The Bumblebee Queen book cover image

The Bumblebee Queen

  • 795

By: April Pulley Sayre / Illustrated by: Patricia J. Wynne

250 Species of Bumblebees in the World

Award-winning author April Pulley Sayre introduces young readers to the bumblebee queen in simple, captivating language. From her underground nest as spring warms the ground, to her efforts to build and care for her colony, all aspects of the bumble- bee queen's lifecycle are fully explained, with fascinating details even young children will understand.

Patricia Wynne’s scientifically accurate illustrations detail hive life so beautifully, you can almost hear the constant buzz and smell the flowers. Young readers will look at bumblebees in a whole new light.

Includes ideas for good bee-havior, suggested reading, and Web sites for further study.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

April Pulley Sayre, author

April Pulley Sayre is the award-winning author of over 50 books for young readers, including If You Should Hear a Honey Guide (Houghton Mifflin), Army Ant Parade (Holt), and One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab (Candlewick). Sayre's books, renowned for their lyricism and accuracy, have been translated into several languages. Sayre has a warm, fuzzy place in her heart for bumblebees. She flies around the country speaking to thousands of schoolchildren each year and has been known to encourage children to chirp and buzz as they explore the sounds of words and the joy of writing.

Read more about April.

Patricia Wynne, illustrator

Patricia Wynne is a well-known scientific illustrator whose art has been included in many collections and exhibited around the country. Her detailed illustrations have appeared in 90 books, including The Body Book, Tropical Rain Forest, and Hello, Bumblebee Bat, a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor Book. Patricia lives in New York City.

Read more about Patricia.

Awards & Honors:

  • Learning Teachers' Choice Award
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers
  • South Carolina Picture Book Award nominee
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews:

Book Links

After hibernating underground for the winter, the bumblebee queen seeks nectar and a location for a hive. Then she goes about creating storage for food, laying eggs, bringing food to the larvae, and laying more eggs until worker bees are born to help her. Frequently, books about bees focus on the queen's work of laying eggs, but Sayre's lyrical text and Wynne's informative illustrations add depth to our understanding of this bee's role in the life of the colony.


In the spring, a queen bee digs her way out of the ground and flies off to drink nectar and search for a home for her colony. She settles into an old mouse nest, makes a waxy cup for storing nectar, lays eggs, tends them, and hatches them. After going through the larval stage, the new bees become workers, drones, and queens. In the fall, the new queens mate with drones before burrowing underground for the winter. A dual text conveys the main facts in large-type words, carefully chosen for sound as well as meaning. In a smaller font, another paragraph on each page or double-page spread offers related information in greater detail. Precise ink drawings with watercolor washes illustrate the text with clarity, simplicity, and skill. An appended spread includes a circular illustration of the bee's life cycle as well as more facts about U.S. bees and pollination, suggested activities, tips on observing bees, and short lists of recommended books and Web sites. Informative and attractive. –Carolyn Phelan

Horn Book Magazine

We join a queen bee as she emerges in spring and begins the process of colony building and reproduction. She carefully chooses a nesting site, builds her hive, lays eggs, and cares for the drones, workers, and new queens that hatch. Sayre tells the bee's story in the main text and provides additional interesting bee facts in separate areas. The clear, close-up illustrations depict the fuzzy bees in their farmland habitat filled with colorful flowers, trees, and leaves, and include enough detail to help young readers learn bee and hive structures. The choice to focus on the queen as the central character is understandable from both scientific and literary perspectives, though it does mean less attention paid to the equally important workers and drones. Further information about bees, including tips on careful observation and facts about pollination, is appended along with a list of recommended books and websites. –D.J.F.

Kirkus Reviews

Sayre follows the life cycle of a bumblebee queen, as she emerges from her winter shelter, selects an abandoned mouse nest for a colony site, busily tends the first generation of eggs and larvae, then, at summer’s end, dies with her workers and drones, while the next generation of queens digs in to wait for spring. Throughout, she inserts additional details in smaller-type rubrics and adds “More Buzz about Bees” and “Good Bee-Havior,” at the end. Wynne draws the viewer in to her precisely detailed, close-up natural scenes by posing queen and offspring looking up from the page to make eye contact—but she follows the author in steering clear of anthropomorphic inventions. Capped by a multimedia resource list, this makes nourishing fare for young observers of nature.

School Library Journal

Engaging watercolors keep time with a simple, easy-to-read text describing the life cycle of a bumblebee queen, from her awakening from winter hibernation to her death in late autumn. Sayre includes "fact circles" containing extra data on these creatures, a couple of closing paragraphs on bumblebee/honeybee pollinating skills, and respectful human behavior toward bees. Gentle, informative, and appealing, this title is an effective antidote to the edgy world of "killer" bees. –Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY


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ISBN: 978-1-57091-363-1

ISBN: 978-1-60734-172-7 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 4-7
Page count: 32
8 1/2 x 8 1/2

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