Books about bumblebees, bees and other useful books


Alford, D. V. (1975). Bumblebees. Davis-Poynter Ltd.

This is a very comprehensive book full of photographs and drawings of British bumblebees.

Benton, T. (2000). The Bumblebees of Essex. Lopinga Books.

Although this book is about bumblebees found in Essex, it is such a species rich county that the book can be applied to most of the UK and northern Europe. It includes a chapter on natural history, an identification key, individual species accounts and a lot of clear and useful photographs, as well as very detailed information of where to see bumblebees in Essex. This is a very useful book for anyone wanting to know more, especially those living in the south-east of England.

Benton, T (2006). Bumblebees. Collins.

This book is one of the Collins New Naturalist series, and as with all books in this series it is excellent. With over 500 pages, a huge number of photographs, and a key to identify the British species, what more could you want? (2013). Recognising common British bumblebees.

This is an enlarged and updated edition of the free book below. It is available from Amazon. It includes all of the free book, but all the sections have been expanded with more information and more photographs.

Edwards, M. & Jenner, M. (2005) Field Guide to the Bumblebees of great Britain & Ireland. Ocelli Ltd.

This is one of the easiest books on the market for identifying bumblebees. It is full of very good colour photographs to aid in identification, and is small enough to slip into your pocket.

Goulson, D. (2003). Bumblebees: Their behaviour and ecology. Oxford University Press.

An excellent book covering just what one would expect from the title.

Goulson, D. (2013). A sting in the tail. Jonathan Cape.

This is a charming book. It is an autobiography that concentrates on his scientific interests. A great read for those interested in natural history, for students considering a career in academia, and of course, for anyone, anywhere with even the slightest interest in bumblebees.

Heinrich, B. (1979 & 2004). Bumblebee Economics. Harvard University Press.

This book is great for identifying the North American species, and superb for explaining the energetics involved in keeping the colony going.

Intenthron, Manfred and Gerrard, John. (1999). Making nests for bumble bees. International Bee Research Association.

This is a small, inexpensive booklet available from IBRA full of really simple ways of attracting bumblebees to nest in your garden.

Kearns, C. A. and Thompson, J. D. (2001). The natural history of bumblebees, a sourcebook for investigations. University Press of Colorado.

This is an excellent little book. I would recommend this book for anyone in the US or Canada instead of the Prys-Jones book below. It has many photographs of native north American bumblebees, it is really informative and easy to read and understand. There are lots of ideas for projects and further research. And for those who just like pottering about in the garden and countryside you'll learn a lot more about what is going on between the bees and your flowers.

Macdonald, M, (2003). Bumblebees. Scottish Natural Heritage.

A small book in the Naturally Scottish series with wonderful photographs.

Matheson, Andrew (Ed.). (1996). Bumble bees for pleasure and profit. International Bee Research Association.

Another inexpensive booklet available from IBRA. Detailing all aspects of bumblebee life. This book would be especially useful for teacher looking for ideas for simple projects that require little or no equipment. My only complaint about this book is that it doesn't provide a picture guide or key to the common species, so you still need to look in Prys-Jones.

O'Toole, Christopher. (2002). Bumblebees. Osmia Publications, Banbury, England.

A small book on bumblebee natural history, how to attract them to the garden and provide nests and nest sites.

Pinchen, Bryan J. (2006). A pocket Guide to the Bumblebees of Britain and Ireland. Forficula Books.

At just £5 this book is a bargain. With clear drawings and descriptions of all the British and Irish bumblebees. And it really is small enough to carry in your pocket.

Prys-Jones, O. E. and Corbet, S. A. (1987, 1991). Bumblebees. Pelagic Publishing.

This is a tiny, inexpensive book, but it is so full of information and ideas that it is the book I would recommend you to buy. Again the contents are about British bumblebees, but are relevant to bumblebees anywhere. Fortunately or unfortunately it can easily fit into the pocket, consequently you will carry it everywhere and use it constantly throughout the summer. My first copy fell to bits long ago through overuse, and I'm now on my second. This was the first book on bees I ever read. There is now a new edition of this book (2011) which includes a chapter on threats and conservation.

Sladen, F. W. L. (1912, 1989). The humble-bee. Macmillian and Co. Ltd.

First published over ninety years ago, reissued in 1989. This is one book where I would recommend the later edition as it contains Sladen’s first publication written, produced and bound and sold by him when he was only 16 but already an expert. The book to buy as a present or to put on your wish list and use when your Prys-Jones has fallen to bits. No-one can study or read about bumblebees without coming across the name of F W L Sladen. The ease he had in getting queens to nest has never been matched.


Meredith, A. (2014) Saving the Bees. CreateSpace.

This is a charming book written for younger readers, although I imagine parents will enjoy it too. In fact it is the perfect book to read together. It covers both social and solitary bees. Like most books nowadays it is available on Amazon.

O'Toole, Christopher and Raw, Anthony. (1999). Bees of the world. Blandford.

This is a newer paperback edition of an earlier book. The title says it all. The photographs are very good as are the drawings, and it is packed full of information.

Zahradnik, J. (1991). A Field Guide in Colour to Bees and Wasps. Blitz Editions.

This book includes the ants and sawflies too, and covers Europe. There are over 280 illustrations, a mixture of photographs and drawings, all in colour. And at only $7.99 this book is a bargain. There is a useful key to take you as far as Order or Family and information on size and distribution.


Chinnery, M. (1993). Collins Field Guide; Insects of Britain & Northern Europe.

This book is one of the excellent Collins Field Guides. It is clearly laid out and so well written with plenty of illustrations. It contains a huge amount of information, but can easily be used by a complete novice to insects, as well as the professional. In fact it is possibly the best book for a novice to start off with.

Barth, F. G. (1991). Insects and Flowers: The Biology of a partnership. Princeton University Press.

This is a fascinating book full of the most wonderful close-up photographs that show you just how well certain insects are suited to pollinate certain flowers. He explains things so simply and so well.

Pilkington, George. (2002). Gardening for wildlife. Alfresco Books.

The title will tell you that this is not a book about bumblebees, however if you follow the advice in this book you will help bumblebees and many other animals. The book gives practical explanations in a simple and clear way how to do things such as build a pond, plant for bees, feed different bird species, and much more. It is written for the Northern European species, but could be used anywhere in the world.

Smith, L. (2014). Characteristics of the insect orders. Amazon.

Characteristics of the insect orders with drawings and photographs to help you understand the differences between the different types of insect, and identify which order an insect is in, as well as fast facts about each insect order, and links to web pages with more detailed information. Many orders have separate sections about the life cycle of the insect as well as its habitat requirements, and fossil history.

Wilson, E.O. (1972). The Insect Societies. Belknap Press.

This book covers all the social insect families, it is a good read and useful for reference. Any good library should have a copy.

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