Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#StevesLibrary: Bee Quest

After finishing to read His Imperial Majesty recently, I thought I’d keep with the entomological theme and read Bee Quest. Insects are one of those groups of animals that fascinate me deeply, but were just beaten by amphibians and reptiles. I think one of the main reasons for this, is that there are just so many, and not all of them are as charismatic as each other. Through my eyes, the two most charismatic groups are the butterflies, and the bumblebees: which helped to guide my choice when picking which book to read next. When it comes to nature writing, Dave Goulson is one of my heroes as he (with the help of others) has helped to kickstart the nature renaissance, with far more books focussing on nature writing/popular science since the publication of The Sting in the Tale in 2013. I’ve previously read and reviewed a number of his other books here on my blog, and I shall continue to do so. Bee Quest is slightly different to the others in its format and premise, with us going on a global journey with Goulson to discover more about the world’s rarest bumblebees.

It is crazy to think that as a group, there are approximately 250 bumble bee species worldwide with 10% of that diversity being found in the UK. As a small island nation in the north-east Atlantic Ocean, there aren’t many other wildlife groups that we can claim as having a significant number of the total global species on our doorstep. For example, there are 59 species of butterflies found in the UK of around 17,500 species globally. That’s 0.34%, whereas only 0.07% of the world’s amphibians can be found on the Isles that we call home. Thankfully, this diversity isn’t endemic (meaning that it is only found here), and is instead distributed across other areas of Europe too. This doesn’t or shouldn’t mean that we can be complacent about things, as they’re still in trouble despite their large geographical range. Think of how many less bumblebees and other insects you see today, compared with a decade or so ago. It is certainly noticeable.

Whether it is off to Patagonia to find the Endangered and largest bumblebee in the world Bombus dahlbomii, or to the furthest reaches of Scotland to meet the great yellow bumblebee (B. distinguendus), Bee Quest is an enjoyable read throughout. If you’re interested in conservation, entomology, or learning how to assist with increasing the public profile of less charasmatic species than mammals and birds, then Bee Quest is a book that you certainly need to read. I am particularly fond of Goulson’s writing style, and I’m looking forward to reading his remaining books, each with their own entomological theme. It’s a mixture of personal anecdotes, scientific writing, natural history, and Goulson’s charm, that makes it such a joy to read.

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