A Sting in the Tale, Paperback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


This is a Sunday Times bestseller. It is shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize.

Dave Goulson has always been obsessed with wildlife, from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets and dabbling in experimental taxidermy to his groundbreaking research into the mysterious ways of the bumblebee and his mission to protect our rarest bees.

Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee is now extinct in the UK, but still exists in the wilds of New Zealand, descended from a few queen bees shipped over in the nineteenth century.

A Sting in the Tale tells the story of Goulson's passionate drive to reintroduce it to its native land and contains groundbreaking research into these curious creatures, history's relationship with the bumblebee, the disastrous effects intensive farming has had on our bee populations and the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.




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This is a marvellous book - informative yet also immensely entertaining. Dave Gouslon, professor of Biology at the universities of Southampton and then Stirling, has had a lifelong fascination with most forms of wildlife, but bumblebees in particular.<br/><br/>I found the early chapters especially engaging, filled as they were with Goulson's recollections of his childhood. This was certainly unusual, with hours and hours spent dissecting the numerous examples of roadkill that he found on the nearby lanes, using scalpel and other tools from a kit that he had persuaded hi grandparents to give him … for his ninth birthday. By the time he was a couple of years older he had moved on to trying to stuff them, again using items from a kit that he had bought from a catalogue. I did occasionally find myself wondering whether I was reading the recollected episodes from the learning curve of a serial killer!<br/><br/>However, as far as I am aware (and at least as far as is discernible from the book) Goulson steered clear of such a career, opting instead for life as an academic specialising in entomology. The amount of information that he provides about insect life in general, and bumblebees in particular, is amazing, though the reader is never left struggling to absorb a soulless procession of facts. His prose is clear, accessible and amusing, and his subject matter is a treasure trove of fascination. <br/><br/>There is little about the bumblebee which is not extraordinary. The bumblebee's parthenogenetic reproductive cycle, its ability to navigate and home in on its nest, often from considerable distances away, its insistence upon flying in downright denial of the laws of aerodynamics and gravity, and its intricate communication system by which it notifies colleagues of the location of rich sources of pollen and nectar, are all redolent of something out of a science fiction novel. But in fact these attributes are all part and parcel of the bee which extends to some 25,000 different species. All of this comes, almost literally to fruition in an insect which is a masterful fertiliser of fruit, flowers, vegetables and grain on a global scale.<br/><br/>Blessed are the pollinators, and blessed is this book!<br/>