Handbook of The Bees of The British Isles by George R. Else and Mike Edwards. Published by The Ray Society, 2018. Two Volumes. Vol.1: 332pp Vol.2:776pp. £137.50
This has to be the bee book of the century. It will not be surpassed for decades. It is written by two experts who have put several decades of dedicated work on these hymenoptera into the book. George Else, who I originally met in the virgin rainforests of Sulawesi in 1985 on Project Wallace, worked at The Natural History Museum in London as curator of bees and certain aculeate wasps, until he retired in 2007. Mike Edwards was originally at Leeds University and helped to set up BWARS (Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society), latterly running his own ecological consultancy. The germ of this book was realised by George Else who has a great debt of gratitude for Mike Edwards becoming co-author of these mighty tomes. Many entomologists and hymenopterists are acknowledged for inputting their information, data, diagrams and photographs, and on the latter Paul Brock is mentioned as the ‘all round entomologist…and outstanding insect photographer’ who has supplied many of the photographs. And they are excellent. The aim of the book was to photograph all bee species in the UK in the wild, which was achieved, save for the two only known from museum specimens: Halictus subauratus and Bombus pomorium. On their count there are 277 species of bee species have been recorded from the British Isles. Of those 171 are known from the Channel Islands, including 11 species that are unknown in the mainland of Britain. George’s original idea was not to include any photographs which would have been a bad idea. All the photographs are included on a handy CD. Volume 1 includes information on recognition of bees, how to photograph them, where to find them and identification of pollen loads. After the comprehensive keys to bee genera the book launches into the systematic review of all species, with maps, that flows over into Volume 2. The photographs throughout are excellent for identification purposes but it is not likely that the amateur entomologist or naturalist will ever pay the £137.50 for these wonderful books. Only serious bee enthusiasts will.
S.J. Bowe 2015. Mulberry, the material culture of mulberry trees. Liverpool University Press. 124pp.
If ever there was an introduced tree that has such a fascinating historical record in the grand gardens of Britain it is the mulberry. The book looks at both the white and black mulberry species and how they are wound up in the silk industry and associated with people such as James 1 and Shakespeare as well as Morris, More and Milton. The unique part of the book is its approach to the use of mulberry in the Japanese sashimono furniture tradition, highly regarded and often used in the tea ceremony. It is beautifully illustrated in colour showing many artefacts such as whisk shapers, tea containers all made from mulberry. This is a serious, almost academic book though accessible for general readership – the author is Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University – magnificently published and ideal for dendrologists, especially those keen on the historical perspective of the Morus genus, as well as antique dealers and enthusiasts of Japanese art. Each of the five chapters has exhaustive references and there is a good bibliography and useful list of 100 UK gardens where mulberries continue the tradition.
Nikki Gammans and Geoff Allen, 2014. The Bumblebees of Kent. Kent Field Club. 164pp.
Kent has more bumblebee species than anywhere else in the UK, and it has Dungeness as an almost unique habitat that supports many. Drawing all the information together has been Nikki Gammans and Geoff Allen who have produced a key work on all the species, past, present, cuckoos and invaders. Each species has information on identification, distribution maps, autecology, and habitats together with colour photographs showing features. The book is strong on ecology, mimicry, classification and conservation with copious information on field work, and has references and glossary. It is for all field naturalists and published by The Kent Field Club from whose excellent stable other key works have been produced – a lesson for neighbouring Sussex. Dr Gammans leads the Recovery Programme for the Short-tailed Bumblebee – where national work on bumblebees is progressing well in Dungeness. Look out for all her work on bumblebee recovery.