Professor’s tale of bumblebees shortlisted for top book prize

Bumblebees on cardoon. Image: Sarah Jenkins

A Sussex biologist’s bestselling book that combines tales of a childhood passion for wildlife with deep insights into the crucial importance of the bumblebee has been shortlisted for a top prize.

Professor Goulson’s book A Sting in the Tale is one of six selected from a longlist of 18 books that will now be considered for the Samuel Johnson Prize, the UK’s premier prize for non-fiction books.

The winner of the 2013 prize, worth £20,000 will be announced on 4 November, following the shortlist announcement in 30 September.

The other contenders are: Margaret Thatcher: the Authorised Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning, by Charles Moore; Empires of the Dead by David Crane; Return of a King by William Dalrymple; The Pike by Lucy Hughes-Hallett; and Under Another Sky by Charlotte Higgins.

In his book, Professor Goulson describes what drove him in his quest to reinstate one of the nationally extinct species – the short-haired bumblebee, once commonly found in the marshes of Kent and now found only in New Zealand.

One of the UK’s most respected conservationists and the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Professor Goulson is conducting research at the University of Sussex into the impacts neonicotinoid pesticides have on bees and how to make farms more bee and wildlife-friendly. His work embraces both fundamental research and public engagement, to ensure that the bumblebee is better understood and that it remains a part of the British wildlife landscape.

Professor Goulson’s research interests are underscored by the fact that in the past 70 years British bumblebee populations have crashed. In that time two species have become nationally extinct and several other of the 27 species found in Britain are suffering dramatic declines.

Professor Goulson says: “I’m absolutely delighted to be nominated for this prestigious prize. It is great that there is such interest in a book on bumblebees – hopefully it will inspire people to pay a bit more attention to the little creatures that help to make the world go round.”

In May this year, A Sting in the Tale was serialised as Book of the Week on Radio 4.

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Last updated: Monday, 30 September 2013