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Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK
2010; 336 pp.
Price: $130.00 (hardcover); $55.00 (softcover)
With the second edition of Bumblebees: Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation, Dave Goulson has provided a major update to his 2003 Bumblebees: Their Behaviour and Ecology. As Goulson points out in the preface, the amount of research devoted to this genus of social insects, Bombus, has exploded since the publication of the first edition. Over 700 new scientific articles have been published since the last edition, increasing both our biological knowledge of Bombus and our understanding of the need for conservation efforts aimed at these bees. This point is underscored by the addition to this edition of nearly 90 pages of text and a 70-page reference section. To handle the massive synthesis required for this edition, Goulson enlisted co-authors for lending further expertise on several chapters on the rapidly expanding topics of “Natural Enemies,” “Foraging Economics,” and “Conservation.” Several chapters have been greatly expanded since the first edition, most notably the final two: “Conservation” and “Bumblebees Abroad: Effects of Introduced Bees.”
The first five chapters of Bumblebees could serve as a brief review of bumble bee biology for the student interested in these important pollinators. These chapters generally synopsize previous works such as Alford’s (1975) Bumblebees or Heinrich’s (2004) Bumblebee Economics; this book complements those texts and is not particularly redundant with either of them. Goulson introduces the reader to various aspects of bumble bee biology, focusing on where these creatures have served as models. Entire chapters are each devoted to thermoregulation, social organization and conflict, and mating biology. One particularly useful aspect of the book is that Goulson often brings attention to both the historical context of bumble bee research while identifying the major gaps in our knowledge of bumble bee biology; thus, the book is as full of ideas as it is facts.
As with the first edition, the strength of the book lies in the extensive discussion of bumble bee foraging behavior, making it a valuable resource for the investigator interested in insect food acquisition. Goulson devotes seven of the 14 chapters to foraging and pollination topics and supplies a comprehensive synthesis of this literature, leaving the reader with a well-rounded view of the current state of the science behind these topics. While this book covers the results of prior experiments in bumble bee foraging behavior and ecology, there is sparse treatment of the methods used to generate the data, so individuals looking for that information will have to consult the primary literature. However, there is much here that expands on the first edition, and the details on foraging behavior go beyond the information in other bumble bee texts. As such, this text deserves a place on the shelf of the entomologist interested in foraging behavior.
While the book is generally well written and easy to read, it would benefit from a better use of graphics. The book is sparsely illustrated with only 8 pages of color prints in the center and some black-and-white graphics throughout. I found myself wanting more photos of the bees the author writes about, even if they were in black and white. Furthermore, to individuals who are familiar with the literature, many of the graphics will be familiar; however, I did find the interpretation of the graphics to be clear and well presented.
In short, Dr. Goulson provides a timely update to his 2003 book, which is packed with a substantial amount of new material. For the scholar who works with Bombus, this is a valuable update to the literature and will provide a worthwhile contribution to the bookshelf. For the student entering the field, this will provide a useful reference that is more comprehensive than the first edition, especially in the areas of foraging behavior and bumble bee conservation. However, those interested in other aspects of bumble bee biology may find some of the older texts to be more useful.
Alford, D. V. 1975. Bumblebees. Davis-Poynter, London.
Heinrich, B. 2004. Bumblebee Economics. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
USDA-ARS, Pollinating Insect
255 BNR, Utah State University
Logan, UT, 84322
Vol. 57, No.3, Fall 2011