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.
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Bumblebees - an introduction - By Dr Nikki Gammans, Dr Richard Comont, S.C Morgan and Gill Perkins (2018)
This book, written by Bumblebee Conservation Trust staff, fills that gap by introducing these charismatic species to a wider audience. The book covers bumblebee biology, their decline, conservation and what you can do to help them in your garden and beyond. It also has an essential identification guide to all UK bumblebee species, packed with over 250 colour photographs. Available to order online here.
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.
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.
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.
"Buzz: The Nature and necessity of bees". By Thor Hanson (2018)
In Buzz, the award-winning author of Feathers and The Triumph of Seeds 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 is available here and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to help bees.