Recommended reading

Our staff and partners have recommended the following books about bumblebees, their habitats and identification for people who are keen to learn more. This is not an exhaustive list but should be enough to get you started.

If you are buying any of these books through Amazon then please remember to use our special BBCT link so that 8% of your purchase is donated back to bumblebee conservation. This does not affect the price that you pay. To make use of this fundraising tool just click on the image of the book you are interested in.

Bumblebee identification

Field guide to the bumblebees of Britain and Ireland (revised edition), by Mike Edwards & Martin Jenner (2009, currently out of print)
An excellent beginner’s guide to identifying the British bumblebees, with a double-page spread on each species detailing where and when to find it, any preferred habitat, and information on how to identify the species. Features pictures of both males and females for each species alongside a very useful ‘ready-reckoner’ of thorax and abdomen patterns to home in on similar species.

Bumblebees (3rd edition, Naturalists’ Handbook series), by Oliver Prys-Jones & Sarah Corbet (2011)
Probably the single best combination of ID help and cost of any of the bumblebee books currently available, this guide (in common with the rest of the Naturalists’ Handbook series) offers a wide-ranging account of bumblebee ecology, preferences, natural enemies, and identification. Keys are user-friendly and can generally be used successfully with the naked eye or a hand lens, and illustrations are clear and plentiful.

A field guide to the bees of Great Britain and Ireland, by Steven Falk & Richard Lewington (2015)
The first book since 1896 to cover all the bee species – solitary, bumble and honey – found in the UK and Ireland, lavishly illustrated with Richard Lewington’s artwork alongside photographs of the bees. Keys can be difficult because of the nature of the distinguishing features between some species, and a microscope will still be required for some species/groups, but this book is a quantum leap forwards for bee ID. Best used alongside Steven Falk’s British Bees Flickr galleries.

Bumblebees (New Naturalist series), by Ted Benton (2006)
A detailed account of the behaviour and ecology of bumblebees. Ted Benton combines 15 years of his own field studies of the species with all the latest research and findings, to provide a detailed and comprehensive account of the lives of the 25 species of bumblebee found throughout the UK.

Solitary bees (Naturalists’ Handbook series), by Ted Benton (2017)
The most numerous group of bees in Britain are not bumblebees or honeybees, but solitary bees, so called because they do not live in colonies, but rather make individual nests to rear their young. There are some 230 species of these bees in the UK, including mason bees, miner bees and leafcutter bees, and most of them pollinate a variety of crops and wild plants. This book provides a window on the ecology, conservation and natural history of these overlooked species, as well as a key to biological classification.

Bumblebees of North America, by Paul Williams, Robbin Thorp, Leif Richardson and Sheila Colla (2014)
This book is a must-have guide to the bumblebees of North America. It has identification charts for all 46 species, along with habitat and ecological information. It is richly illustrated, with colour photographs, diagrams and maps. A bonus is that the paperback form means that it's easily taken into the field when observing bees. It is suitable for amateur recorders, as well as those who take part in the more advanced recording using dissection.

Bumblebee ecology

Bumblebees (RSPB Spotlight series), by Richard Comont (2017)
A very readable ramble through the life of a bumblebee colony, from queens emerging from winter dormancy, proceeding through the nesting and foraging stages, and on to mating and hibernation. It also covers their evolution – how bees came to be - and how their presence has affected popular culture.

A Sting in the Tale, by Dave Goulson (2013)
Written by one of the lead bumblebee researchers, this book is an excellent introduction to bumblebees. It is highly recommended for anyone who has an interest in bumblebees, as it explains the life and conservation of bumblebees through charming anecdotes and tales of his adventures in research, in a way that no other publication does. Dave goes on to describe how he founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and looks to the future conservation of bumblebees.

Bumblebees – behaviour, ecology, and conservation (2nd edition), by Dave Goulson (2010)
This book provides an excellent review of the major advances in the understanding of bumblebee ecology and behaviour that have been made in the past 30 years.

Gardening for bumblebees

Plants for bees - A guide to the plants that benefit the bees of the British Isles, by W.D.J. Kirk and F.N. Howes (2013)
This is an excellent resource for people who want to learn more about how they can turn their gardens into bee havens. It has a wealth of information about plants and pollinators and even gives details about which plants are best suited to the different bee species.

The wildlife gardener – creating a haven for birds, bees and butterflies, by Kate Bradbury (2013)
In this book Kate provides advice on what to grow in your garden to benefit wildlife and things to do to cater for specific species of birds, mammals, bees, butterflies, moths and pond life.

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