- "OMFG, Bees" is a celebratory, funny, and well-illustrated compendium honoring bees.
- It also brings home how critical bees and other pollinators are to our planet’s ecology.
Bees are amazing animals. They're smart, deeply emotional, and key players in countless diverse ecosystems. Award-winning writer Matt Kracht tells it all in his beautifully illustrated, highly informative, and easy-to-read book OMFG, Bees! Bees Are So Amazing and You're About to Find Out Why. Here he answers a few questions about his wonderful guide to "all things bees."
Marc Bekoff: Why did you write OMFG, BEES!
Matt Kracht: In mid-2021, like probably everyone else during the pandemic lockdown, I was feeling pretty stir-crazy, and I thought, “I really need to write another book.” I had previously published two humor books about birds, but I wanted a change of subject. At the time, I really needed something new to get excited about, I just wasn’t sure what that was.
During that period, my wife and I had been spending more time gardening, and that meant more time up close and personal with bees. I just became more aware of them, their physical presence, and how many different species were constantly around us, busying themselves in the flowers or pollinating the tomatoes, doing their bee things. I found myself thinking about how connected and interdependent we are.
It gave me a feeling of wonder to observe them, but I was also struck by how precarious things are for bees right now. They are so fascinating and beautiful, and so important to all of us. I thought, “Okay, I guess I’m writing a book about bees.”
MB: How does your book relate to your background and general areas of interest?
MK: I can remember being a very young child and crawling in the dirt under the back deck and studying the pill bugs. I kept a piece of chalk down there to make drawings of their segmented carapaces on the concrete house foundation, they were kind of like my own cave paintings.
When I was older, I imagined a career in the sciences, but I got to college and discovered that I had absolutely zero aptitude for calculus, which quickly altered my plans. Ultimately, I chose to study my other great loves: writing and art. I’m still excited by science; I suppose I’m just putting them all together.
MB: Who is your intended audience?
MK: I think this book will appeal to anyone with a sense of humor, and who is interested in bees, natural science, or the environment. Aside from practical advice on beekeeping, there seems to be a real gap between scholarly articles and books aimed at children. This book is intended to live in that gap — I’ve tried to make it both amusing and informative, whether you know a lot about bees, or very little. It’s not intended for young kids unless you feel they are ready for some science, mild adult humor, and a bit of salty language.
MB: What are some of the topics you weave into your book and what are some of your major messages?
MK: Largely, this book is about topics like honey, of course, and the science behind how bees actually produce it; beeswax and the architecture of honeycomb; the various taxonomic families of bees and how they differ; bee social structures (eusocial vs. solitary); and, this is where it gets really interesting, behavior, communication, and learning. I also highlight a number of different individual species that I just think are super interesting (or beautiful). I do all of my own illustrations, so this book was a lot of fun for me to make.
I also try to bring home how critical bees and other pollinators are to our planet’s ecology and, ultimately, maybe our survival as a species. After I talk about how varied and amazing bees are, I walk the reader through a speculative chain of consequences that could occur if there were a mass bee extinction. I use humor to keep it from getting too dark, but the reality is actually kind of alarming when you think about how fragile it all is.
Finally, I talk a little about how we humans can try to make things easier for the bees. I don’t have all the answers, but it’s meant to get the reader thinking.
MB: How does your book differ from others that are concerned with some of the same general topics?
MK: I think the main difference is that I approach the material as a humorist first, rather than as an educator. Humor has always been a part of how I express myself; it feels natural to me to use it when I write. My goal is that you read this book about bees and you love the artwork and it brings some lightness and laughter into your life. If you also learn something new, or even if it just gets you thinking about bees in a way that you haven’t before, that’s even better.
MB: Are you hopeful that as people learn more about bees they will respect them for who they are and how they can help us along?
MK: Absolutely. I hope that as people learn more, they come away with a new appreciation, not just for how complicated and impressive these animals are, but for how important they are to us and our planet. I tried to end on a hopeful note, with a few concrete actions that individuals can take to help make a more friendly world for bees and other pollinators.
I know that, often, being able to take action is a matter of privilege. I know not everyone is going to be able or willing to do all of these things, but I would say: if you can manage to do even one thing, then you’re helping. Even if, as an individual, your impact is small, you are contributing to the greater good — kind of like a bee.
In conversation with bestselling author, Matt Kracht, the author of the bestselling Field Guide to Dumb Birds series: The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America, The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of the Whole Stupid World, and The Big Dumb Bird Journal.