BUZZ: The Nature and Necessity of Bees — By Thor Hanson

$16.50 USD

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"Buzz is illuminating, inspiring, and irresistable. In short: the bee's knees."

— The Mail on Sunday

“This book is a joy. In it, Thor Hanson reminds us that the story of bees is the story of the origin of societies, of sweetness and collapse, of flowers and their sex, and if the humans who study all of these things.

It is a story of evolution and biodiversity, a story that bears on much of the food we eat but also so very much else. Buy it. Read it. Read it again. And when you do, you will look out at the buzzing world anew.”

— Rob Dunn, author of Never Home Alone and The Wild Life of Our Bodies

"Never highbrow or authoritative, Thor Hanson writes with the infectious enthusiasm of one encountering wonders for the first time; less a teacher than a fellow traveller on a shared voyage of discovery.

Surely among the finest nature writers of our time―whatever subject Hanson turns his hand to, the result is spellbinding."

— Katrina Van Grouw, author of The Unfeathered Bird and Unnatural Selection

“This book hums with the unique mixture of science, adventure, intelligence, wonder, linguistic virtuosity, and great storytelling we have come to expect from Thor Hanson’s work.

But it offers something new and rare as well. Here we are drawn into a surprising and enchanted world that is hidden in plain sight. All who read Buzz will eat dinner, walk in the neighborhood, search the flowers, and yes—listen to the drone of bees—with changed minds and hearts, ones that are freshly attuned to our beautiful and essential interconnection with the six-legged beings who share and co-create our history, our mythology, our sustenance, our planet, and our future.”

— Lyanda Lynn Haupt, author of Crow Planet and Mozart’s Starling

“Thor Hanson is a magician at making entomology and taxonomy exciting, highlighting the fascinating world of bees. Buzz hums with science and history, exposing how bees have shaped our world. A delightful, buzzworthy must-read!”

— Daniel Chamovitz, author of What a Plant Knows

“As he did for feathers and seeds, Thor Hanson has written a wonderfully engaging work of natural history that will delight readers with its elegant prose, surprising stories, and deep humanity.

Bees, so important to life on earth, are fortunate to have someone as passionate and knowledgeable as Hanson tell the tale of their evolutionary past, turbulent present, and precarious future. After reading Buzz, you will look at bees with a profound mixture of awe and gratitude.”

— Eric Jay Dolin, author of Black Flags, Blue Waters, and Leviathan

“Thor Hanson is a gifted story teller and naturalist. In Buzz, he takes us along on a wondrous, action-packed journey to discover the secret lives of bees, flowers, and the unconventional men and women who study them.

This book really is the buzz about bees, and it’s destined to become a natural history classic.”

— Stephen Buchmann, author of The Reason for Flowers

Winner of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Book Award

Mail on Sunday Science Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the Independent Bookshop Week Award in the UK

Longlisted for the American Association for Advancement of Science /Subaru Award of Excellence

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen.

While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees, author and biologist Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young.

As seen on PBS’s American Spring LIVE, the award-winning author of The Triumph of Seeds and Feathers, presents a natural and cultural history of bees: the buzzing wee beasties that make the world go round

From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence.

They’ve given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing.

As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect.

Read this book and you’ll never overlook them again.


Format: New, Hardcover

Date Published: July 10, 2018

Publisher: Basic Books


Pages: 288

Dimensions: 5.8" inches W x 8.5" L x 1.2" inches H

Rating: ✭✭✭✭1/2


Thor Hanson Buzz The Nature and Necessity of Bees


First, a note from the author and biologist, Thor Hanson: 

"Although honeybees make many appearances in these pages, I want to state right up front that this book is not specifically about them.

There will be no detailed descriptions of the waggle dance, swarming, or their many other unique and fascinating behaviors for the simple reason that those topics have been well covered elsewhere. Writers dating back as far as Virgil, and including at least two Nobel Prize winners, have produced hundreds of excellent volumes focused entirely on honeybees. This book, in contrast, celebrates bees in general, from leafcutters and bumbles to masons, miners, diggers, carpenters, wool-carders, and more. Honeybees feature as part of that panoply, but in this story, as in nature, they must share the stage.

Also, at the risk of vexing my entomologist friends, I’ve chosen to use certain words informally in this volume. Any insect might be referred to as a “bug,” for example, rather than just those found in the order Hemiptera. Technical terms that couldn’t be avoided are included in a glossary at the end, where readers will also find an illustrated guide to bee families, a bibliography of helpful references, and a collection of chapter notes. I heartily recommend the notes. They’re full of intriguing tidbits that fell just outside the flow of the narrative—things like nectar pirates, date honey, and how the fuzzy-horned bumblebee got its name."

Thor Hanson was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where he now lives on an island with his wife and son.

He caught his first salmon at age four, and often collected a wide array of temporary summertime pets, from caterpillars and tadpoles to garter snakes, hermit crabs, and tree frogs. His early interest in the natural world steered him towards a career in conservation biology.

Hanson received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, his master’s from the University of Vermont’s Field Naturalist Program, and his doctorate in a joint program through the University of Idaho and the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Costa Rica.

Hanson’s research and conservation activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures. He served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, where he helped establish the mountain gorilla tourism program in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and he has also helped manage a brown bear tourism project for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska.

He often works at the interface between natural and human systems, and has conducted research on habitat fragmentation, endangered species, and the ecological impacts of warfare.

Hanson is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Switzer Environmental Fellow, and an independent conservation biologist.

In addition to his writing, he consults for conservation groups and government agencies, and is a sought-after public speaker. Hanson appeared as science host of the PBS Nature series American Spring Live, and has been a guest on programs ranging from NPR's Fresh Air to On Point, Science Friday, The World, The Splendid Table, and Book Lust with Nancy Pearl.

Hanson is the author of Buzz, The Triumph of Seeds, Feathers, and The Impenetrable Forest, as well as the illustrated children’s favorite, Bartholomew Quill. Honors for his books have included The John Burroughs Medal, The Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, and three Pacific Northwest Book Awards, and his writing has been translated into more than ten languages. Hanson’s academic work includes co-editorship of the volume Warfare Ecology, as well as dozens of papers in such journals as BioScience, Conservation Biology, Environmental Conservation, Neotropical Ornithology, Neotropical Primates, The Pan-Pacfic Entomologist, and Molecular Ecology. His popular articles and essays have appeared in publications ranging from Audubon and Orion to The Wall Street Journal, The Times of London, The Los Angeles Times, The American Scholar, and The Huffington Post.​