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A Sting in the Tale

My Adventures with Bumblebees

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Dave Goulson became obsessed with wildlife as a small boy growing up in rural Shropshire, starting with an increasingly exotic menagerie of pets. When his interest turned to the anatomical, there were even some ill-fated experiments with taxidermy. But bees are where Goulson's true passion lies—the humble bumblebee in particular.

Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the English short-haired bumblebee went extinct in the United Kingdom, but by a twist of fate still exists in the wilds of New Zealand, the descendants of a few pairs shipped over in the nineteenth century. Dave Goulson's passionate quest to reintroduce it to its native land is one of the highlights of a book that includes original research into the habits of these mysterious creatures, history's relationship with the bumblebee, and advice on how to protect the bumblebee for future generations.

One of the United Kingdom's most respected conservationists and the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Goulson combines lighthearted tales of a child's growing passion for nature with a deep insight into the crucial importance of the bumblebee. He details the minutiae of life in the nest, sharing fascinating research into the effects intensive farming has had on our bee population and the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 24, 2014 – Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (U.K.), offers what is ostensibly a survey of the bumblebee, the "most gentle and friendly of insects," but which reads more like a biologist's memoir—a conversational exchange with the reader replete with jokes, anecdotes, and personal asides. He recounts his life in conservation, beginning with a pastoral childhood that involved hobbies of egg collecting and taxidermy, through to his professional research, wherein he explores both the achievements and limitations of sometimes "decidedly fruitless" scientific efforts. Fondly recalling quirky graduate students previously in his employ and their shared successes and charming mishaps with "various schemes" to monitor bumblebees, Goulson's personal touch is stamped throughout. This intimate quality does bring with it the occasional dip into nostalgic indulgence and irrelevant interjections about his " pie obsession." The niche field of bumblebee research can feel insular (even honeybees are peripheral creatures in this work), but Goulson reminds the reader of the subject's relevance through the bumblebee's role in global food production and overall biodiversity. Though his conclusions and observations are occasionally benign, they are frequently peppered with fascinating observations, a sense of good cheer, and Goulson's undeniable passion for an oft-uncelebrated subject, here presented for appreciation by the casual armchair naturalist.

Customer Reviews

Informative without being a textbook

This is an enjoyable biological and ecological book that does not read like a textbook. It is centered around the bumblebee but there is information about all kinds of organisms. I was charmed by the author's prose and was endeared to him by his admissions to setbacks in his research. I think too often we read about the success of researchers (and others) without knowing all the trials and tribulations it took to get to that point. Well done! I look forward to the next book.

A Sting in the Tale
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Nature
  • Published: Apr 29, 2014
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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