A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

4.5 6
by Dave Goulson

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Dave Goulson became obsessed with wildlife as a small boy growing up in rural Shropshire, starting with an increasingly exotic menagerie of pets. When his interest turned to the anatomical, there were even some ill-fated experiments with taxidermy. But bumblebees are where Goulson's

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Dave Goulson became obsessed with wildlife as a small boy growing up in rural Shropshire, starting with an increasingly exotic menagerie of pets. When his interest turned to the anatomical, there were even some ill-fated experiments with taxidermy. But bumblebees are where Goulson's true passion lies.
His passionate quest to reintroduce the bumblebee to its native land is one of the highlights of a book that includes exclusive research into these mysterious creatures, history's relationship with the bumblebee, and advice on how to protect the bumblebee for future generations.
One of the United Kingdom's most respected conservationists and the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Goulson combines light-hearted 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 the nest, sharing fascinating research into the effects intensive farming has had on our bee population and the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

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Editorial Reviews

Seattle Times

A Sting in the Tale is both a whodunit as well as a revealing study of a bug on whom we depend a great deal.
The Independent (London)

[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.
The Times (London)

Goulson combines enthusiasm with academic authority, addressing the amateur beekeeper and professional apiarist in well-judged proportion.
The Guardian (London)

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.
New York Post

[Goulson's] enthusiasm shines through as he tells of his attempt to bring the short-haired bumblebee back to Britain, its native land . . . Goulson transforms what could be dry material with stinging wit.

A Sting in the Tale melts memoir and conservation issues into a sweet pot, moving from subject to subject very much in the manner of a foraging bee seeking flowers . . . The book is warm and delightful: I frequently found myself wanting to put it down to go bird and bee-watching, to find for myself the species [Goulson] discusses.
author of Pulitzer Prize Finalist The Forest Unsee D. G. Haskell

Fascinating and inspiring. Dave Goulson is a genial raconteur, with much to teach us about the biology and conservation of our insect cousins.

Absorbing and informative...An outstanding piece of nature writing that also celebrates one of mankind's most cherished insects.
Author of Bumblebee Economics and Mind of the Rave Bernd Heinrich

Goulson's adventures with bumblebees tells the well-written story of the making of a naturalist, and also enchantingly informs us not only about bees but also about ecosystems and conservation.
Publishers Weekly
Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (U.K.), offers what is ostensibly a survey of the bumblebee, the "most gentle and friendly of insects," but which reads more like a biologist's memoir—a conversational exchange with the reader replete with jokes, anecdotes, and personal asides. He recounts his life in conservation, beginning with a pastoral childhood that involved hobbies of egg collecting and taxidermy, through to his professional research, wherein he explores both the achievements and limitations of sometimes "decidedly fruitless" scientific efforts. Fondly recalling quirky graduate students previously in his employ and their shared successes and charming mishaps with "various schemes" to monitor bumblebees, Goulson's personal touch is stamped throughout. This intimate quality does bring with it the occasional dip into nostalgic indulgence and irrelevant interjections about his " pie obsession." The niche field of bumblebee research can feel insular (even honeybees are peripheral creatures in this work), but Goulson reminds the reader of the subject's relevance through the bumblebee's role in global food production and overall biodiversity. Though his conclusions and observations are occasionally benign, they are frequently peppered with fascinating observations, a sense of good cheer, and Goulson's undeniable passion for an oft-uncelebrated subject, here presented for appreciation by the casual armchair naturalist. (May)
Library Journal
Goulson (biological and environmental sciences, Univ. of Stirling) explores the world of the bumblebee, sharing his many years of related research in this engaging, at times humorous, book. At a young age the author developed an interest in animals and attracting insects to gardens, leading to his studying biology at Oxford. Here Goulson shares bumblebee biology and natural history including evolution, foraging behavior, reproduction, locating nests (e.g., using a trained sniffer dog), predators, and issues related to introducing nonnative species. The author also discusses his attempt to reintroduce the short-haired bumblebee to the UK using bees from New Zealand and Sweden. Concerned about the decline in numbers of the creatures Goulson founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and he shares information about the creation of this new charity and its early days as well as ways to protect bumblebees and their habitat. Finally, he covers his purchase of land in France and how he created a meadow to use for long-term studies. VERDICT A fascinating look at bumblebees and a biologist and his students at work that will appeal to readers who enjoy natural history writing.—Sue O'Brien, Downers Grove P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-03-12
What you never knew about bumblebees, from a man who is both passionate and knowledgeable. Bumblebee Conservation Trust founder Goulson (Biological and Environmental Sciences/Univ. of Stirling) has been fascinated with nature since his childhood. His tales of collecting insects, raising frogs and snakes, dissecting roadkill and even teaching himself taxidermy as a child serve as a light, engaging introduction to this often humorous but deadly serious account. During his lifetime, wild bumblebees have been disappearing at an alarming rate, and Goulson makes clear why this has happened and why we should care about it. He examines their mating behaviors, life cycle, genetics, nesting habits (unlike honeybees, they don't build hives), foraging techniques (smelly footprints help them tell which flowers have been recently drained of nectar), navigation skills and their many enemies. The extreme measures he and his research assistants take to study bumblebees will astonish—attaching antennas to bees is a tricky business, and collecting their feces is even more difficult. Even finding bees can be a challenge, as the author relates in stories about attempts to restore Great Britain's short-haired bumblebee population by capturing queen bees in New Zealand, to which the species had been exported in the 19th century. The success of another project—releasing bees imported from Sweden into an area around Dungeness—remains to be determined. Goulson also relates his adventures turning a dilapidated French farm into a thriving bumblebee reserve. Educating the public about bumblebees and encouraging creation of habitats beneficial to them are two of the goals of the BBCT, and they are surely the impetus behind Goulson's impressive debut. A delightful book by an author filled with enthusiasm for the natural world and in possession of just the right touch for sharing it with others.

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8.10(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.90(d)

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