From the award-winning author of The Triumph of Seeds and Feathers, a natural and cultural history of the buzzing wee beasties that make the world go round. Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.
This book focuses on species other than honey bees although they do figure into a chapter or two. Hanson says there are copious better sources of information on that species. Instead this book talks about wild bees and their role in, and influence on, nature and agriculture. It’s written quite well and full of personal anecdotes about his field work and writing process.
A few things I learned from this book -
Bees have two pairs of wings (that part I knew) that can hook together (that part I didn’t). They use this function to adjust lift during flight. Wow. There’s a lot more about exactly how bees, and especially the flight-maligned bumblebee, actually fly. From incredible muscle energy application to create 200+ strokes per second to that wings don’t move up and down, but laterally in a scooping motion, it’s an eye opening reveal. (p 46-7)
And no wonder they’ve had to evolve such elaborate flight mechanisms. The specialized hairs on bees can, depending on species, hold more than 25% of the bee’s bodyweight. That’s like an average sized person carrying a 50 pound backpack around all day. (p 83)
Not all bees have stingers. Only true hive/colonial bees can sting. Solitary bees, which make up the majority of the population, don’t have them. So cute little mason, sweat, digger, leaf-cutter, wool-carder and alkali bees pose no threat. Not that honey or bumble bees really do either. I’ve found both species quite blase about my nearness to them and only once did I get in trouble by being too nosy at a bumble bee nest in my yard. I can’t remember if I got stung or not, but I did get chased! (p 108)
Mice and rats will eat bumble bee larvae and honey stores are are often the cause of nest failure in early spring before there are enough workers to defend the nest. Not sure if this carries to chipmunks or voles, but it might. Darn rodents! (p 155)
Two things kept this from being a perfect book. That the illustrations and photos are not in color. Understandable though and I can’t knock keeping the price down. The second thing are the endnotes. They’re not indicated in the text at all and so even if you did want to read them in the narrative flow, it’s almost impossible. I found them informative and would prefer to have had them as page notes so I could read them immediately when referred to.
"Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing."
If you're looking for information on bees look no further. This book starts a hundred and twenty five million years ago at the very history of the modern be and takes you on a journey through the ages into what is now known as our honey bee. The book goes over the importance of the be not only in the role it plays in nature but also the role it plays in mythology and inhuman beliefs.
Incredibly detailed but beautifully written. I would normally say that a book like this is too long but in order to encompass all of the information it has to be that way. I understand why the author made the book as long as it is. You just can't make it any shorter and do the subject justice. I now know more about bees than I ever thought I would thanks to this book. Although it was informative and a reference book in nature it was not daunting to read. Thor Hanson does a wonderful job of threading the story together in a way that makes it easier for the reader to follow. This book is not just for scientists it's for everyone!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in knowing a little bit more about the subject. Good book!