The best books about the world of bees (for adults)

Why am I passionate about this?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

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 beloved Thor Hanson 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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World

Thor Hanson Why did I love this book?

There is a rich literature on bees, but I can’t think of a better place to start than the wonderful photography and storytelling found in this beautiful book. Arranged geographically, each page contains close-up images of a particular bee spcies from around the world, alongside a brief description. The authors are both top-notch entomologists, so the text is highly accurate and well written. But it’s the photography that really dazzles, showing off the surprising range of shapes, sizes, and colors that make bees more diverse than all the birds and mammals put together. This book can be read straight through with pleasure, but I also enjoy just opening it up at random for a quick bee blast.

By Laurence Packer, Sam Droege,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While we eat, work, and sleep, bees are busy around the world. More than 20,000 species are in constant motion! They pollinate plants of all types and keep our natural world intact. In Bees, you'll find a new way to appreciate these tiny wonders. Sam Droege and Laurence Packer present more than 100 of the most eye-catching bees from around the world as you've never seen them: up-close and with stunning detail. You'll stare into alien-like faces. You'll get lost in mesmerizing colors and patterns, patches and stripes of arresting yellow or blue. Whether you linger on your first close…


Book cover of Bumblebee Economics

Thor Hanson Why did I love this book?

This book offers a wonderful combination of scientific discovery and homespun natural history. Heinrich later gained fame studying ravens, but he cut his scientific teeth as an entomologist, unraveling the mysteries of how bumblebees budget their energy – as individuals, and as a community. The ideas captured here, and the excitement with which he conveys them, have become models for the study of insect lives.

By Bernd Heinrich,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bumblebee Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is a brilliant introduction to insect and plant ecology focusing on one of nature's most adaptive creatures, the bumblebee. Survival for the bumblebee depends on its ability to regulate body temperature through a complex energy exchange, and it is this management of energy resources around which Bernd Heinrich enters his discussion of physiology, behavior, and ecological interaction. Along the way, he makes some amusing parallels with the theories of Adam Smith-which, Heinrich observes, work rather well for the bees, however inadequate they may be for human needs.

Bumblebee Economics uniquely offers both the professional and amateur scientist a coherent…


Book cover of The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore

Thor Hanson Why did I love this book?

This quirky little title captures a wealth of information about the deep relationship between people and bees. Ransome delves into mythology and folklore from around the world and across a huge span of history. Every page seems to offer some new and unexpected connection or story, from ancient Egyptians ferrying their honeybee hives up and down the River Nile to the Mayans cultivating a rainforest species with the agreeable trait of lacking a sting. No other book gives the reader such an exhaustive and entertaining exploration of how bees, more so than any other insect, have been part of human cultures since the dawn of civilization.

By Hilda M. Ransome,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No creature has provided man with so much wholesome food as the honey bee. Equally impressive is the number of beliefs and superstitions the industrious insect has inspired. Its honey, which was known to the ancient Greeks as the “food of the Gods,” played an important role in early religious rites and was also mentioned in the folklore of many peoples. Hilda Ransome's well-documented and copiously illustrated study of bees focuses on this valuable byproduct of nature and its creator — the "sacred" bee.
Chapters cover the folklore of bees and bee culture — from Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Hittite, and…


Book cover of The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men

Thor Hanson Why did I love this book?

There are scores of beekeeping memoirs in print, many of them very engaging. But if I had to choose only one, there is something to be said for this little classic. The biological information is good, but the book rises above the average in the way Longwood conveys it - with charm, wit, and an obvious fondness for his chosen subjects. Paired with a modern how-to manual, this volume could convince just about anyone to try their hand with hive, suit, and smoker.

By William Longgood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Queen Must Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An engaging collection of observations about honeybees and their activities."-Publishers Weekly


Book cover of The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees

Thor Hanson Why did I love this book?

The only thing better than reading about bees is getting outside and seeing some! This book combines good pictures with descriptions of behavior and habitats that will help identify what you find – if not to species, then at least to the major families and groups. Though focused on North America, many of the same general types of bees can be encountered anywhere: sweat bees, miners, diggers, leafcutters, cuckoo bees, and more. In addition to the identification tips, the book includes a generous introduction to bee biology and behavior, as well as a primer on how to improve the bee habitat in any yard through the addition of flowers, nesting sites, and more.

By Joseph S. Wilson, Olivia J Messinger Carril,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bees in Your Backyard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Bees in Your Backyard provides an engaging introduction to the roughly 4,000 different bee species found in the United States and Canada, dispelling common myths about bees while offering essential tips for telling them apart in the field. The book features more than 900 stunning color photos of the bees living all around us--in our gardens and parks, along nature trails, and in the wild spaces between. It describes their natural history, including where they live, how they gather food, their role as pollinators, and even how to attract them to your own backyard. Ideal for amateur naturalists and…


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By Nina Munteanu,

Book cover of A Diary in the Age of Water

Nina Munteanu Author Of Darwin's Paradox

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Ecologist Mother Teacher Explorer

Nina's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This climate fiction novel follows four generations of women and their battles against a global giant that controls and manipulates Earth’s water. Told mostly through a diary and drawing on scientific observation and personal reflection, Lynna’s story unfolds incrementally, like climate change itself. Her gritty memoir describes a near-future Toronto in the grips of severe water scarcity.

Single mother and limnologist Lynna witnesses disturbing events as she works for the powerful international utility CanadaCorp. Fearing for the welfare of her rebellious teenage daughter, Lynna sets in motion a series of events that tumble out of her control with calamitous consequence. The novel explores identity, relationship, and our concept of what is “normal”—as a nation and an individual—in a world that is rapidly and incomprehensibly changing.

A Diary in the Age of Water

By Nina Munteanu,

What is this book about?

Centuries from now, in a post-climate change dying boreal forest of what used to be northern Canada, Kyo, a young acolyte called to service in the Exodus, discovers a diary that may provide her with the answers to her yearning for Earth’s past—to the Age of Water, when the “Water Twins” destroyed humanity in hatred—events that have plagued her nightly in dreams. Looking for answers to this holocaust—and disturbed by her macabre longing for connection to the Water Twins—Kyo is led to the diary of a limnologist from the time just prior to the destruction. This gritty memoir describes a…


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