An unexpected parcel arrived a few days ago: a large and glossy book entitled ‘The Bees in Your Backyard – a guide to North America’s bees’, published by Princeton University Press. I found a note inside asking me to write a review and post them 2 copies.

Of course, I first looked at the 5/288 pages concerning honeybees. I soon noticed a split infinitive and found that North America doesn’t include Mexico!

The honeybees the authors studied must be wimps! They don’t fly at less than 55 degrees F. Mine were flying as if mid-summer at 51F a few days ago, bringing in loads of pollen. I have seen pollen of 2 colours coming in at 48F and bees flying happily at 43F.

Jerry Bromenshenk of the Uni of Montana says his fly in the mid-low 40s in the fall if food is available and Marianne Arnold in the far west of Canada, who thinks in centigrade, says hers fly at less than 10C (50F) and Ettamarie Petersen in California says hers fly at 50F.

So either the honeybees in the book are wimps or there was no forage around when the authors looked.

There was an inset box in which they mentioned the use of trained honeybees for bomb detection, a project initiated by Jerry B. Rothamsted have been doing something similar for drug detection at airports etc.

The book has hundreds of beautiful pictures and identification aids for very many different species of bees. It would be helpful if they included a pull-out pocket guide for readers to take into the field (or backyard) for use as the book isn’t very portable and it would be a pity to have to kill a bee just to take it home to see what it is (or was!).

I did look up the Carpenter Bee, the only species I remember seeing on my trip to Virginia a few years ago.

I took the book to a meeting of DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) yesterday and handed it round. I heard comments such as: ‘brilliant!’ ‘fantastic!’, ‘beautiful photos’ and ‘How much is it?’

If they ever get around to doing a version for the British Isles I’d buy it. In the meantime American nature lovers (and I’m convinced there are several) should look out for it.


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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  1. The Apiarist says:

    Chris … there is an excellent recent Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland (ISBN 978-1-910389-02-7). It’s written by Steven Falk, a widely respected entomologist, with great illustrations by Richard Lewington. In this only 2 of the ~430 pages are on honeybees (!), but it’s none the worse for that. Each of the 275 bee species is photographed, illustrated and has a distribution map with half a page or so of text. There are keys to discriminate between species. The book is A5 sized, so just about portable if you’re feeling strong. It’s got a huge amount of information in it. Steven Falk has a Flikr account with bee photographs, which give a good idea of the quality of the illustrations in the book – see

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