A guide to North American bees

I am in love . . . with a book. I pre-ordered the new bee book by Joseph S. Wilson & Olivia Messinger Carril not knowing anything about it, but when it arrived, I became immediately and hopelessly enthralled.

I read until dinner and read while I mashed potatoes. Later, I read late into the night. After finally turning off my light and staring at the ceiling for awhile, I got back up and read some more.

The next morning I decided to e-mail my friend at OlyPollinators about the book, but when I opened my e-mail, there was a message with the subject line, “A book!!” Glen had beaten me to it.

The new book has the ridiculous title of The Bees in Your Backyard. Ridiculous because it sounds like a children’s book, sort of like “Dick and Jane Go to the Seashore”—but it is so much more than that.

I have a shelf about three feet long full of books that I use for wild bee identifications. Most have only short sections on identification methods, and most are extremely limited, covering only certain families or certain geographical areas, or having complex keys with no photos. Each time I want to i.d. a bee, these books spill out over the floor as I ruffle through them, usually to no avail.

But this book is different. According to the back cover, “It gives detailed accounts of every bee family and genus in North America, describing key identification features, distributions, diets, nesting habits, and more.” Did you catch that? Every genus in North America! It also has more than 900 color photos.

The book is chock-full of identification tips, including photos of wing veins, detailed depictions of facial patterns, tongue diagrams, and photos of similar genera. Each genus has a pronunciation guide, a size-range diagram, a distribution map that shows not only where the bee occurs but also the likelihood of occurrence in that area. Best, the book contains hundreds of little highlighted text boxes that reveal bee trivia, and the whole thing is well-written and easy to understand.

This is the book I have been waiting for, the one I wish I had years ago. If you are at all interested in wild and native bees—and as a beekeeper you should be—this is the book for you. It is published by Princeton University Press and is available in both softcover and Kindle editions. Although I usually buy e-books, when it comes to field guides and references, I prefer printed materials. The print edition of this unbelievable book is only $22.39 on Amazon.

Enough said. Now I’m going to dig out that little box of dead bees I’ve been keeping in my closet and see if I can figure out who they are. The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees

Honey Bee Suite


  • I had this book on back order with Amazon for a couple of months… received it last week, but I’ve been too busy to read, as it sits beside my chair waiting for me to dive in… :^) I anticipate spending much time with this book in December as things slow down around here – only 3 more crafts fairs selling honey, handmade soap & lip balm…

  • A new book has been released in Australia called THE AUSTRALIAN BEEKEEPING MANUAL, by Robert Owen, this book although written for Aussies is probably the most comprehensive book on beekeeping that I have ever read.

    The info in the book really does cover every beekeeper both old & new in any country in the world. A “HIVE” OF INFORMATION

  • Hi all,

    I live in Australia and I know Bob (Robert Evans). He is a great guy and did heaps of research for his book. It’s very comprehensive and he even signed my copy for me.

    He runs a beekeeping supply business and runs courses and has spoken to our beekeeping group on various topics. Funny thing is his wife Barbara who is also involved with the business is allergic to bees

    • Claire,

      Now I’m confused. I thought you were referring to the book Jerry mentioned, but that was by Robert Owen. What is the name of the book Robert Evans wrote?

  • Just received it in the mail last week. Also for winter reading: The Common Bees of California (Lebuhn), and Bumble Bees of North America (Williams,Thorp, Richardson & Colla).

    I would suggest “Bees: An up close look at Pollinators Around The World” (Droege & Packer), great photos, and it led me to Packer’s book “Keeping the Bees”, which is one everyone should read. I plan to buy a copy for the local NRCS folks that we work with here. This is not a book on ‘Beekeeping’, but rather answers the question why all bees are at risk, and what we can do.

  • Rusty, Last year you had in your blog a description and pictures of a way to put insulation around a hive. I found it helpful and am having difficulty in reproducing it. Could you put it up again on you blog, please.
    Thanks, Pat Chambers, Westervile, Ohio

  • Yes, with this book I know what I’ll be doing this winter (and spring and summer). Bees of California has been a nice little field guide, but Bees in Your Backyard, this is a “Can’t put down except when the brain is filled and the eyelids won’t stay open” kind of book. It may put the handling of minor detail like eating, sleeping and paying bills at risk, but other than that, it is outstanding, brilliant, [insert other superlative here], etc. Glen

  • Thank you for recommending this book. I ordered it two weeks ago, after my clay hillside was a cloud of Andrena and just as the male Melissodes began sleeping rough in my sunflowers. Finally, I know their names and how they live in the world! I am obsessed with identifying all the bees in the yard. The photographs, descriptions and pronunciation guides make this a tremendous reference and an absorbing read.

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