Review of ‘Bee Detectives’
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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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!
‘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 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. Sam firmly believes in the value of engaging environmental and science-based children’s literature to nurture children’s insatiable curiosity and their need to understand why things are the way they are. Sam is keenly focused on growing little minds into big thinkers.
Sam graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology) and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006 and has worked as an environmental manager and an entomologist. Sam’s ability to interpret and critically evaluate science-based publications for children has led her to be the chief children’s science reviewer for award winning website Children’s Books Daily and for the Ecological Society of Australia.
Sam’s favourite authors and illustrators include Arthur Rackham, Roald Dahl, May Gibbs, C.S Lewis, Brian Froud and Mem Fox. Sam lives in beautiful Brisbane with her husband, two young children, one dog and five chooks.