidwelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 8 days ago by Mr Paul Ashton
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for politicians who don't think we need a neonic ban!
Informative and readable, written by someone with a passion for the humble bumble and a desire to understand its ecology and to conserve the beneficial pollinators!
Published 11 days ago by Helen R Kirk
5.0 out of 5 stars A real buzz
This exceeded all my expectations! I had been recommended this book by a friend, and thought it would be useful in bee identification. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Mrs. Margaret G. Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful - A must-have on your bookshelf!
This book tells the tale of a passionate scientist that embarked on a quest to save the little things of this world that are so very important, yet overlooked by so many. Read more
Published 14 days ago by S. B. Kroeger
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for lovers of bees
This is not only gives a great insight into the life of our native bumble bees and the perils facing them in the modern world, but is also an enjoyable story about Dave Goulson... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Blessed are the pollinators
This is a marvellous book - informative yet also immensely entertaining. Dave Gouslon, professor of Biology at the universities of Southampton and then Stirling, has had a lifelong... Read more
Published 1 month ago by James Brydon
4.0 out of 5 stars Sting in the Tale - Great prose, very cheap Vintage paperback!
The subject matter is very engrossing, however the book quality is very flimsy and cheap looking. You can practically see through the paper. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ruth Collier
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read!
An absolute must read, it's so well written. It's funny, interesting, and you will learn so much. I got it for my Dad for Christmas as he keeps honeybees. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Aisling
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
What more can I say. Totally brilliant. You don't have to know about bumblebees to enjoy or understand this. It is entertaining, accessible and informative. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Arthur Baron
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