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Gardening for Bumblebees by Dave Goulson

From nepeta to nesting holes, leading bumblebee expert Dave Goulson inspires gardeners to lend bumblebees and other pollinators a helping hand. Catherine Smalley is an editor and nature writer.

Square Peg, £16.99
ISBN 978-1529110289

Dave Goulson is founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and has been studying bumblebee ecology for nearly 30 years, so it’s fair to say he knows his onions (or pollinator- friendly plants) when it comes to helping this much-loved fuzzy garden visitor.


It’s not news that bumblebees and other pollinators are in dire straits. Nearly all our hay meadows disappeared in the twentieth century, thousands of miles of hedgerows were dug up, and those wildflowers that remain are “often contaminated with cocktails of insecticides,” says Goulson. Our 22 million UK gardens could offer a lifeline.

Flick straight to chapter seven for planting advice. Steer clear of double flowers and popular bedding plants that are “pretty hopeless for pollinators” and instead opt for cottage-garden flowers or, even better, wildflowers. Suitable plants are grouped alphabetically by family and accompanied by a star rating – Hydrangea serratifolia, blue tansy and catmint are among those given five stars (superb for hungry insects) – and each species is illustrated with a photograph.

Some might find the lumping together of annuals, biennials and perennials confusing, but there’s also a handy year planner that makes it easy to fill in any seasonal gaps in your bumblebee banquet at a glance. Trees and shrubs get their own chapter, as do wildflower meadows, so all bases are covered.


But this is far more comprehensive than just a planting-for-pollinators guide. Goulson explains how to identify eight of the most common bumblebees, their annual life cycle, and the best types of nesting sites. His fascination with bumblebees and other pollinators is infectious, from solitary bees to beetles and the dark-edged bee fly, “a lovable, furry, flying powder-puff ”. This book might open your eyes – and gardens – to the myriad mini-wonders that too often go unnoticed.