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Hilary Kearney
Storey Publishing, £14.99

In a typical hive of around 50,000 honeybees, finding the queen is often a challenge for even the most experienced beekeepers. Yet she is the key to the functioning of the ‘superorganism’ that is a honeybee colony, and finding her is an essential skill.

In Queenspotting, Hilary Kearney has produced a delightful book that combines interesting factual information about the life of honeybees in general, and the queen in particular, with 48 full colour fold-out images that challenge the reader to locate the queen amongst a host of other honeybees. The images are graded in difficulty with the early ones being relatively straightforward to the later images being frustratingly difficult.

Advice for the ‘beginner’ as to the relevant signs of a queen’s presence is provided, but towards the end of the book rather than early on where it may have been more useful. Thankfully answer keys for the images are provided at the back of the book. There are other high quality photographs throughout the book that illustrate many aspects of the life of honeybees and fully support the text which is written in a style accessible to the everyday reader rather than attempting to be overly scientific.

The information presented is wide ranging and relevant throughout. The book is organised into three sections: ‘Inside the colony’; ‘The life of the Queen bee’; and ‘How to spot the Queen’. The associated biological information is interspersed with stories of Kearney’s personal encounters with Queen bees, in a variety of contexts which add a lighter and often humorous touch to the text. The chapter subheadings are occasionally sensationalist e.g. ‘Virgin death match’, but overall the chapter sections are well laid out and very informative. There is a small glossary to explain the terms used in the book.

This is a highly readable account that summarises the events that occur both inside and outside a typical beehive and will appeal to young naturalists, amateur beekeepers and nature lovers who want a relaxed yet informative introduction to the lives of bees with the added challenge to ‘Spot the Queen’.

Dr Alan Woollhead