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Bees: A Natural History

Bees: A Natural History

4.6 6
by Christopher O'Toole

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The vital role of bees in human ecology is underlined by the estimate that every third mouthful of human food is dependent on the pollinating services of bees.

Only recently have biologists discovered that human survival is inextricably linked to the survival of insects, specifically, bees. Today the 16-20,000 species of bee continue to play vital


The vital role of bees in human ecology is underlined by the estimate that every third mouthful of human food is dependent on the pollinating services of bees.

Only recently have biologists discovered that human survival is inextricably linked to the survival of insects, specifically, bees. Today the 16-20,000 species of bee continue to play vital roles in human ecology. We survive only by grace of the life-sustaining network of bee-plant relationships.

Bees immerses readers in the world of a group of insects whose diversity of form and behavior is eloquent testimony to the fine-tuning of natural selection. Written by a world-leading entomologist and specialist in bees, the book's topics include:

  • What are bees? (The Wasp Inheritance) - Bees as foragers, their nesting instinct, on-board computing facility,
    sun-compass orientation and sense of time
  • The many ways of being a bee — Solitary versus social, Miners and masons, Leafcutters and carpenters
  • Bees and flowering plants
  • The male of the species — Mating strategies, patrols, competition, territoriality, the role of scent
  • The enemies of bees — Cleptoparasites, cuckoo bees
  • Bees and People — historic and contemporary
  • Bees in Folk and Modern Medicine
  • The Conservation of Bees — the decline of bees and honeybees, bees in human ecology, bee conservation, urban bees
  • Bee projects — the backyard bee scientist.

Bees can be found throughout history in roles poetic and military, in medicine and agriculture, in the kitchen and in the kit of a traditional healer. They have played a bigger role in human existence than is often recognized. This beautifully illustrated, appreciative tribute will be welcomed by entomologists, students and all naturalist readers.

Editorial Reviews

Choice - P. K. Lago
Readers who wish to own one general book about bees will want to acquire this interesting, beautiful volume... The numerous and exceptional photographs, half page, full page, or larger, generously scattered throughout the book might suggest that the volume was intended for the coffee table, and it will grace many. However, this is a natural history work in the truest sense, containing a wealth of information about these fascinating insects. ... Broadly appealing. Highly recommended.
Garden Magazine, Royal Horticultural Society - O. Andrew Halstead
Honeybees and bumblebees will be familiar to most people, but the numerous species of solitary bees are largely unknown. Chris O'Toole's book covers the broad spectrum of these bees, which occur throughout the world except in polar regions. The various groups of solitary and social bees are described and illustrated with some excellent colour photographs.... This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in bees and the process of pollination.
Entomologist's Gazette (2014) Vol. 65 - Adrian Spalding
Overall the book is very informative, easy to read and thoroughly recommended for the beginner, leaving the reader wanting more.
European Journal of Entomology Vol 111 No 3 - A. Pridal
I congratulate and thank the author. He has provided us with a wonderful account of bee natural history, which popularizes bees and stresses the importance of pollination. This will be helpful in their conservation as everybody can make the environment more suitable for bees... I recommend this book to everybody who is interested in the ecology of pollinators and looking for information on the conservation of biodiversity. This book should be present in every biological library, particularly those in schools, for use by beginners in the study of bee ecology.
British Journal of Entomology and Natural History - John Badmin
This beautifully illustrated book provides the reader with an excellent overview of the 18,000 or so recognised species of bee found across the globe... The book is easy to read and a must for any serious student of the Hymenoptera. The author has been in the forefront of bee conservation in the UK for many years and here offers further good advice on how to reverse the declines recorded for many British species.
Bees for Development Journal
This book will be of interest to a wide audience.
Bees, Wasps and Ants Society - Stuart Roberts
It is only correct to comment on the extraordinarily high quality of the photographs throughout and the great skill employed by the many photographers... This book will appeal to general naturalists and wildlife photographers as well as bee specialists and all-round entomologists too.
NSTA Recommends - Diana Wiig
I will never be able to look at a bee the same again! What an amazing book with 240 pages that draw the reader in! This oversize book (the better to see the photos) is a wealth of information concerning bees and their contribution to our world... Way too much information to take in one reading! This book is a must have! I recommend it!
Bee World International - Richard Jones
Chris O'Toole, in conjunction with Tony Raw, wrote Bees of the World, which has become a seminal volume: this new book will rightfully take its place beside it on the bookshelf. ... It is (O'Toole's) writing style that makes him stand out. As an international scientist, he is accurate and detailed in his information yet he has the flowing style of a gifted writer: never verbose and never ever patronizing.... Questions of some simplicity, which a novice might be embarrassed to ask, but are vital to full and complete understanding, are answered and explained in such a way that even the highly informed will find fresh and interesting... The quality and detail of the wonderful colour photography of Edward Ross and others, which enhance almost every page, is truly the icing on this delicious cake.
Entomology Association of Spain - Gustavo Sancher Romero
This superbly illustrated volume ... plunges the reader into the world of a group of insects whose diversity and behaviors is an eloquent testimony to the precision of natural selection.
Booklist - Nancy Bent
O'Toole, an entomologist and bee expert, introduces readers to a sample of the world's 20,000 bee species in this beautiful new book... The strength of the book is in its introduction of the rest of the kinds of bees.
American Bee Journal
Understanding bee-plant relationships helps us provide food for the world. This beautifully-illustrated, appreciative tribute will be valuable to bee professionals, students, and naturalists.
Quarterly Reivew of Biology - Jessica Forrest
This volume provides an enjoyable survey of the world's bees and their relationships with plants, predators, and humans. It is aimed at general readers... It is generously illustrated with extraordinary, high-quality, color photographs by several photographers, and the layout is attractive... Although the book has a honey bee on the cover and honey bees receive plenty of attention in the sections on social bees and bee-human relations—one of its primary goals is to introduce readers to the world's wild bees, most of which are solitary. The volume begins with chapters on the biology of bees and an overview of the world's bee families. The next section covers bees as pollinators, first explaining the basics of pollination and then devoting two chapters to some of the "greatest hits" of pollination ecology, such as the bizarre-looking Rediviva bees of South Mrica, with their elongate front legs adapted for extracting oil from the floral spurs of their host plants. An additional chapter deals with the many parasites that exploit the protein-rich provisions in bee nests. The concluding section addresses the relationship between bees and humans, starting with Paleolithic honey-gatherers and continuing through modern applications of honey bee products (many of them entertainingly debunked by O'Toole) in medicine and cosmetics. The book describes recent advances in bee conservation and management and ends with a strong argument for why more of us should learn about and advocate for wild bees... The photographs alone are worth the price of admission, and the text provides a good introduction to bee ecology and diversity.
Green Teacher - Alan Crook
It feels good to hold a well-crafted book in your hands, but Bees is not just a pretty frontispiece. Large, superb, close-up photos punctuate a fairly in-depth examination of the world's bees, both solitary and social, stinging, honey-storing or not. There are more than 20,000 identified species of bees (significantly more than birds and mammals combined), the authors have selected representative species and genera to ensure the book doesn't go on for too long. We learn that there is far more to bees than honey, and we must pay attention, as one-third of our food is bee-dependent... The book also contains pertinent information on diversity among bees, including grades of sociality; the role of males in bee society; why bees are good pollinators; and the role of bees in human lives. We discover that many species are stressed, largely through habitat loss, and what we can do in our own back yards to give bees a helping hand. This is an excellent resource for schools and nature centres,
and the clear prose and large text will be readable for advanced middle school students and up.
Library Journal
Bees are diverse, beautiful, exciting, and worth watching, studying, and conserving, according to entomologist O'Toole. This work's oversize, macrophotographs go beyond images of pretty pollinators to show us larvae, pupae, and nests. O'Toole shares his love of bees in a language most readers can understand, but his British terminology (e.g., Apis mellifera is defined as the western honey bee rather than the European honey bee) and the book's unwieldy size undermine its mission. Further, O'Toole states that particular bee species live in North America but gets no more specific as to state, region, or even country. This volume, full of photographs, says nothing about observing, let alone photographing, bees, and the photos are so large that the text often refers to images that are two or three pages away. VERDICT Insect macrophotography fans may still enjoy this title. Those who want a thorough introduction to the diverse world of bees are better off with O'Toole and Anthony Raw's Bees of the World or Eric Grissell's Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens.—Eileen H. Kramer, Georgia Perimeter Coll. Lib., Clarkston

