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Bees: A Natural History Hardcover – September 12, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There are more species of bees than there are of birds and mammals combined. Although readers are familiar with the highly social honeybees and bumblebees, the majority of the world’s bees are solitary (or nonsocial). O’Toole (Bees of the World, 1992), an entomologist and bee expert, introduces readers to a sample of the world’s 20,000 bee species in this beautiful new book. Though honeybees and their long-term associations with humans are covered, the strength of the book is in its introduction of the rest of the kinds of bees. We learn of mason bees, euglossine bees, carpenter bees, and sweat bees. The lifestyle of the solitary bees, in which a female provides food for her developing offspring but does not directly care for them, is contrasted with the various stages of sociality in different species. The important role bees play in pollinating flowers—estimates are that one-third of human food depends on bee pollination—is illustrated both in the text and the accompanying photographs. The illustrations alone sell the book, with marvelous close-ups of a bee’s compound eyes and pollen-covered bees in flowers. The many appendixes and a large bibliography make this an informative introduction. --Nancy Bent


This volume provides an enjoyable survey of the world's bees and their relationships with plants, predators, and humans. It is aimed at general readers... It is generously illustrated with extraordinary, high-quality, color photographs by several photographers, and the layout is attractive... Although the book has a honey bee on the cover and honey bees receive plenty of attention in the sections on social bees and bee-human relations--one of its primary goals is to introduce readers to the world's wild bees, most of which are solitary. The volume begins with chapters on the biology of bees and an overview of the world's bee families. The next section covers bees as pollinators, first explaining the basics of pollination and then devoting two chapters to some of the "greatest hits" of pollination ecology, such as the bizarre-looking Rediviva bees of South Mrica, with their elongate front legs adapted for extracting oil from the floral spurs of their host plants. An additional chapter
deals with the many parasites that exploit the protein-rich provisions in bee nests. The concluding section addresses the relationship between bees and humans, starting with Paleolithic honey-gatherers and continuing through modern applications of honey bee products (many of them entertainingly debunked by O'Toole) in medicine and cosmetics. The book describes recent advances in bee conservation and management and ends with a strong argument for why more of us should learn about and advocate for wild bees... The photographs alone are worth the price of admission, and the text provides a good introduction to bee ecology and diversity. (Jessica Forrest Quarterly Reivew of Biology 2015-09-15)

It feels good to hold a well-crafted book in your hands, but Bees is not just a pretty frontispiece. Large, superb, close-up photos punctuate a fairly in-depth examination of the world's bees, both solitary and social, stinging, honey-storing or not. There are more than 20,000 identified species of bees (significantly more than birds and mammals combined), the authors have selected representative species and genera to ensure the book doesn't go on for too long. We learn that there is far more to bees than honey, and we must pay attention, as one-third of our food is bee-dependent... The book also contains pertinent information on diversity among bees, including grades of sociality; the role of males in bee society; why bees are good pollinators; and the role of bees in human lives. We discover that many species are stressed, largely through habitat loss, and what we can do in our own back yards to give bees a helping hand. This is an excellent resource for schools and nature centres,
and the clear prose and large text will be readable for advanced middle school students and up. (Alan Crook Green Teacher 2014-04-01)

Honeybees and bumblebees will be familiar to most people, but the numerous species of solitary bees are largely unknown. Chris O'Toole's book covers the broad spectrum of these bees, which occur throughout the world except in polar regions. The various groups of solitary and social bees are described and illustrated with some excellent colour photographs.... This book will appeal to anyone with an interest in bees and the process of pollination. (O. Andrew Halstead, beekeeper and recently retired Garden Magazine, Royal Horticultural Society 2014-03-01)

It is only correct to comment on the extraordinarily high quality of the photographs throughout and the great skill employed by the many photographers... This book will appeal to general naturalists and wildlife photographers as well as bee specialists and all-round entomologists too. (Stuart Roberts Bees, Wasps and Ants Society 2013-11-01)

I will never be able to look at a bee the same again! What an amazing book with 240 pages that draw the reader in! This oversize book (the better to see the photos) is a wealth of information concerning bees and their contribution to our world... Way too much information to take in one reading! This book is a must have! I recommend it! (Diana Wiig NSTA Recommends 2014-01-07)

