Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk
Illustrated by Richard Lewington

Bloomed furrow bee (male) on solidago.Bloomed furrow bee (male) on solidago.

At last, a book which details each of the 275 British and Irish bee species!

This is a superb book, and a wonderful achievement! 

First, a little about the author:

Steven Falk is an entomologist, invertebrate specialist and wildlife artist.  He is also the author of British Hoverflies, and Warwickshire’s Wildflowers. 

Ad - Paid Link:

He worked as an entomologist with the Nature Conservancy Council, as Keeper of Natural History and then City Ecologist at Coventry Museum, and spent 11 years as Senior Keeper of Natural History at Warwickshire Museum. He worked for Buglife - the Invertebrate Conservation Trust as their Entomologist and Invertebrate Specialist from 2012 until 2015. 
In 2012 Steven was awarded the prestigious Royal Entomological Society/Marsh Award for Insect Conservation.

Richard Lewington is a celebrated wildlife artist, and you can admire some of his beautiful bee-themed art which previously featured on British postage stamps.

Postage stamps featuring British bee species.

The book:

The book provides all the general background you would expect from a book of this type, including habitat, classification, life cycle and conservation. 

There is also a very useful ‘at a glance’ guide to bee genera and genus very early in the book, and a very useful glossary and key.  We then get into the detail:

  • The identification part is split into sections - as you’d expect, by genera.  Within each section, there is a general description of each genus, an illustration by Lewington, and images of associated species and parasites.  Each species is then described in detail, with photographs, habitat, flight season etc.

Falk's book covers predators and parasites, such as endoparasitoids like this Conopid fly.Falk's book covers predators and parasites, such as endoparasitoids like this Conopid fly.

  • As well as the scientific name for each species, Falk also provides the common name. 

    I especially appreciate this: having given a number of talks about bees, I know it is far more memorable and – yes, even amusing, to talk about the Hairy Footed Flower Bee rather than Anthophora plumipes, for example. 

    Where many people have grown up thinking about bees in terms of stings, who can fail to be won over by the mere thought of the Pantaloon Bee, the Patchwork Leafcutter Bee (or Wood-carving Leafcutter, for that matter)?

Common names are also given for bees, such as the 'Hairy-footed flower bee'.Common names are also given for bees, such as the 'Hairy-footed flower bee'.

  • The book also features 20 superb colour plates.

  • For me, a major strength of this brilliant book is that at last, we have a truly comprehensive guide which includes all the solitary species. 

Falk's book details Britain and Ireland's easily-forgotten-about solitary bees.Falk's book details Britain and Ireland's easily-forgotten-about solitary bees.

Readers will soon find there is so much to learn about these important pollinators – to be fair, they receive little attention, and may even be wrongly mistaken for flies (or even wasps).  It’s only by first acknowledging, then learning about the different solitary species, that we can take positive action to help them where we can, by providing habitat and foraging opportunities where possible, and lobbying to protect sites of specific importance.  For this to be the case, awareness needs to spread more widely. 

In terms of the tone of the book, I would describe is as being most appropriate for a student of ecology or entomology, or for seriously interested general enthusiasts who are prepared to wade through the scientific terms used to describe parts of the anatomy.  

I also, in general, advise against pinning (killing) bees for the purpose of amateur study, and advocate against unnecessary killing even in the name of scientific study - after all, surely there are many collections, photographs etc available already?  I am also alarmed at 'Citizen Science' projects that encourage members of the public to trap bees and kill them for a display board.

This book was originally on my Christmas list – I wanted the hard back version, but having taken yet more photographs this year, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer, and so I treated myself (to the paperback version).  I’m glad I did!  I find it an invaluable book that I has already helped me to identify quite a lot of bee species

So would I recommend this book?  Definitely!

You might like these