Please note that corrections to the Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles have been issued by author Mike Edwards and can be downloaded here (44 kb, updated June 2019).
Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles provides a comprehensive and authoritative account of the current state of knowledge of the British bee fauna. As well as original work, it draws upon a wide range of sources and contributions which have provided distribution data, and both autecological and historical information. Distribution data and maps for all of Ireland – provided by the Irish National Diversity Centre, Dublin – are included.
The bee fauna of the British Isles contains representatives of nearly all the bee subfamilies found worldwide. This two-volume handbook allowed the identification of the 270-plus bee species recorded including the small group of species reported from the Channel Islands but unknown from the rest of the British Isles.
Volume 1 provides the background to bees and the terms necessary to describe species and to use the identification keys. These keys initially guide the user to one of the 29 genera found in the British Isles and then to the species found in the genus. They have been extensively tested during their development at workshops for the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS) and the British Entomological and Natural History Society (BENHS). The keys are extensively illustrated with line drawings and stacked-focus images detailing identification features. Where necessary, line drawings have been overlaid on photographic images allowing the best features of traditional line drawings and modern photography to be combined.
Volume 2 contains detailed species accounts giving the ecology of each species together with photographs, the majority of live bees in their habitat, and distribution maps of the 270-plus species of bees found in the British Isles.
Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles is the culmination of more than forty years of study of the British bee fauna by George Else, an entomologist (now retired) at the Natural History Museum in London and Mike Edwards, a professional ecologist. Paul Brock, the photographic editor, as well as dealing with the many images contributed to this work, provided many originals taken specifically for this work.
The extensive and exhaustive information that has been gathered and presented has resulted in Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles being the definitive work on the bee fauna of the British Isles as well as an invaluable aid to the identification of individual species.
"These volumes, despite minor criticism, are a magnificent addition to British bee literature and should be required reading for anyone interested in bees. The authors [...] have produced a work that is fittingly described in the agent's publicity as "a once-in-a-generation identification work". It should inspire a new generation of melittologists to carry on a study of insects that are not just fascinating but a vital part of the ecosystem."
– Graham A. Collins, Atropos 64, September 2019
"Comprising two A4-page volumes, this is an imposing tome in more ways than one. [...] This publication will be invaluable to a wide group of people. Many serious naturalists have for long wanted to study this fascinating sub-order of insects but, until the last few years, they will have been thwarted by a lack of up-to-date and complete literature. The comprehensive, though occasionally complex, identification keys should allow the careful student to name species with some confidence. Site-managers or those with less specialised natural-history interests will find the species profiles an invaluable encyclopaedia of information about species that others may have brought to their attention, allowing them to consider site management or broader conservation initiatives to benefit those insects that are in their guardianship."
– Adrian Knowles, British Wildlife 30(2), December 2018
"[...] The synergy of [the authors' ] labors and talents has birthed the stunning Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles, a contribution that will certainly remain, like the works of Kirby and Saunders before them, a standard reference and template for the study of bees for generations to come. [...] Minor faults aside, this is a tremendous tour de force for British melittology and the authors have every right to be proud of the grand volumes they have lovingly produced. It shall be required reading for anyone invested in the British and Irish faunas, but will also be a reached-for reference by melittologists abroad. I enthusiastically recommend Handbook of the Bees of the British Isles to everyone interested in our world’s pre-eminent pollinators."
– Michael S. Engel, Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine 155(2)
"[...] I predict these two sumptuous volumes on British bees will transform our study of this group in Britain and Ireland and remain the standard texts for several decades to come. [...]"
– John Badmin, British Journal of Entomology and Natural History 32, 2019
"Das opulente und großformatige Werk ist das Ergebnis jahrzehntelanger Arbeit zweier "Urgesteine" der britischen Wildbienenforschung, von denen einer auch Gründungsmitglied der renommierten Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS) war. Gerade aus diesem Kreis haben noch weitere Personen mitgewirkt und die Bestimmungsschlüssel ausgiebig getestet. [...] Insgesamt ein auch für mitteleuropäische Bienenkundler sehr empfehlenswerten Grundlagenwerk. Einzig der hohe Preis wird für übersichtliche Verkaufszahlen sorgen – außer ein fallendes englisches Pfund sorgt für einen besseren Preis."
– Rolf Witt, Ampulex 10, 2018
"[...] An invaluable reference text."
– Bees for Development Journal 129, December 2018