Review of ‘Bee Detectives’

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World Bee Day is coming up on May 20 and I’ve been showcasing some of my new favourite bee books of late, including ‘The Very Clever Bee’ which you can see my review of here and my more extensive list of bee books is here.

This review of ‘Bee Detectives’ is by Dr Sam Lloyd and it’s the latest publication from CSIRO Publishing. Sam reviews many of the science focussed books for me and you can see all her reviews here.

I’ll be at the Gold Coast for World Bee Day as part of the Storyfest early childhood day – will definitely be throwing in some bee-ish news!

Title: ‘Bee Detectives’
Reviewer: Dr Sam Lloyd
Author: Vanessa Ryan-Rendall
Illustrator: Brenna Quinlan
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing (2021)
Age Range: 4 – 10 years
Themes: Bee ecology, diet, behaviour, habitat, reproduction, specialist adaptations

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‘Bee Detectives’

by Vanessa Ryan-Rendall & Brenna Quinlan


I would like to start this review by saying how grateful I am to the Teacher/Librarian over the back fence for letting me review a book about bees!  We all know the obsession with bees and so I really didn’t think this book would come my way, but I am super pleased it did. 

I too am a lover of bees…and a collector of bee art (especially by Tamsin Ainslie – find her on instagram @tamsinainslie), books, jewellery and clothes.  Actually, my PhD research was on pollination ecology and really what’s not to love about bees!

An Australian Blue-banded Bee by Tamsin Ainslie. Image credit: @tamsinainslie instagram

‘Bee Detectives’ is a lively story about the wonder and honest curiosity of children to learn more about nature…in this case native bees. The cartoon-inspired illustrations are fun, colourful and the diagrams are especially good at conveying the complexity of native bee biology in an accessible way.

My son especially liked the diagram on bee growth and development and I just love the end papers featuring Persoonia sp. and Eucalyptus sp. and a variety of native bees.

The story starts with the two main characters, siblings Olivia and Hamish and their very cute pet guinea pig Ignatius, seeking an explanation for what they initially believe to be a fire.

Their parents accompany them to investigate, and they see that a tree has been felled in the park opposite their house. It is not a fire, but a swarm of native bees that look like smoke from a distance. We are not sure why the tree has been felled, but unfortunately no one did a fauna check first and hence the bees need help…so they call in the Bee Team!

The Bee Team identify the bees as Tetragonula sp. and teach everyone about Australia’s only native social (stingless) bee, including how to safely rescue the bees. From here our friends begin a ‘Bee Detectives’ adventure, learning all about different species of Australian native bees, including the beautiful blue-banded bee and the adorably named teddy bear bee.

We follow the children as they learn how these different bees pollinate our native plants, their specialist adaptations (one guess what a leaf cutter bee does) and watch their enthusiasm for nature grow. They also have a neat reference section at the back of the book with information about how to attract bees to your garden and the bee species included in the book.

I think the most important message we learn from Olivia and Hamish is that if we take the time to look at the small things around us in nature, we can all be Bee Detectives, “all you need to do is step outside”.


A note about Australian Native Bees:

If you follow this blog then you will know that Megan has had many (many) interesting and engaging posts about bees, bee books and other bee-related topics (Native Bee Hives and Bee Books and a review of ‘The Very Clever Bee’ to name a few!) and so I am going to concentrate on only a few resources and links. My review of ‘Flight of the Honey Bee’ also contains pollination and bee information and links.

Native stingless bee hives are very popular with many suppliers across Australia and it’s worth doing your research if you are thinking of installing one.

I do think recognition needs to be given to ex-CSIRO research scientist and entomologist Dr Tim Heard, founder of Sugarbag Bees, which provides stingless bee hives, products, resources and support. Tim is a leader in the growing recognition, understanding and popularity of this amazing species.

There is also the Aussie Bee Website, which has lots of great photos, a native bee identification guide and other useful information and resources.

Resources & Further Reading:

There are a number of thorough resources on native bees, including ‘The Australian Native Bee Book’, a guide to keeping native stingless bees by Dr Tim Heard and ‘A Guide to Native Bees of Australia’ by Terry Houston.

If you are interested in native insect pollinators more generally, there is the Wild Pollinator Count, which is a fantastic citizen-scientist project collecting information on native pollinators in a national survey in Autumn and Spring…and of course native bees feature very strongly.  The website also has a wonderful collection of photos.


Dr Sam square

Dr Samantha Lloyd

Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental manager with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking.

Having graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology), 1st Class Honours in 1998 and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006, Sam has worked as an environmental manager for the SEQ regional NRM body; as an entomologist for the Australian and New Zealand Fire Ant Control Programs; and as Coordinator of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill Environmental Restoration Program.

Sam’s long-standing daytime gig is as Manager of the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, with bushfire ecology and awareness being another of her passions.

Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (for babies to young adults) is here and you can peruse ALL of my reviews (searchable by age, genre and theme) here.

Check out my mini ebook, 'What to Read Next' or sign up for my FREE webinar, '3 Tips to Start the Best Book Club Ever'.

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