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A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm    by Dave Goulson order for
Buzz in the Meadow
by Dave Goulson
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

A professor of biological sciences at the University of Sterling, Dave Goulson has been involved in a number of environmental research projects. When he purchased some property in France in 2003, Goulson decided to create a wildlife sanctuary on the 33 acres of meadowland.

Over a decade Goulson watched and chronicled how the insects and plants on this small slice of rural France thrived when left alone. This entertaining narrative shares the author's observations and experiences on his little slice of nature's paradise.

The reader will meet the diverse creatures who call Goulson's derelict farm home. The story includes information about how deathwatch beetles find their mates, why butterflies sport spots on their wings and how sexual cannibalism enables some species of insects to survive.

Those who read Goulson's A Sting in the Tale, a book about his favorite insect, the bumblebee, will definitely want to follow up with his most recent nature adventure.

2nd Review by Rheta Van Winkle:

The subtitle of A Buzz in the Meadow tells us what this book is about: 'The Natural History of a French Farm'. Dave Goulson, the author, is a professor of biological sciences at the University of Stirling, in England. His interest in bees, insects, and most animals is lifelong, although some of the animals that he tried to help when he was a child came to unpleasant ends. Having done much research on the decline of bees, particularly bumblebees, in England, he decided that one way he could help would be to buy an old farm in France and let it revert to its natural state.

In this interesting book, Goulson tells us about his farm and how he managed to restore it, but he also gives us information about many insects that are in trouble because of single crop farming and the use of pesticides and fertilizers that kill many beneficial insects along with the bad ones. There used to be hedges in England where weeds could grow and pesticides didn't interfere with the insects that relied on flowers in the hedges for nectar. Now the hedges are mostly gone, and the use of weed killers has even impacted the areas next to roads where no crops are grown, so pollinating insects find fewer and fewer flowers to visit that aren't poisonous to them. Apparently the use of chemical fertilizers is also bad for the soil, and it was several years before the soil in his French farm could be restored to a natural state. He hired a French farmer to mow the grasses each year, until he managed to kill most of the grass, so that wild flowers and other native plants could grow.

Goulson is a conservationist, and in the last chapters he writes about the dangers to the world of present farming practices. We are losing the pollinating insects, primarily bees, but also all the good insects that usually live in the soil, providing food for small mammals and birds going up the food chain. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learning about the mating habits of many strange and wonderful insects, bees, and butterflies. Goulson almost loves them all, but said that the one insect that he can't stand is the bedbug, telling us how he got rid of them in his old farmhouse. Some of the most enjoyable chapters involve his students who volunteered to come to France for a portion of their summer vacation and help him with renovating the old farmhouse and planting wildflowers and plants that helped the soil recover. The book is written with humor and warmth, as though Dave Goulson were telling us about his farm in person.

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