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Good Reads  Insects & other Invertebrates  Insects  Bees, Ants & Wasps (Hymenoptera)

Buzz The Nature and Necessity of Bees

Popular Science Nature Writing
By: Thor Hanson(Author)
291 pages, 8 plates with 16 colour photos; b/w photos, b/w illustrations, tables
Publisher: Icon Books
Marvellously written, Buzz will leave you in awe of the many bee species around us.
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  • Buzz ISBN: 9781785785115 Paperback Apr 2019 Out of stock with supplier: order now to get this when available
  • Buzz ISBN: 9781785783746 Hardback Jul 2018 Out of Print #241361
Selected version: £10.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

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 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 Buzz and you'll never overlook them again.

Customer Reviews (2)

  • Marvellously written and awe-inspiring
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 10 Jul 2018 Written for Hardback

    Sure, I have been lectured about the birds and the bees, and yet I learned an awful lot more about the bees from Thor Hanson’s latest work Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees. Hanson has previously written popular works about feathers and seeds, and in Buzz he turns his attention to bees. Already this book has garnered a lot of positive press and was Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4. Most people associate bees with honey and therefore with the honeybee, Apis mellifera, but Hanson specifically wants to talk about all the other thousands of bee species, many of which are as interesting and as important.

    Buzz showcases Hanson’s masterful storytelling, as he effortlessly darts from first-hand observations in the field and interviews with scientists while researching this book to accessible overviews of bee biology. Along the way, he covers evolution (likely they evolved from vegetarian wasps), fossils in amber, morphology, solitary nesting species, pollination, and bee-plant coevolution. The second half of the book is dedicated to our relationship with bees, from the ancient bond between birds and humans exemplified by the aptly named bird species Indicator indicator that guides people to wild bee hives, to their current underappreciated role as pollinators of commercial crops. The scale at which beehives are trucked around the US to assist in pollinating fruit trees and other crops was staggering to read. Several chapters are dedicated to the threats facing bees, including the still largely unresolved issue of Colony Collapse Disorder (likely a confluence of multiple stressors) and the threat of pesticides, including neonicotinoids. Hanson paints a nuanced picture of these issues, noting how they have rapidly become politicised and not a little bit mired in controversy.

    Black-and-white photos and illustrations are scattered throughout the book, and a colour plate section showcases some of the marvellous macrophotographs of bee species in the holdings of the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab (once you start down their photo collection on Flickr, it is hard to stop), though it unfortunately does not reproduce some of the black-and-white photos elsewhere in the book.

    The book is well researched, calling first-hand on the expertise of authorities such as Charles D. Michener (author of The Bees of the World), Michael S. Engel (co-author of Evolution of the Insects), and Robbin W. Thorp (co-author of Bumble Bees of North America), and comes with a bibliography and glossary. Even so, the science is doled out lightly, gently incorporated into Hanson’s narrative. Whether its the iridescent chitin of a sweat bee of the genus Nomia Hanson falls in love with, or the grace of the 80+ year old bee curator Jerry Rozen as he teaches bee identification in the blistering August heat of the Arizona desert – Hanson portrays both the bees and the scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying them very sympathetically, revealing the passion evoked by these miraculous insects. This book is right up there with Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale, and is an enchanting piece of natural history writing that will be enjoyed by a wide readership.
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  • Personally disappointed
    By Chris 20 Sep 2018 Written for Hardback
    Thor Hanson has the reputation from his previous books of amazing revelations about natural history. That can only be for an American audience. I would not recommend his Buzz book about bees to anybody as he does not expand the existing discussion points in the scientific community. I would support the fact that his text is not factually inaccurate and he is not supporting some sort of warped view that human interference and climate change doesn't exist. He is honest enough to reveal how he wasn't that good initially at collecting bees in the field and when he did manage to net some bees then the obligation to kill them so as to take them back for further analysis made him feel compromised. The other positive is his incidental remarks about his young son's growing interest in bees. However we have already since 2010 had three books authored by Professor Dave Goulson who is based in the UK which are much more interesting, full of more science, and in terms of field-based mishaps a lot funnier
    2 of 3 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No


Thor Hanson is a biologist whose research and conservation activities have taken him around the globe. His previous books include The Impenetrable Forest, Feathers (longlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize), and The Triumph of Seeds. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and contributed to publications including BBC Wildlife and the Huffington Post. He lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest, USA.

Popular Science Nature Writing
By: Thor Hanson(Author)
291 pages, 8 plates with 16 colour photos; b/w photos, b/w illustrations, tables
Publisher: Icon Books
Marvellously written, Buzz will leave you in awe of the many bee species around us.
Media reviews

"Thor Hanson is a magician at making entomology and taxonomy exciting, highlighting the fascinating world of bees. Buzz hums with science and history, exposing how bees have shaped our world. A delightful, buzzworthy must-read!"
– Daniel Chamovitz, author of What a Plant Knows

"This book is a joy. In it, Thor Hanson reminds us that the story of bees is the story of the origin of societies, of sweetness and collapse, of flowers and their sex, and if the humans who study all of these things. It is a story of evolution and biodiversity, a story that bears on much of the food we eat but also so very much else. Buy it. Read it. Read it again. And when you do, you will look out at the buzzing world anew."
Rob Dunn, author of Never Home Alone and The Wild Life of Our Bodies

"This beautifully written natural history book, brought to us by a graceful and talented author, packs surprise after surprise with every turn of the page. Who knew bees were just evolved wasps? Or that ancient Egyptians ferried bees up and down the Nile to pollinate their crops? Don't pass this one up."
Wendy Williams, author of The Horse

"As he did for feathers and seeds, Thor Hanson has written a wonderfully engaging work of natural history that will delight readers with its elegant prose, surprising stories, and deep humanity. Bees, so important to life on earth, are fortunate to have someone as passionate and knowledgeable as Hanson tell the tale of their evolutionary past, turbulent present, and precarious future. After reading Buzz, you will look at bees with a profound mixture of awe and gratitude."
– Eric Jay Dolin, author of Black Flags, Blue Waters, and Leviathan

"Thor Hanson is a gifted story teller and naturalist. In Buzz, he takes us along on a wondrous, action-packed journey to discover the secret lives of bees, flowers, and the unconventional men and women who study them. This book really is the buzz about bees, and it's destined to become a natural history classic."
– Stephen Buchmann, author of The Reason for Flowers

"Never highbrow or authoritative, Thor Hanson writes with the infectious enthusiasm of one encountering wonders for the first time; less a teacher than a fellow traveller on a shared voyage of discovery. Surely among the finest nature writers of our timewhatever subject Hanson turns his hand to, the result is spellbinding."
– Katrina Van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird and Unnatural Selection

'Thor Hanson's new book, Buzz, is a wonderful romp through the world of "all-things bee", informative as well as thoroughly entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the "Keeping Dumbledores" chapter, a touching narrative of Thor and his son's trials and tribulations as they attempt to get bumblebees (dumbledores being an archaic name for them) to nest in old boots and other locations in their back yard. Their repeated attempts are captivating, as Hanson surreptitiously allows us to imagine how honeybees could originally have been domesticated by earlier human generations.'
Chris Thomas, author of Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in a Time of Extinction and President of the UK's Royal Entomological Society

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