04 February 2015

Book Review: The Bee

This book review is supplied by the talented Kat Shiffler - who knows a thing or three about bees.  

There is no shortage of books about bees. The eusocial honey bee has mesmerized scientists, philosophers, political scientists, artists and curious laypeople alike since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Apis mellifera, is often said to be the most-studied species, after Homo sapiens. But vastly overlooked are the world’s 20,000+ other fascinating bee species, most of which are solitary. That is precisely the unique contribution of Noah Wilson-Rich’s fabulous book, The Bee: ANatural History.

Wilson-Rich and other contributors have put together a rich reference; an engaging narrative explaining the big picture as well as practical hands-on discussions on hive management and bee health. The Bee goes further than any other bee book to explain and display in full-color, the astounding diversity that exists in this corner of the animal kingdom.

The book’s directory of notable bee species alone makes this a worthwhile purchase for any naturalist’s library. Never before have I seen such wonderful photographs and complete descriptions of the world’s species organized as solitary, stingless, bumble and honey bees. The Bee makes visible for the first time, lesser-known bee species that normally buzz just under our radar. They don’t make honey, but are vitally important for pollination and the health of the planet.

While the book’s scope is without precedent, some sections are more robust than others. The sections on bee evolution, ecology, genetics and physiology are wonderfully summarized, while explanations of the human-bee relationship over time could be more developed for my taste – indeed warranting another book.

Rich and his co-authors have made an important and unique contribution to a body of knowledge that seemingly has no end.

“The bee’s life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water.” – biologist Karl von Frisch

This review copy was provided by Princeton University Press.  Book review by Kat Schiffler.

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