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A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,664 ratings  ·  243 reviews

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 bumblebees are where Goulson's true passio
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Picador (first published April 25th 2013)
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4.27  · 
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 ·  1,664 ratings  ·  243 reviews

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Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carmen by: Samuel Johnson Prize
It is humbling to reflect that though a bumblebee has a brain smaller than a grain of rice, it has powers of perception and learning that often put us mammals to shame.

Amazing book.

For one thing, you will learn a ton of information about bees. Goulson focuses on bumblebees but you will learn a few things about honeybees as well.

For another thing, Goulson is HILARIOUS. Oh my gosh, I was laughing like a maniac while reading this book. Everyone was looking at me strangely. Oftentimes people suspici
(Nearly 4.5) A wholly engaging tour through everything we know and are still trying to learn about bumblebees. I saw Goulson, founder of the UK’s Bumblebee Conservation Trust, speak at a nature conference in November and found him to be just as enthusiastic and well-informed in person. His occasional anthropomorphisms are unfailingly endearing: “gangs of males can often be seen clustered together, reminiscent of a group of men propping up the bar in a pub.” I also especially liked “Sex has alway ...more
Tanja Berg
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
A marvelous little book about bumblebees! Non-fiction at its best, entertaining and thought provoking. I thought honey bees were important pollinators, but bumblebees are too. For example tomato plants are only pollinated by bumblebees. Until these were bred for commercial use in the 1990's or so, tomato plants were pollinated by hand - by humans! Sadly many bumblebees are on the verge of extinction due to invading species, disease and loss of habitat.

The author knows his subject intimately and
If this were only a book about British bumblebees, I imagine it would have a fairly limited audience. Fortunately, it offers much more and shares some important insights about the dangers of tampering with the environment without a proper understanding of how all of the parts work together. The author also provides fascinating examples of doing experimental biology in both lab and field and fears not to give accounts of experiments that went seriously wrong. His message is simple and amply illus ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, non-fiction
Between 3.5/4

An enlightening read about the nature and plight of (mostly) British bees and how important they are to us. Dave Goulson is clearly an expert on bees, and incredibly knowledgeable about a lot of other wildlife and insects, and this book is jam-packed with information he has garnered about bees and their behaviour throughout his academic career researching them across the UK and in New Zealand on various research trips with his PhD students. I have always been interested in bees, and
This is delightful little book about the bumblebee, written by Goulson, one of the few people who are experts on this amazing insect.

In the book he explains about the different species that we have in this country, and outlines some of the research projects that he has been doing on the populations of these bees, re-introduction programmes and other projects that his students have undertaken. He writes about a property that he bought in France, that he is turning the brass back into a wildlife m
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a fascinating and interesting book about bumblebees. Learned new stuff that I hope will make me a bit less fearful from bees, because as mentioned in the book there are different types and they don't fly around looking for people to sting. I usually read a few lines from introductions/prologue and then skip it, but I highly enjoyed the prologue of this book. I think once we look at insects as creatures that aren't disgusting, we'll find that they're actually far more interesting than we thi ...more
I was addicted to this lovely book! Thank You, Dave Goulson for writing this gem.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love bumblebees, but I only liked this book. It was like listening to my dear old grandpop who would go off on tangents and while the asides were often amusing.... what were we talking about? The best thing about the book is Goulson's obvious passion about bees and wildlife. I did learn a lot, but some of what I learned was't what I was hoping for. My favorite chapter was how he bought some land in France and has been steadily refashioning it into a wildflower/ bee sanctuary. That's what I'm s ...more
Justin Green
Super great and endearing science memoir - "This book will make you bee-conscious" in a fun and friendly way. Dave Goulson is both an expert and a charming author. The focus is Bumblebees (genus: Bombus) but a great many topics are traversed. Learned tangentially that "Dumbledore" is an old word for 'Bumblebee' (JK Rowling imagined him walking around humming to himself). Plus it sends the (relatively) simple message that we can help native species by shaping our gardens and farms and landscapes ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not a big fan of insects. If you know me personally, even a little, you’re probably laughing at the understatement there. So okay, the truth is that insects scare me silly. But so did disease at one point, and now look at me tearing through my degree and thinking of working in a lab to study infectious diseases… All through the power of reading enough about it to really pique my curiosity. So maybe I can do the same with insects, and hence this book. Not that bumblebees frighten me that drea ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An approachable introduction to bumblebees and British wildlife conservation issues in general. Very charming and humorous at points. Written more like an autobiography than a science textbook, so if you're looking into reading something different this year, would recommend picking this book up.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: natural-history
One man's adventure's studying bumblebees.

A lovely read.

May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So comfy
fellas, we gotta save the Bumblebees
Andree Sanborn
We live on the side of a mountain and have a brook running close to the back door. On the opposite side of the brook is a steep hill where blackberry, raspberry, native honeysuckle, birch, apple, tamarack and maple grow. What we didn't know was that there was a bumble bee nest in the hill, also. An animal dug up the nest two weeks ago, while I was reading this book. Whatever dug up our nest was not a bear (the excavation was too small and it was too close to the house), so we couldn't figure out ...more

BBC BLURB: Dave Goulson has always been obsessed with wildlife, from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets and dabbling in experimental taxidermy to his groundbreaking research into the mysterious ways of the bumblebee and his mission to protect our rarest bees.

Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee now only exists in the wilds of New Zealand, the descendants of a few queen bees shipped over in the nineteenth century. Dave Goulson shares exclusive research i
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of BUZZ about this really interesting book telling the evolution and history of bees. Goulson's enthusiasm for the natural world and the life of bees is contagious. The book is true science and fact but it is written in a way that is warm and delightful: I frequently found myself wanting to put it down to go bird and bee-watching.

Example; when talking about the sheer amount of energy/calories that bees burn through (they move their wings 200 times per second), he gives this analogy: It wou
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites

I really, really liked this book! For some reason I was expecting it to be dry, but it wasn't. Dave Goulson is engaging, funny, and his love for bumblebees is contagious, probably.

Bees are more related to their sisters than to their mums! WHAT. (Actual notes after I email my notes to myself.)
Amal El-Mohtar
My review on NPR (twinned with a review of Laline Paull's The Bees):
Rach Denholm
This beautifully presented book was a gift from Dr Lucy, the researcher who assisted with the information collection. Before I met Lucy, I would have preferred to crawl over broken glass than to read a whole book about Bees. Goulson has a rare gift of combining outrageous humour, subtle wit, glorious detailed facts, and a remarkable literary ability, devising a highly entertaining and fascinating book, all about bees.
I had a wonderful week in Oxford and purchased too many books from Blackwells.
I got about halfway through this book about bumblebees. I learned some really interesting things about bumblebees, like how sisters are genetically identical, how some insects mimic bumblebees and take over their nests, how bumblebees are different from honeybees, how queens rely on abandoned holes like mouse holes to make their nests in, how larger bumblebees are more often foragers and are actually better at foraging than smaller ones, maybe because they're smarter, etc. etc. Not sure if I'll ...more
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
I love all the amazing facts about the little cute bumblebee! <3
How the nature works is fantastic!
The only minus is the extra facts.. like how to stuff dead birds or butterflies.. just weird.
This summer Im going to look after bumblebees and try see what species they are :)
Aug 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so good. I learned so much about bumblebees and felt like I could read out so much of the interesting facts that I learned from this book.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Edutainment in the best sense of the meaning - learned a lot, laughed a lot, have been astonished by these amazing little beasts ...

Science fun for everyone!

Absolute reading recommendation!
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh little bees, I will go and plant Lavender in the garden this weekend.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reads-2019
The book opens with the story of the author travelling to New Zealand in search for a bumblebee now extinct in the UK. This makes for a compelling narrative in which the author navigates the reader through decades of research on bumblebees (and their recent dramatic decline) towards answering the question raised in the beginning of the book, i.e. can this short-haired bumblebee be successfully re-introduced to the British fields it came from? Although I am already very familiar with insect biolo ...more
Goska A
Smashing :) BeeWalk here I come!!!
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Toward the end of this book the author talks about how, even with a plethora of scientific studies showing the decline of bumblebees and the potential negative impact of that decline, simply doing scientific studies isn't enough. You need to get the word out. You need to reach the people who can make a difference. As a result he founded a bee conservation society in Great Britain.

I believe this book is also part of his attempt to get
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An entertaining and engrossing book about bumblebees -- and many other varieties of the 25,000 species of bees --. their vital place in Earth's eco system, packed full of facts from when bees first appeared on Earth, to in-hive battles to the death.

Dave Goulson has dedicated his life to researching bees, and takes us along on his trips to Tasmania, New Zealand, France and Australia on his research trips in the field.

His enthusiasm for his work shines through, keeping the reader smilin
Kelly Sedinger
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
What a terrific, engaging book! I loved this one, after I checked it out of the library pretty much on a whim. Dave Goulson is a bumblebee expert and this book is basically an introduction to the amazing world of the bees. So often I've ignored bumblebees in the wild, usually only interacting with them to swat them away, but this book gives a tremendous amount of insight into the science of these amazing creatures and the essential role they play in our environment. One such anecdote involves th ...more
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Nature Literature: A Sting in the Tail Discussion 14 17 Sep 21, 2014 09:03AM  

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After a childhood chasing butterflies and collecting bird’s eggs, I studied Biology at Oxford University, and then did a PhD on butterfly ecology at Oxford Brookes University. Shortly afterwards I got a lectureship at University of Southampton, where I stayed for 11 years. It was there that I began to specialize in bumblebee ecology and conservation. In 2006 I became Professor of Biology and Stirl ...more
“This simple fact explains an awful lot about the biology and conservation of bumblebees. They have to eat almost continually to keep warm; a bumblebee with a full stomach is only ever about forty minutes from starvation. If a bumblebee runs out of energy, she cannot fly, and if she cannot fly, she cannot get to flowers to get more food, so she is doomed” 4 likes
“The key to helping our rarer species to thrive is probably simply to add more flower patches to the landscape, making it a little easier for them to find food and keep their nests well provisioned.” 2 likes
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