I am an entomologist, author, and for 37 years worked at the Hope Entomological Collections, Oxford University Museum, Oxford, UK. I had special responsibility for the curation of the world collection of Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants). My main research interests are the systematics, biogeography and floral relations of bees, especially the anthophorine bees of the Eastern Mediterranean region. This has involved long-term fieldwork collaboration with pollination botanists in Israel and Palestine. My work has also taken me to the deserts of the southwestern United States and the cerrado of Brazil. I was the senior Scientific Consultant on the six-part BBC TV series Alien Empire (1995) and wrote the book of the series, published by BBC Books. I have published 20 other books, all for the general reader, including Insects in Camera (Oxford University Press) and Bees of the World (with Anthony Raw; Blandford-Cassell). I was also the scientific consultant on the feature film Angels and Insects, the film of A. S. Byatt’s novel Morpho Eugenia. I wrote and directed The Red Mason Bee, a 30-minute film on the natural history of the solitary bee Osmia rufa, filmed and edited by his brother Peter. This won the Bronze Medal at Apimondia, Dublin, 2005. I am also interested in the use of mason bees (Osmia species) as alternatives to the honeybee as managed pollinators. In 2005, I took early retirement from Oxford in order to spend more time on research and from 2006 to 2009 worked the Blue Orchard Bee, Osmia lignaria, as a pollinator of almonds in California, developing methods of mass rearing these bees and deploying them on a commercial scale. This work has now ended and I have returned to my research on Eastern Mediterranean bees and free-lance writing.
Chris O’Toole July 31st 2010