all pictures © robin williams

revised 7-7-2021


Books on bumblebees

with keys for identification

Books and other sources of pictures

To study any subject, it is virtually a necessity to buy and read books, though the internet also adds many  possibilities. Half the joy of modern books on insects is the number and variety of colour photographs they contain, illustrating the rest of the content. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent books and keys around. These come from a variety of sources, some available new, while others are recently or long out of date. Don't despair, there are numbers of entomological book shops out there and there is a ready market and availability for such works, which come and go with time. Why should you need so many - and you do? Bumblebees are so variable in their colouring, size and appearance that confirmation of identification from several sources is essential. Above all, it is important to study as many photographs and drawings as possible to build up experience.


The internet has changed our outlook in so many ways that impact resources. The huge number of photos available may seem to mitigate against the need for printed material, but beware! A large number of these often-splendid pictures are not identified correctly - some so way out as to make it impossible to understand how they ever went online. After a deal of experience, even this misidentified material may prove useful in a quest for identification, but on your terms. The internet has also given rise to a variety of websites produced by groups or individuals, many of which are superb sources for us to examine. The range and excellence of the photographs and drawings is staggering.


British Bumblebees, with emphasis on the old county of Somerset, by Robin Williams; Vanellus Publications – (available through: publications). 2nd edition, 2000. (A complete introduction, with descriptions, discussion on variations and full set of colour-coded black & white whole insect drawings (as used in Identification)'.

Bumblebeesby Ted Benton. Collins New Naturalist, 2006. (As good and comprehensive look at these creatures as you would expect from this series. Wonderful pictures).

Bumblebees - an introductionby Dr Nicky Gammans, Dr Richard Comont, SC Morgan, Gill Perkins; Bumblebee Conservation Trust 2018. (As would be expected, an excellent guide to everything bumblebee, including a fine identification section. Beautifully produced).

Bumblebeesby Oliver E. Prỹs-Jones & Sarah H. Corbet; Naturalists Handbooks 6, The Richmond Publishing Company; Revised edition 1991. (Clear keys/drawings, also fine introduction to the subject).

Bumblebee Distribution Maps Scheme, Guide to the British Speciesby D.V. Alford; (from Entomologists Gazette Vol 21), Bee Research Association, 1973. (A slender paperback which contains all the information needed to identify bumblebees through the microscope and in the field - long out of print but worth the search).

Field Guide to the bees of Great Britain and Irelandby Steven Fal & Richard Lewington; Bloomsbury 2015. (Not to be forgotten as a source of information and identification, tucked away in the vast amount of data on all other social and solitary bees. One of the truly ground-breaking works of recent tinmes, which has broken the mould on presentation and content).

Field Guide to the Bumblebees of Great Britain & Irelandby Mike Edwards & Martin Jenner; Ocelli; 2005, revised edition 2009. (A superb and invaluable introduction to these difficult insects, with marvellous photographs and excellent sections on each species. A must have for every library', pocket-sized).

Hummeln (Bumblebees); bestimmen, ansiedeln, vermehren, schützen, by Eberhard von Hagen (in German), Naturbuch Verlag, Germany, 1994 (Some of the finest colour pictures taken, covers all British species. A superb buy for those interested in this family).

The Bumblebees of Essex, by Ted Benton; Lopinga Books, 2000. (Although covering Essex, much of the work applies all over the country with some of the finest photographs of bumblebees. A worthwhile addition to any library).

The Bumblebee Book, by Nick Owens: Pisces Publications 2020. (Another, up-to-date, excellent guide to the bumblebee world, fiull of first-class photos).