Top positive review
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A timely and entertaining book with a serious message
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.