Book Review: Bees by Sam Droege and Laurence Packer.

A book review today – this one is truly amazing!


Bees:  An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World – Sam Droege and Laurence Packer (2015, Voyageur Press, Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota)

The bees may be from around the world, but the photography is absolutely out of this world in this beautiful hardcover offering from Sam Droege and Laurence Packer.  The detail and clarity of Droege’s images are breathtaking, a true celebration of different species of this complex and valuable pollinator.  The native bee specimens represented in this book inhabit locations such as Guyana, Chile, Paraguay, South Africa, the United States, India, Thailand, England, and Peru (among others); many come from private or public collections or were personally collected by the authors.  It is a delight to armchair travel and learn about the bees that most of us will never be able to see in our lifetimes:  the attractive furry white cape (and contrasting nasty hooked spurs) of the Spurred Grappler (Trichothurgus dubius), the Atlas Morning Glory Bee (which, as its name suggests, takes pollen from morning glories – and only morning glories), exquisitely-iridescent Xylocopa (carpenter bees), and the tellingly-monikered Red-Butted Campanula Lover (Melitta haemorrhoidalis) from England.  There are the deep blue Osmias from the United States and the Maple Solitary Miner, which takes pollen and nectar in early cold spring from emerging maple trees.  The large, metallic green Black-Winged Cuckoo Orchid Bee from Guyana seems almost supernatural, as does the Long-Nosed Sandlover, a bee with a formidably long tongue and head that resides in the Atacama Desert of Chile.  The easily-digestible short profiles of each bee offer interesting facts about their habitat, behaviour, and distinguishing features.

While this isn’t the sort of book that gardeners will likely use to identify the bees in their own landscape, the incredible images and fascinating information make it a must-have in your garden library.  Macro photographers – particularly those interested in insects – will find it a true inspiration for their own work.

If you want to take a look at Sam Droege’s stellar photography, check out the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab gallery here.  

*A huge thank you to Quarto Publishing Group, which kindly gifted me with a copy of Bees.  My thoughts about the book are one million percent honest and true.

Book Review: The Book of Beetles.


The Book of Beetles:  A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature’s Gems – Patrice Bouchard, Editor (2014, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago)

I may be a gardener, but I pretty much freak out whenever I encounter an insect – it doesn’t matter if they’re beneficial or not.  I can handle lady (ladybird) beetles (and by that, I mean I can literally hold them) and butterflies – and for some reason ants don’t upset me unless they’re in my kitchen, building little ant condos and supermarkets beneath my dishwasher.  But everything else either sends me running or – in the case of a certain grossly oversized, hairy moth that once flew into the open window of a vehicle I was driving – to a screeching halt on the side of the road.   Sawyer beetles – you know the ones that are the size of a Honda Civic and sport antennae of a length you normally associate with the rack on a trophy elk – make me positively hysterical.

Still, even if you have only a fractional fondness for insects, it is extremely useful (I’d suggest necessary) to be able to identify them in the home and garden. I came across The Book of Beetles at work and thought maybe it would be helpful for me to properly ID some of the beetles in southern Alberta.  Actually, while some of the 600 beetles in the book do indeed inhabit the province, it’s not really that kind of book.  It’s actually a book about the fashion models of the order Coleoptera.  Every page sports a glorious full colour, life size glossy photo of beetles bedecked in all their finery,*  accompanied by a short bio that answers all of the important questions, such as country of residence and favourite foods.  (“Carpet fibres,” enthuses one, while several others tout the benefits of chewing tree bark).   These beetles are all so staggeringly beautiful and unique, this non-beetle lover paged through the book in complete amazement.  And if I was impressed, anyone interested in beetles would be quite happy, indeed. The photographs are absolutely incredible, and despite its size and weight, the book isn’t text heavy.  (This shouldn’t trouble beetle enthusiasts and scientists, as the intent of the book is clear.  And it will only serve to make people like me take an earnest look).   I don’t think a more enjoyable book about beetles has ever been produced.

*In the case of the reeeeeallly little beetles, there is also a magnified photo to show detail.


Face to Face with 11 Amazing Beetles (BBC World)


Pincushion flower and bee.

Bee Scabiosa

I meant to post this photo ages ago…I’m hoping to pick the brains of anyone who is interested in/an expert regarding/wants to wildly speculate about bees to get an ID for this little one I found on a fading scabiosa bloom in my garden.  I took this image on a chilly morning in late August and the bee seemed awfully cold – it sure wasn’t moving much.

I just can’t resist pincushion flowers (mine is Scabiosa caucasica ‘Perfecta’) – the structure of the blooms is remarkable and the pollinators adore them.  I am determined to add a few more hardy types to my perennial beds over the next couple of years.  Do you grow Scabiosa? 

Red Lily Beetle.

Although I don’t make a habit of revisiting old posts, this one bears repeating.  The red (or scarlet) lily beetle has taken over Alberta, it seems – and I know infestations have been occurring all over the world (in some places, for quite a number of years).  This is my post from last year about the dastardly red beast:

Red Lily Beetle (Flowery Prose)

Asiatic lily

This gorgeous Asiatic lily isn’t from my garden, although I wish it was – I took this photograph at the Calgary Zoo a couple of summers ago. 

Have you been faced with an infestation of red lily beetles in your garden?  (I sure hope not!).  If you have, what seems to work best to keep them under control?

Post updated: May 2018.