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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Forgotten Pollinators

Jeff Ollerton Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work looks at the human impact on plants and the animals they depend upon for reproduction. As an increasing number of species are erased by pesticides or habitat disruption, 80 per cent of the human diet is threatened.


Book cover of Cactus Hotel

Jeff Ollerton Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cactus Hotel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

It is another hot day in the desert. Birds and other animals scurry about looking for food. When they get tired they stop to rest at a giant cactus. It is their hotel in the desert!

Many different animals live in the cactus hotel. It protects them; and they protect it, by eating the pests that could harm the cactus.

The cactus grows larger and larger and will live for about two hundred years. When one animal moves out, another moves in. There is never a vacancy in the cactus hotel.

This story--about a desert, a giant cactus, and the…


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

Jeff Ollerton Why did I love 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! 

By Dave Goulson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Sting in the Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER**

One man's quest to save the bumblebee...

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…


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

Jeff Ollerton Why did I love 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.

By Steven J Falk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a brand new field guide to Britain's bees that for the first time makes this fascinating and important group of insects accessible to the general naturalist. The guide covers over 270 species, and is fully illustrated with stunning photographs and Richard Lewington's beautiful colour artwork.


Book cover of Ladders to Heaven

Jeff Ollerton Why did I love 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!

By Mike Shanahan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ladders to Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Irresistible" - Literary Review

Fig trees have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways: they are wish-fulfillers, rainforest royalty, more precious than gold. Ladders to Heaven tells their incredible story.

They fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played a key role in the birth of civilisation. More recently, they helped restore life after Krakatoa's catastrophic eruption and proved instrumental in Kenya's struggle for independence.

Figs now sustain more species of bird and mammal than any other fruit - in a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, they offer hope. Theirs is a story about humanity's relationship with…


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Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

Book cover of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

Sharman Apt Russell Author Of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Explorer Runner Mother

Sharman's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Citizen Scientist begins with this extraordinary statement by the Keeper of Entomology at the London Museum of Natural History, “Study any obscure insect for a week and you will then know more than anyone else on the planet.”

As the author chases the obscure Western red-bellied tiger beetle across New Mexico, where she lives, she explores a dozen other citizen science programs with lyrical prose, humor, and a profound sense of connection to place. Diary of a Citizen Scientist celebrates a renewed optimism in the mysteries of the world and a renewed faith in how ordinary people can contribute to science and environmental activism.

Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

By Sharman Apt Russell,

What is this book about?

A critically acclaimed nature writer explores the citizen scientist movement through the lens of entomological field research in the American Southwest.

Award-winning nature writer Sharman Apt Russell felt pressed by the current environmental crisis to pick up her pen yet again. Encouraged by the phenomenon of citizen science, she decided to turn her attention to the Western red-bellied tiger beetle, an insect found widely around the world and near her home in the Gila River Valley of New Mexico.

In a lyrical, often humorous voice, Russell shares her journey across a wild, rural landscape tracking this little-known species, an insect…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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

10,000+ 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 9 books about pollinators
Ireland Explore 269 books about Ireland
The Republic Of Ireland Explore 31 books about the Republic of Ireland