A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson

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A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson

Buy A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Reference
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A lively and entertaining introduction into the world of bumblebee conservation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099575122

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It seems that Dave Goulson, founder of the incredibly successful Bumblebee Conservation Trust, did not always have natural aptitude for helping wildlife if his early recollections are anything to go by. Despite boundless enthusiasm and a passion for the natural world, his childhood efforts to give nature a helping hand quite frequently ended in some sort of gory aftermath. For example, there was the incident with the drowned bumblebees, in which a young Goulson unwisely decided to dry the bedraggled victims out on the hotplate of the electric cooker. Then there was the time he accidentally dropped a live electrical heater into his aquarium, frying the poor fish instantly. I could go on to mention the beheading of the footless quail, the snake wrapped in sticky tape and the countless taxidermy experiments, but alas, time does not permit. Suffice to say that despite this unpromising start in life, things did eventually improve...

A Sting in the Tale is a lively and fascinating account of Goulson’s work with bumblebees, most notably his efforts to reintroduce a species known as the Short Haired Bumblebee which died out in the UK in the 1980s. The bee is widespread in New Zealand, ironically as a result of their introduction from the UK in the 1870s. Goulson and his team were keen to find out whether it would be possible to reverse the process and bring some of the New Zealand bees back to the UK. To do this, they needed to assess whether conditions would be favourable for the bees’ successful reestablishment, as well as working out the tricky logistics of transporting hibernating queen bees to the other side of the world where the seasons would be out of synch with their body clocks.

The book is brimming with interesting facts and figures about our native bumblebees, which helped me to cultivate a newfound appreciation for our fuzzy friends. For example, we learn that bees know which flowers have been visited by other bees because of the odours left behind on their footprints. We find out why big bees make better foragers than small ones and how bees manage to find their way home, even at great distances.

We also learn about the weird and wonderful world of bee conservation, which involves such odd activities as pasting numbers onto worker bees, chopping off bee toes and collecting them in pots, squishing male bee heads in solvent to make pheromone paint and chopping the feet off old museum specimens. Who says that bee conservation is boring?

A Sting in the Tale was a joy to read and unusually, for a non-fiction book, I managed to devour the whole thing in three days. I’m off now to plant some bee-friendly plants in my garden. As Goulson points out:

Perhaps if we learn to save a bee today, we can save the world tomorrow?

Lovers of British Wildlife may also enjoy At the Water's Edge: A Walk in the Wild by John Lister-Kaye

Buy A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson at Amazon.co.uk

Buy A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson at Amazon.com.


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