Product Details

Firefly Books, Limited
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Product dimensions:
8.90(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Christopher O'Toole is an entomologist, author and speaker. He has been scientific consultant to many television projects, including The Birth of the Bees for the BBC and on the David Attenborough series Life on Earth and was scientific consultant on the feature film Angels and Insects. His books include Bees of the World and for children, Discovering Bees and Wasps.

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Bees: A Natural History 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bee hives seem very happy. ^-^
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name~Rosy <p> Is~The quuen of the hive and very beautiful <p> Appearance~A beautiful honeybee that looks the same except her black is way bore deep d her gold shines a bright as honey making many drones attracted to her. <p> Personality~Very sweet and kind but can be very serious at times <p> -JN
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(Thanks so much guys! And btw, my pseondym (i probably spelled that wrong in an effort to impress, but it means basically a pen name so people don't know your real name (like Erin Hunter)) is Lomosohneg, but you can call me Lo if thats a hassle to type.) <p> "Uhhh." I didn't know what to say, I just stared. <p> "Are you from this hive?" He tapped his foot against the ground and continued to stare. "Where are you from?" His antennae (sp?) twitched and moved towards me, as if he could learn more this way. <br> "No, I uh...." <br> "Are you a mason? A wasp? A yellowjacket? Bumblebee? Honeybee? Hornet? Horsefly?" <br> "Quite frankly, I have no idea." <br> "No colony? Then I'll just have to take you to our Que... Oh. Wait." <br> At this point I had been nearly ki<_>lled, turned into a bee, and now I was being asked by a bee if I was a bee or a bewildering beast. <p> "What?! I've had enough trouble already!" <br> "Come on, leave my sight and you will find athousand stingers peircing your abdomen." <p> If a human had said that, I'd have said something like "you wish", or "try me", but with a bee, you couldn't tell. <p> "Besides that, what is your name?" <br> "Brea..." I was about to finish with ...nna Beworthy, but that would've been pointless, since there was no way bees had names that complicated. <br> "Hmm." He said, leading me into the hive. <br> It was golden and sweet, beautiful and busy with the actions of thousands of bees. There weren't just three different types like the shows said, but at least twelve categories of each type! <p> I couldn't help gasping. I had always imagined it as dark and filled with orders, but no, laughter and peace.