Chris O'Toole, in conjunction with Tony Raw, wrote Bees of the World, which has become a seminal volume: this new book will rightfully take its place beside it on the bookshelf. ... It is (O'Toole's) writing style that makes him stand out. As an international scientist, he is accurate and detailed in his information yet he has the flowing style of a gifted writer: never verbose and never ever patronizing.... Questions of some simplicity, which a novice might be embarrassed to ask, but are vital to full and complete understanding, are answered and explained in such a way that even the highly informed will find fresh and interesting... The quality and detail of the wonderful colour photography of Edward Ross and others, which enhance almost every page, is truly the icing on this delicious cake. (Richard Jones Bee World International 2014-01-01)

This superbly illustrated volume ... plunges the reader into the world of a group of insects whose diversity and behaviors is an eloquent testimony to the precision of natural selection. (Gustavo Sancher Romero Entomology Association of Spain 2014-05-08)

O'Toole, an entomologist and bee expert, introduces readers to a sample of the world's 20,000 bee species in this beautiful new book... The strength of the book is in its introduction of the rest of the kinds of bees. (Nancy Bent Booklist 2013-12-01)

Understanding bee-plant relationships helps us provide food for the world. This beautifully-illustrated, appreciative tribute will be valuable to bee professionals, students, and naturalists. (American Bee Journal 2013-12-01)

This beautifully illustrated book provides the reader with an excellent overview of the 18,000 or so recognised species of bee found across the globe... The book is easy to read and a must for any serious student of the Hymenoptera. The author has been in the forefront of bee conservation in the UK for many years and here offers further good advice on how to reverse the declines recorded for many British species. (John Badmin British Journal of Entomology and Natural History 2014-10-01)

This book will be of interest to a wide audience. (Bees for Development Journal 2014-11-01)

Readers who wish to own one general book about bees will want to acquire this interesting, beautiful volume... The numerous and exceptional photographs, half page, full page, or larger, generously scattered throughout the book might suggest that the volume was intended for the coffee table, and it will grace many. However, this is a natural history work in the truest sense, containing a wealth of information about these fascinating insects. ... Broadly appealing. Highly recommended. (P. K. Lago, University of Mississippi Choice 2014-05-01)

Overall the book is very informative, easy to read and thoroughly recommended for the beginner, leaving the reader wanting more. (Adrian Spalding Entomologist's Gazette (2014) Vol. 65 2014-04-01)

I congratulate and thank the author. He has provided us with a wonderful account of bee natural history, which popularizes bees and stresses the importance of pollination. This will be helpful in their conservation as everybody can make the environment more suitable for bees... I recommend this book to everybody who is interested in the ecology of pollinators and looking for information on the conservation of biodiversity. This book should be present in every biological library, particularly those in schools, for use by beginners in the study of bee ecology. (A. Pridal, Mendel University, Brno European Journal of Entomology Vol 111 No 3 2014-07-01)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books; First Edition edition (September 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770852085
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770852082
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.9 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Knox on December 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful pictures accompanied by accurate descriptions of the life and times of honeybees. Highly recommend for the apiarists as well as non-beekeepers.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pollinators are so important in agriculture that one would think it would be unnecessary to emphasize this fact. Unfortunately many people don't realize how important these are, and especially the many species of solitary and a lesser numbers of social bees. Most people recognize the honey bee as important, but even then their knowledge of such is usually limited. Christopher O'Toole in "Bees: A Natural History" has produced an easy to read and well-illustrated volume that should correct this deficiency.

His coverage includes chapters on the definition of bees (solitary wasps that have taken up feeding their young pollen and nectar, and sometimes honey (processed nectar), and in some cases become social), the diversity of bees, the association with flowering plants, how bees live, the enemies of bees, the conservation of bees, bees in folklore and medicine, and finally how one can become a backyard bee scientist.

This subject is both extremely important and very timely, as bees are threatened almost everywhere. I recommend that anybody with even a minor interest in pollination, agriculture or conservation read this book. They will be well rewarded by the effort.
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Format: Hardcover
beautiful photos of many types of bees and writing about their evolution, stages of life, and how they organize themselves. I learned, among other things, that most bee species are non-social, that they have been around since the dinosaurs, that they evolved from wasps, and that if they survive a predatory attack from an opportunistic spider hiding among flower petals, that they will mark the flower with an alarm pheromone to warn their hive members of the lurking danger. checked the book out from the library and will buy a copy for myself when I can. 4 and 1/2 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I originally checked this book out at my local library. It really opened my eyes about the incredible variety of bees that are out there. The photographs in this book's illustrations are incredible. The cover photo is just one of many, many beautiful photos. It touches briefly on all species of bees with one chapter about honeybees. Like other commenters have said I can't praise the illustrations enough.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great Book. Photographs are exceptional. Information not seen in previous books on this topic. I have a large library of Bee Books. I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in bees.
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