The best books about bees and other pollinators

Who am I?

As a kid growing up in the northeast of England I became fascinated by the insects, flowers, birds, geology, and seashore life around me. That fascination with natural history never left me and I had the fortune to turn my childhood interests into a professional career as a research scientist, teacher, and writer. My work on pollinators and plants has taken me around the world, from the grasslands of Oxfordshire to the deserts of Namibia and the mountains of Nepal, from the rainforests of Brazil and Australia to the thorny shrublands of Tenerife. The result has been more than 135 articles plus a couple of books. I must get back to writing the next one…

I wrote...

Pollinators and Pollination: Nature and Society

By Jeff Ollerton,

Book cover of Pollinators and Pollination: Nature and Society

What is my book about?

A unique and personal insight into the ecology and evolution of pollinators, their relationships with flowers, and their conservation in a rapidly changing world.

The pollination of flowers by insects, birds, and other animals is a fundamentally important ecological function that supports both the natural world and human society. Without pollinators to facilitate the sexual reproduction of plants, the world would be a biologically poorer place in which to live, there would be an impact on food security, and human health would suffer. Written by one of the world’s leading pollination ecologists, this book provides an introduction to what pollinators are, how their interactions with flowers have evolved, and the fundamental ecology of these relationships.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Forgotten Pollinators

By Stephen L Buchmann, Gary Paul Nabhan, Paul Mirocha (illustrator)

Book cover of The Forgotten Pollinators

Why this book?

For me, this is the book that really started the current drive to conserve pollinators in our rapidly changing world. Other authors had written about bees in particular, and how pesticides and habitat destruction were affecting them, but Steve Buchmann and Gary Nabhan were the first to bring all of the evidence together for a wide range of pollinators, including hummingbirds and bats as well as insects. This was an enormously influential book that helped to shape public opinion, global policies, and actions around pollinator conservation. It also influenced the research direction, and subsequently professional careers, of many ecologists and naturalists, myself included.

Cactus Hotel

By Brenda Z. Guiberson, Megan Lloyd (illustrator),

Book cover of Cactus Hotel

Why this book?

I bought this book for my daughter Ellen when she was 3 or 4 years old, and I think I was even more enchanted than she was! It's a wonderfully told and illustrated story about the animals that live in and around the giant saguaro cactuses in the deserts of the USA and Mexico. The pollinators are birds during the day and bats at night, and this book provides a child's-eye view of some of the science. Ellen is now 31...where does the time go?

Children are our future and the ways in which we influence them will have enormous consequences for the fate of our planet, including how we conserve bees, birds, bats, and other pollinators. Books such as this are so important – every child should have access to them, at home, at school, or in public libraries.

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

By Dave Goulson,

Book cover of A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

Why this book?

Dave and I are old friends – we were PhD students together – and it’s been wonderful to see his career as a scientist and author develop over the last couple of decades. Probably no other single individual has had more of an influence on public opinion about pollinators, especially bumblebees. A Sting in the Tale is a fascinating and highly readable account of his research on these charismatic insects and his founding of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Informative, passionate, and amusing in equal proportions, just like the man himself! 

Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland

By Steven J Falk,

Book cover of Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland

Why this book?

This ground-breaking book was the first illustrated field guide to cover all of the more than 270 species of bees that occur in Great Britain and Ireland. It provides a detailed account of the natural history of these fascinating insects, plus photographs and taxonomic keys to help you to determine what they are. Be warned, however, as the author acknowledges, many bees are challenging to identify! Nonetheless, Falk and Lewington’s book is invaluable for anyone interested in the natural history of bees.

Ladders to Heaven

By Mike Shanahan,

Book cover of Ladders to Heaven

Why this book?

Fig trees have a complex and fascinating mode of pollination involving tiny parasitic wasps that complete part of their life cycles within the fig “fruit” (actually a complex inflorescence of flowers). Some species of wasp actually carry pollen between flowers in special pouches on their bodies! Mike Shanahan’s book describes these extraordinary interactions in detail and then goes on to explain just why it is that the world’s fig trees are ecologically and culturally important. It’s partly a memoir based on his own travels and research, and is beautifully written and illustrated. I learned a lot about just how fascinating and vital figs are!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in pollinators, Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about pollinators, Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.

Pollinators Explore 8 books about pollinators
Ireland Explore 120 books about Ireland
The Republic Of Ireland Explore 18 books about the Republic of Ireland

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Land Where Lemons Grow, Just the Tonic, and Yew if you like this list.