One for our Wild Readers! A Buzz in the Meadow

article written by Caitlin Coombs, Berkshire Biodiversity Officer

‘A Buzz in the Meadow’ (Dave Goulson)

A conservationist, biologist and bee-enthusiast, Dave Goulson is renowned amongst environmental bookworms for his mesmerising ability to use personal experiences in order to illustrate the wonders of our natural world, making for a highly enjoyable read which subconsciously leaves the reader with a breadth of new-found knowledge.

Goulson’s A Buzz in the Meadow demonstrates the fascinating behaviours that seem to happen right under our nose (sometimes literally!), converting even the fiction-lovers out there to a casual taste of wildlife literature. The story follows Goulson’s adventures, reflections and journey when he bought a derelict farm and the surrounding 33 acres in rural France and converted it into a wildlife haven.

Amongst many other topics, the book explores plant-pollinator interactions, explaining the factors which govern the attraction between them, describing competition for ‘rewards’ including pollen, nectar and heat, and mercilessly reveals the ‘cheaters’ of the system! These include flowers which mimic those of rewarding plants that live nearby, or even the shape of a female individual of a pollinator, attracting a naïve and hopeful male insect who is soon to be disappointed!

Who knew that houseflies do actually have an important purpose? Who knew that the deathwatch beetle ejaculates staggering amounts of sperm, the human equivalent of 14 litres? Who knew that woody nightshade requires ‘buzz pollination’, a bizarre vibrating dance mastered only by few species of bumblebee, in order to be pollinated? Who knew that Dave Goulson once lived in a house-share in Didcot?

Goulson finishes with a more resonant, thought-provoking chapter, with theories on what caused the collapse of mass-civilisation on Easter Island. This leaves us pondering whether the mass-abuse of finite resources, and the subsequent collapse of the human population which happened on this tiny island, could be a microcosm of what is happening on planet Earth today.

The book delights us with the wonders of the natural world, but Gouslon doesn’t forget to remind us that these extraordinaries are in trouble. We have a responsibility to value and protect our environment and the myriad of life it supports. And if we learn to value what we have, perhaps we will find a way to keep it.

After publishing the widely-praised A Sting in the Tale just one year earlier, Dave Goulson does not disappoint with this second masterpiece. He is captivating, amusing, and A Buzz in the Meadow delightfully showcases his ability to charm and educate whilst telling an absorbing story.

Posted: September 14, 2020