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A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees    by Dave Goulson order for
Sting in the Tale
by Dave Goulson
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2014)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

I thought I knew a little about bumblebees when I started reading A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson, but all I really knew was that bumblebees are large black and white bees that I have seen buzzing around my flowers. Goulson studied biology at Oxford University in England and is a professor of biology at the University of Stirling as well as a prominent conservationist in the U.K., who founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2006.

His book starts by telling us about how he became interested in insects and animals while he was still a small child, and segues seamlessly from his own life experience to information about bumblebees in all their wonderful variety. We learn about the history of bees, the different varieties, particularly those in England, including ones that have become extinct, and why all bees, not just honeybees, are important in the environment.

The tales of the bees are written in an engaging and accessible style that is frequently humorous, and the only difficult chapter is the one on bee genetics, thankfully a short chapter that he calls Bee Wars, which basically explains the relationship between the Queen and her offspring as well as between the sons and daughters. In the middle of his genetics lecture, he says, 'My apologies if you are on the verge of falling asleep. I teach this stuff every year to the third-year students at Stirling, and every year I notice that at least half the class have tuned out within five minutes, no matter how much I jump about and try to make it sound exciting.'

Goulson tells us about the reasons why bumblebees are in trouble in the U.K. and all over the world, as well as in the U.S.. Farming changes have greatly impacted bees, and wildflower meadows are particularly important for the survival of bumblebees. He was overwhelmed in more ways than one by the response to his initial attempt to found the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. He was delighted at the large number of people who wanted to contribute, but at the same time in the absence of a staff, he had trouble keeping up with the requests for membership and checks that came pouring in.

This book is such a wonderful introduction to bumblebees, their importance, and their present danger that I hope many people in America will read it and become involved in trying to save and protect them. Perhaps then the Bumblebee Conservation Trust can be encouraged to expand across the Atlantic.

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