A Buzz in the Meadow by Dave Goulson is a combination of journal and ecology lesson. Goulson writes lovingly of life in Chez Nauche, the French farm that he purchased and has run as a sanctuary for native plants, animal, and especially insect life. He recounts the hazards and joys of refurbishing and restoring the land, the mistakes he made, and the lessons he learned about the creatures living on the land.
During this seemingly casual writing, he includes details about the different creatures—about the mating of death-watch beetles, for example, or the way the members of one species of nectar robbing bumblebee (Bombus wurflenii) will all rob one side of a given plant and not the other. This inevitably includes showing what a biologist is and what biologists do as he describes the various studies that led him and his graduate students to their conclusions.
Goulson is an engaging narrator and it is a pleasure to wander the fields with him, watching over his shoulder as he counts butterfly species or seeds sections of his fields with yellow rattle (much to the bemusement of his neighbors). It is easy to fall in love with the salamanders, beetles, and even the mice as he tells of their lives. His biggest love is the insects, and he talks of them with enthusiasm, managing to make even the fly sound admirable—partly by pointing out that the housefly is not the only fly we should be considering, though he has some respect even for that inevitable insect.
The book ends with a passionate plea for preservation and care of the earth, a plea backed by years of love and care on his own part.
A Buzz in the Meadow is recommended to those who like nature stories and who enjoy learning odd facts about odd creatures.
A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm comes out April 28, 2015 in both paper- and e-form.