3.5 out of 5 stars

Bees have been revered by humanity for generations, they have provided honey but most importantly have been key pollinators for the plants that we rely on for foods. Not just honey bees, but other pollinators that we rely on are the more solitary bees that we don’t notice as much. It is these bees that Thor Hanson concentrates on in this book, beginning 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young.

There are around 20,00 species of bee in the world today and even in the UK, we have 270 different species. Even though we most commonly see honey bees and bumblebees around, 250 of the bees in the UK are solitary bees, diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons. If you know where to look then finding then isn’t difficult. I have found leafcutter bees in our garden, making homes in the holes in the brickwork of our garage.

Hanson is fascinated by them and is passing that fascination onto his son. He looks at how we have evolved with the help of these insects and how we are dependant on them for the food that we eat, going as far as to dissect a fast food meal to show what would be left if we didn’t have them pollinating flowers. There are photos of some of the species that he covers in the book, I never realise that there were iridescent blue bees, having always imagined them in the usual brown and yellow stripes.

It is an engaging book, Hanson is passionate about his little subjects and that is very evident from his prose. It is very US-centric, and if you want to read more about UK bees then I would recommend Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard or any of Dave Goulson’s books.

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