Dancing with Bees – Review

Author: Ed Beale | Date: 21 April, 2020 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 0

Dancing With Bees, A Journey Back To Nature, by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, September 2019. Chelsea Green Publishing, ISBN 978-1603588485, 304 pages. RRP £20

As she writes in the introduction, Brigit was shocked the day she realised she knew more about the French Revolution than she did about her native trees, birds, wildflowers and bees. This book charts her journey of discovery and rediscovery. Brigit writes, “As my interest in bees has grown, so has my awareness of everything that surrounds them or connects them to the web of life they exist within. I feel as though I have embarked on a never-ending journey, a journey that spirals continuously outwards, gathering momentum and taking on a life of its own as it sweeps up all the wondrous, wild things that fly, swim, walk, or crawl in its wake.”

There is no doubt whatsoever that this is an exceptional book. This became obvious to me when, having been sent a copy to review, after the first chapter, I opened a bottle of my birthday wine, laid my felt-tip marker aside and settled down to enjoy it. It is, as the subtitle explains, “A journey back to nature” and that is without any doubt entirely accurate. I learnt an enormous amount from it. I now look closely not only at bees (of which there are over twenty thousand species!) and how they live their communal and solitary lives but also at pollinating insects and other elements of the natural world.

I felt as though I was walking alongside Brigit as she described the lanes and trees of her beloved Dorset countryside, the ‘blackbird tree’ in their garden, and, in the touching chapter titled ‘The Upside-Down Bird’, her mother’s peaceful and love-filled last days. It is a rare gift to be able to inform without lecturing, but the devotion, love and enthusiasm that the author has for nature easily did so. Having lived in the countryside for many years, I had assumed I had a reasonable knowledge of the natural world, but I now doubt that. I now even know where the term ‘tree hugger’ comes from.

We live in a stress-filled and, quite frankly, a very unpleasant world, but this book is the antidote to that, and I felt again that child-like wonder that I thought might have been lost forever. Thanks to Brigit’s description of a pole hive, one is in the process of being constructed here, and by next summer we will also have a beehive. I was really pleased with myself and quite overjoyed when a Clark’s Mining Bee took up residence on our lawn. And I had no idea that there were solitary nesting bees that lay their eggs in empty snail shells, or cuckoo bees that make other bees take care of their eggs.

This is most definitely a book to be read and re-read time and time again, as there is so much to enjoy many times over. You will not be disappointed.

Peter Doodes


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