Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Reviews: Bees, Bees, Bees!

As I noted in my last post, I will be doing a pollinators workshop at River Bend on September 23. I've been doing research to ensure I have the most current and accurate information possible, and I happened to receive two books about bees to review for Princeton University Press. I must be living right.

The first book, Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide, is a review of all of the species of bumble bees in North America north of Mexico. We don't have a lot of bumble bees here (as I discovered in the book, bumbles bees like cooler temperatures--like me), so I was surprised at the numbers of bumble bee species in North America. We supposedly could expect to find three species of the possible 46 in our area (although that is not confirmed.)

The species accounts are interesting. As you would expect in an identification guide, there are pictures of the bees, range maps, and a discussion of their habitat, favorite plants and identifying characteristics. I was surprised at the variation in coloration of the same species of bumble bees, making identification more of a challenge than one might think. However, this little book was more than an identification guide, including their life cycle, how to attract bumble bees to your yard, specific plants to include in your landscape and conservation status and threats. Overall, a fascinating look at these important insects. If you are a "bug person" this would be an excellent addition to your library.

The second book I received from Princeton University Press was The Bee: A Natural History. As much as I enjoyed the bumble bee book, I have to say my geeky self liked this one even more. Although focused more on the honey bee, the book does include the solitary bees and bumble bees. The reason I like this book so well was that it is more than just an identification guide, but includes a lot of interesting information about bee biology and also more tangential topics such as bees in religion. Little snippets like this always draw my attention. Overall, a fascinating look at bees in all their diversity without being overly technical.

The book looks at bees worldwide. Consequently, it is not an in-depth review of bees in our area. If I could have done one thing to make the book more appealing to me personally, it would have been to have more US bees included in the directory portion of the book. But then, that isn't the focus of the book, so it is not a significant detractor and would have made the book too darn big--after all, there are 20,000 species of bees in the world and 4,000 native bee species in North America. This is another outstanding addition to the library of those interested in pollinators, especially the bees.

Christmas is coming up--either of these could be a wonderful gift for you naturalist friend/family member. And the prices won't break the bank either.

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