Jo Byrne

Jo Byrne

Jo Byrne is a passionate animal welfare and animal rights champion living in a relatively rural town in Bedfordshire. Bonkers about all wildlife as well as being the very epitome of a ‘crazy cat-lady’, home usually consists of two permanent-resident cats (both quite mad), one or two foster cats (at any given time) and a slew of regular visitors that include any vagabond cats, a fox or two, five hedgehogs, several goldfish and a few frogs…none of whom answer to their names. The Bee Book is her first book for Graffeg, published May 2019, with work currently underway on The Badger Book.


The Bee Book by Jo Byrne published by Graffeg

The Bee Book

Small, vital and mysterious, bees are an essential part of our ecosystem yet they are under greater threat than ever before. The Bee Book offers a unique insight into this most fascinating of creatures, including the mystery of the hive, the power of the queen and the many appearances of bees in folklore, literature and art. This is a long overdue look at bees in all of their mysterious wonder, packed with fascinating facts and superb photography.
Series Editor Jane Russ.

ISBN 9781910862315, £9.99
Published May 2019


Reviews & Features

Q and A with Jo Byrne, by Jenny White for the Western Mail

Please tell me a bit about yourself – where you are based, any other books you have written and how this book came about.

I’m based in leafy Bedfordshire which is a wonderful place to live if you love nature.  I’m lucky enough to have a small garden with a pond – which encourages everything from frogs and hedgehogs to butterflies and bees.

I met Jane, the series editor, whilst she was Chair of The Hare Preservation Trust.  She was planning a book about badgers as part of the British Wildlife series and, knowing I’m totally bonkers about badgers, asked whether I’d be interested in writing The Badger Book.

Subsequent conversations turned to The Bee Book which was planned to be released ahead of The Badger Book.  “I love bees, me!” And that was it…I was writing The Bee Book!

This is my first book for Graffeg and it’s been a wonderful experience!  They’re a terrific team!  I’m looking forward to working with them again.

What is the appeal of writing about bees for you?

Genuine ‘captains of industry’, bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and they’re in real danger.  And there’s nothing more wonderfully relaxing than to watch them buzz peacefully around the garden. We’ve got to save them! The decline in bee numbers quickly translates up the food chain and, in some countries, a fortune is being spent on ‘manual pollination’ in order to keep things ticking along.  Crazy!  In the book, we take a look at Friends of the Earth and some of the work they’re doing to try turn the tide on bee decline.

And there’s lots of easy things that all of us can do – especially keeping bee-friendly plants around.  If you’re as terrible in the garden as I am, something like lavender is especially easy to grow.  Even I can’t break lavender and the bees LOVE it!

Did you already know a lot about bees before you wrote it or did you have to research a lot? What are the most interesting discoveries you made?

I thought I ‘knew’ about bees until I started to write about them and then love turned to passion!  The more I read up about them, the more fascinated I became. I spent a goodly amount of time just going: “WOW!! AMAZING!  WOW!!”

Some interesting discoveries: we all associate ‘bees’ with honeybees but they are, in fact, the smallest percentage of bee species.  In the UK, there are around 250 different species of bee.  Only one of them is a honeybee.  There are around 25 different species of bumblebee and the rest are solitary bees – that don’t make hives or nests or even honey!

And queen bees!  Now, there’s an interesting thing!  We believe they’re the all-powerful ruler of the hive.  Well, they might get their every need taken care of – fed, cleaned, fanned – but as soon as she’s getting too old or is injured in anyway, the hive think nothing of it to rear a new queen and then actually bump off the old queen!

It’s been an incredibly interesting journey!

Why did you want to write a book about bees?

Busy, buzzing bees are wonderful in any garden – just a joy to watch.  But they’re seriously threatened and we need to act now to slow the decline.  Imagine a world without bees….without cucumbers, without many of our favourite fruits. Coffee! Cotton! That’s a bleak thought.

I feel The Bee Book will inform interested readers just a little bit more about this fascinating insect.  Hopefully, it will encourage people to look a little more closely at them as they fly by.  Incidentally, very few bees will ever bother stinging you – you have to really, really REALLY annoy a bumble bee or solitary bee to get that to happen!

What was the biggest challenge of writing this book, and what did you enjoy most?

For me, the biggest challenge was knuckling down and getting on with the writing. I’m more deadline-driven than target-driven so, needless to say, the final draft was handed in just a couple of hours short of the deadline.  It was so easy to just sit and read about them.  Getting the laptop out was the hard part! Jane and the rest of the team at Graffeg have been wonderful support and yet, given me enough freedom to just ‘get on with it’.  It’s been a real labour of love and have thoroughly enjoyed myself researching these incredible little insects.

Who do you think the book will appeal to and what do you hope the readers get out of the book?

The book is aimed at folk who would like to find out a little more about bees – honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees and even cuckoo bees.  The book also covers bees in art and literature as well as myth and legend, including the enchanting tradition of ‘telling the bees’ of all important events.

Like the other books in the British Wildlife series, The Bee Book would make a wonderful gift, filled with glorious pictures from photographers across the UK.