Hymenoptera - a library

a personal list of practical favourites


A list of books I regard as special to the subject; my library. Prejudiced, as some have been left off that others might feel essential, some are too technical, others are heavy going. Some are present because of their superb images of groups of insects - so helpful in determining whether your identification is plain wrong, near enough or in the right direction. Some are chosen for their approach, as a background to the subject or providing wide coverage of a group. Some of these books are out of print, a few long so, but it is worth searching the established entomological catalogues, as they still continue to circulate.

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Ameisen (Ants); beobachten, bestimmen; by Berhard Seifert (in German), Naturbuch Verlag, Germany, 1996. 'Some of the finest colour pictures taken, covers most, if not all, British species. A superb buy for those interested in this family'.

Bees in Britain; compiled and edited by Robin Williams; free download through the  BWARS website. A truly comprehensive guide to Britsh bees contributed by members of the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS). The result of years of work and recording, it offers keys to families, descriptions of many species and articles on a variety of subjects, to provide a clear back ground to the subject. 

Bees of Surrey; by David Baldock, Surrey Wildlife Trust, 2008. Surrey has more aculeate species than anywhere else in England so this is far more than a local book. The descriptions are given by one of the leading hymenopterists in the country, while the many first-class pictures make a wonderful reference point for confirming initial identifications. Bang uo-to-date, well planned and executed, it is a fine addition to any library.

Bienen (Bees); Mitteleuropäische Gattungen, Lebensweise, beobachten; by Andreas Müller, Albert Krebs, Felix Amiet (in German), NaturBuch Verlag, Germany, 1997. Some of the finest colour pictures taken, covers most, if not all, British species of social & solitary bees. A superb buy for those interested in this family.

British bumblebees, with emphasis on the old county of Somerset; by Robin Williams; Vanellus Publications, second edition, 2000, available from Vanellus publications. An  introduction, with descriptions, discussion on variations and full set of colour-coded black & white whole-insect drawings.

British Hymenoptera: Glossary: for use with identification keys; by Robin Williams, 5th edition, 2002, available from Vanellus publications. This was produced originally to come to terms with old keys, but has expanded to cover terms and descriptions used in all known keys. Vital if you wish to use the wide range of keys available with their very varied technical terms.

Bumblebees: by Ted Benton. Collins New Naturalist, 2006. As good a comprehensive look at these creatures as you would expect from this series. Wonderful pictures.

Die Grabwespen (Digger wasps – Sphecidae) Deuschlands: Lebenweise, Verhalten, Verbreitung; by Manfred Blösch (in German); Die Tierwelt Deuschlands 71. Teil; Goecke & Evers, Germany, 2000. Fantastic action colour photos of virtually every British species; the ideal way to check finally on identification after keying an insect out.

Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland; by Steven Falk, illustrated by Richard Lewington; Bloomsbury 2015. A triumph of publishing, one of the truly great guides. Wonderful coloured illustrations by one of the great masters of this genre, and a lifetime of practical field experience from the author. The highest recommendation.

Field Guide to the BUMBLEBEES of Great Britain & Ireland; by Mike Edwards & Martin Jenner; Ocelli; 2005, revised edition 2009. An invaluable introduction to these difficult insects, with fine photographs and excellent sections on each species. Small enough to carry in the field; a must have for every library.

Hummeln (Bumblebees); bestimmen, ansiedeln, vermehren, schützen; by Eberhard von Hagen (in German), Naturbuch Verlag, Germany, 1994. Some of the best colour pictures taken, covers all British species. A superb buy for those interested in this family.

Hymenoptera of the World: an identification guide to families; edited by Henri Goulets and John T. Huber, Agriculture Canada 1993. An amazing set of keys, with superb drawings, to identify this huge set of families. It really does work and there are some excellent family histories and descriptions. It is almost impossible to imagine the scope of this work and the huge range of detailed drawings and keys involved - a truly monumental work.

Identifying British Insects and Arachnids; edited by Peter C. Barnard: Cambridge University Press and The Natural History Museum, 1999. An annotated bibliography of key works; the place to start to look for the availability of keys for most families and species of insects..

Kloet & Hincks: Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects Vol. X1, Part 4; by M.G. Fitton, M.W.R. de V. Graham, Z.R.J. Bouček, N.D.M. Fergusson, T. Huddleston, J. Quinlan & O.W. Richards; A Check List of British Insects: Hymenoptera, Part 4: Royal Entomological Society of London; 2nd Edition, 1978. While classifications change, this volume represents a completely traceable point in time, showing synonyms. For many species is still the latest available. A monumental work which is still waiting to be replaced by the latest taxonomic changes collected in one volume. Until that occurs, this will remain the bible for those trying to understand Hymenoptera.

Provisional Atlas of the Aculeate Hymenoptera of Britain & Ireland; edited by Robin Edwards, BWARS & the Biological Records Centre (BRC); Volumes 1-8, 1997-2023 - to date. An on-going species mapping programme designed eventually to cover all aculeates. Each species covered is complete with a full account of its biology and available keys. Invaluable for those interested in aculeates.

The Hymenoptera Aculeata of the British Islands; by Edward Saunders; L. Reeve & Co, 1896. In lieu of more recent additions, this remains the only book with detailed descriptions of  a large proportion of British aculeates, species by species. Also has a series of difficult but workable keys. The illustrated edition is now a very expensive collector’s edition but another exists without these.

The Humble-Bee; by F.W.L. Sladen; Logaston Press, 1989 (first published 1912 by Macmillan & Co). Amazingly, this remains one of the finest available books on British bumblebees – the descriptions have yet to be surpassed and the original colour photos are superb. However, actual distribution of the species has since changed dramatically – for the worse.

The Royal Entomological Society book of  'British Insects' by Peter C. Barnard, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Another tour de force, describing and photographing all the Orders found in Britain. This is taken down to family level and provides an extraordinary overview of our insect population, what they look like, where they are found and how they fit into the overall picture.

Wasps of Surrey; by David W. Baldock, Surrey Wildlife Trust, 2010. Surrey has more aculeate species than anywhere else in England so this is far more than a local book. The descriptions are given by one of the leading hymenopterist's in the country, while the many first-class pictures make a wonderful reference point for confirming initial identifications. Bang uo-to-date, well planned and executed, it is fine addition to any library.

Wespen (Wasps); by Rolf Witt (in German): Second revised, enlarged edition (December 2009). 400 pages and about 450 photos, VadeMecum Verlag. Some of the finest colour pictures taken, covers most, if not all, British species of solitary & social wasps. A superb buy for those interested in this family.


Entomological book suppliers include:

NHBS, Totnes, Devon

Pemberley Books, Iver, Bucks


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