A Sting in the Tale review - A Book to Make You Bee-Conscious

The Guardian   By  Nicholas Lezard               4/22/14

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees  (By Dave Goulson)

Dave Goulson presents an entertaining, fascinating and important study of the plight of the bumblebee.

It was Peter Cook who first formally identified the comic potential of the bee; there is something funny about them (such as Cook's Holy Bee of Ephesus, who buzzed around Our Saviour on the cross). They may sting (not the males, though, I was pleased to learn), but they also have charm, and, literally, sweetness. The bumblebee is the most charming of the lot; even its Latin name, Bombus, is amusing, and in the way Professor Goulson tells its story, we are never far from a smile, however clearly he states their grave predicament. It would appear their charm has rubbed off on him.

I noticed the words "bestseller" on the cover of this book, and thought "Come off it," but Goulson is particularly gifted at transmitting his enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, these flying balls of fur, so it shouldn't be a surprise. Experts in animal behaviour do tend to be, to a hugely engaging degree, oddballs. (Cf Hugh Warwick's A Prickly Affair, about hedgehogs, which I reviewed four years ago.)

It might be best, though, if you read this book in solitude. Right from the start, anyone near me was at risk of being bombarded with Fascinating Facts I'd picked up. For instance...