Book Review - The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon

Jean Vernon is, like I am,  a member of the Garden Media Guild and we have met a few times on some of the Guild garden visits.  When I heard that she had written a book about bees I asked if I could have a copy to review.  I have not paid for this book but my words and opinions are, as ever, my own.
Like most of us who have a garden, or a few plants in pots or just an interest in plants/vegetables and how things grow, I love watching bees and wish I knew more about them.  I know I get several different types of bees in my garden but my knowledge is woefully poor about what I am looking at.  This book has gone a long way to helping me improve my knowledge.

The photographs are stunning.  Many are by Jean's husband Martin Mulchinock.  I confess at first I flipped through the book loving the photographs.  I then went back to the beginning, reading the foreword by Brigit Strawbridge Howard whose own book Dancing with Bees  I reviewed fairly recently, and then I began devouring the book itself.

Jean says the book is not a text book but is about sharing her love of bees.  She shares this love well, it emanates from the book with every word.  It might not be a text book but I have learned a huge amount from it.  Let's start with there is a bee that looks like a panda.  Ok, maybe not like a panda really but it is black and whiteish and panda enough for me.  Then there is the information that male bees have facial hair.  Beardy-bees!!  Ok, maybe this is stretching the information too far, but believe me I now think there are bees in my garden that look remarkably hipsterish because we all know that bees have style.

One of my favourite parts of the book though is right near the start.  It is the comparison between a bee and a fly that shows you the differences.  When they are buzzing past me I am often not quick enough to see the differences I admit, but this simple guide is really helpful.  I often stare at things on a leaf and think 'are you a bee or a fly?'.  Sometimes I even ask them out loud but now I have an identikit guide I do not need to wait for a reply.

Jean guides us through chapters on meeting the bees, bee behaviour and bee food.  There is a fascinating chapter on the hostile garden.  Bees have many threats just waiting for their chance to have a go at them.  I worry enough about fewer bees and this chapter helped me understand that bees have enough issues to deal with without us adding to them.  There is a very helpful chapter on further reading and a fascinating chapter called 'Citizen Science/Get Involved'.  I may have exhaled a happy sigh at this chapter, whilst brief it gives information that helps us all with great practicality get in touch with our inner (and outer) bee.

I finished this book on a buzzy high.  It is an excellent book.

The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon is published by Pen and Sword White Owl.  and can be bought from all the usual places that sell good books.