The Nature and Necessity of Bees
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BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK JULY 2018
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 this book and you’ll never overlook them again.
‘[Thor Hanson] is a charmingly enthusiastic bee fanatic and his book is a pleasure to read.’
‘Popular science at its most accessible: fun, fascinating and full of engaging pen portraits of the scientists and bee enthusiasts he meets in the course of his research’
‘Since finishing the book I can’t walk past flowers without looking for bees. Buzz is illuminating, inspiring and irresistible: in short, the bee’s knees’
‘Popular science at its intelligent best’
‘Entertaining, well-informed … The real joy of the book is Hanson’s celebration of the range of lifestyles and extraordinary capabilities that bees possess, other than honey production.’
‘Hanson presents a smooth and accessible account of the insects that provide a significant amount of what we eat, introducing their fascinating diversity of behaviour. A reminder of why bees are wonders that we must protect.’
“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!”
"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 time—whatever subject Hanson turns his hand to, the result is spellbinding."
‘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.’
‘Buzz is a must-read for anyone with an inkling of an interest in the natural history of bees. Thor Hanson tells the story of bees, right from the beginning, from their evolution to how ancient civilizations recognised their importance to become honey hunters and beekeepers. The book goes well beyond the story of honeybees though, accounting for the lives of a multitude of species from bumblebees to leaf-cutters, and the hugely important role they play in pollinating our crops and wildflowers. Eloquent and captivating throughout, Hanson writes in a way which is accessible for all; his appendices, notes and glossary provide more detailed information and are as highly recommended as the main text.’
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
‘Packed with knowledge, imparted in the most interesting way by the biologist author, it is full of surprises. Even the chapter notes are fascinating.’
“Hanson is an insightful observer of evolution, at his most elegant when digging deep into the science…[His] senses are, indeed, sharp when observing the natural world.”
‘Buzz is an engaging mix of science, history, anecdote and geeky good humour. Hanson, an American biologist, wears his learning lightly, getting the science across without being dull or pedantic.’
“Buzz shines the most brightly…when Hanson’s own adoration of bees comes through: he wanders around the landscape observing them and musing about their natural history in ways that light up the page…A rewarding choice for readers keen on science and nature.”
“Charming…Hanson is an upbeat and often humorous guide…If you have time to read one book on what is happening with modern bees, you couldn’t do better than Buzz.”
“Timely…The core message of this charming book [is to] be fascinated, and hopefully that will lead us to take action to protect these marvelous and critically important insects.”
“For this natural history of the bee, biologist Thor Hanson wings far beyond the hive to explore bee species from ‘bumbles’ to wool carders… Apiology, Hanson reminds us, is not just about the scientific buzz: bee behaviour has shed light on human issues from addiction to collective decision-making.”
‘Thoroughly absorbing and entertaining’