Sue’s Book Reviews
BEEKEEPING, A Practical Guide
By Richard Bonney
- BEEKEEPING, A Practical Guide is the first volume in a series of text book like paperbacks. This ‘easy read’ guide is an excellent resource for the beginning beekeeper or for someone who is seriously considering the hobby. The author discusses all the aspects of beekeeping in an easily understood manner. He includes chapters such as apiary terminology, beginning bee biology as it relates to the hobby, the equipment necessary to manage hives, how and when to add and collect supers and extract the honey, and what to do and what to expect during each season of the year. The text includes an extensive list of references about all aspects of beekeeping. This is an excellent, basic text for the beginner. More experienced beekeepers should consider other texts in Bonney’s series. Richard Bonney, the author, is a past state apiarist in Massachusetts and taught at UMass Amherst. He owned and operated Charlemont Apiaries and taught beginning beekeeping for many years. As a result, he has insight into the situations and questions that fledgling beekeepers have. This paperback reflects his extensive background in the profession and serves as his text for beginning classes.
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
- There are beginning beekeeping texts and then there are beginning beekeeping texts; I found Beekeeping Basics to be in the latter category. Every introductory textbook includes descriptions of the bee colony, hive equipment and tools, the installation of packages and nucs, diseases of the hive and colony management; this volume covers these topics in layman’s terms. But there two features that set Beekeeping Basics apart from other beginning texts. This manuscript contains a comprehensive appendix that includes lists of related beekeeping information. Examples of these references include a summary of Current Best Management Practices, Chemicals Approved for Legal Use in Honey Bee Colonies, Resources Available to Beekeepers and a list of Beekeeping Supply Companies. Beginning beekeepers, especially those without mentors, will find this information especially valuable. The second distinguishing feature is its spiral bound format that facilitates use in the field. A student who is learning to examine hives might open the text to one of the instructional sections, place the book on a nearby hive, and use the resource as he/she pulls frames and examines brood. The text lies flat and can be easily transported in the tool kit. Beginning beekeepers will find a month by month checklist of hive management practices that can provide direction throughout the year. The book includes recipes for making candy boards and pollen supplement and it offers points to consider for urban beekeeping and the marketing of hive products. There is a comprehensive, user-friendly glossary. Were I a beginning bee school instructor, this is one of the texts I would consider for classroom and student use. A beginning beekeeper will find it a very user-friendly resource.
BEEKEEPING at BUCKFAST ABBEY
By Brother Adam
- Brother Adam assumed responsibility for managing the apiaries at Buckfast Abbey in south west England in 1917. How large an undertaking was this? The storage tanks at the abbey that house extracted honey prior to bottling hold 27 ½ tons of honey! What a daunting undertaking. Maximum honey production from each hive has always been the goal at Buckfast Apiaries. To that end Brother Adam observed, experimented, weighed, measured and documented beekeeping in their apiaries. Some of his research prompted procedural changes in maintaining the hives. He bred bees, raised queens, and modified equipment. Some of these changes were contrary to longstanding beekeeping practices; some of these changes are contrary to accepted practices today. Brother Adam’s problem solving approach and meticulous documentation procedures have prompted me to look at how I work my hives. His discussion about queen rearing has challenged me to learn more about that phase of beekeeping. I was quite content with my beekeeping skills until I read his book. Brother Adam’s discussions have me excited for the upcoming spring. I can’t wait for the dandelions and pussy willows! Maybe there’s more I can do to maximize honey production in my own hives.
BEEKEEPING for DUMMIES
by Howland Blackiston
- We’re all familiar with these black and yellow ‘how to’ books that provide instruction on a wide variety of topics. Well you could have put my name right on the top of that DUMMIES list when I first began keeping bees! I had completed the beginning beekeeping class. My instructors had given the class a list of equipment to order and the name of several business that sold packages of bees. Santa had even left a bee suit under the tree with my name on it. And I thought I was set to go! I picked up my equipment and looked with dismay at three kinds of nails, some metal things with two prongs and no points on the ends (how do I pound these things in?) and foundation that didn’t seem to fit no matter how I tried to make it go. And then I found Beekeeping for Dummies; it was easy going from there on out. This book has lists. . .step one-do this; step two-do this; step three-you get the picture. Once my boxes and frames were assembled (by following the how-to lists), I moved on to the list of how to install my bees. Then I found the chapter about how to open the hive— where to stand, what tools to use, what to do first, what comes next. There are even simple pictures that demonstrate the procedures being described! During my first year keeping bees, I found myself going to this book before every visit to my hive. I’d refer to the lists and say to myself, “I can do that”. And I found I could, and furthermore I enjoyed it! Beekeeping for Dummies was one of the most valuable tools in my toolbox that first year and I would recommend it to every beginning beekeeper. It was money well spent. Oh, by the way, those two-pronged nails turned out to be support pins. The author tells you how to install them too!
The Beekeeper’s Bible
- This comprehensive beekeeping book has become one of my “go to” resources whether I have a specific question, a procedural puzzle or a curiosity about something I have observed while working my hives. I find it as valuable a resource as any of the textbooks from the beekeeping courses I have taken. The colorful pictures and detailed drawings provide step-by-step direction to enhance the topics under discussion. Historical aspects of beekeeping provide the foundation for chapters about bee biology, beekeeping practices, mite control, disease diagnosis and treatment as well flowers and landscaping that support bee habitats. Later chapters share techniques and recipes utilizing propolis, wax and honey. In fact, one of my family’s favorite recipes for cookies can be found in this book. It’s a great comprehensive encyclopedia-like reference—good to browse, good to read for specific situations and great to peruse for colorful photos and recipes. The Beekeeper’s Bible should be a part of the reference library for anyone who is serious about becoming a skilled beekeeper.
The Backyard Beekeeper’s HONEY Handbook
By Kim Flottum
- When I was a neophyte beekeeper, I had two goals. My first hope was that my bees would pollinate my vegetable and flower gardens more effectively. My second goal was to harvest and enjoy the honey that my bees produced. And The Backyard Beekeeper’s HONEY Handbook has helped me work toward that end. It is the only resource I have found that focuses solely on the production, extraction and use of honey. The author assumes that you understand the fundamentals of beekeeping; he spends time reviewing only those beekeeping skills that relate to nectar harvesting and honey production by the bees. He discusses the process of honey harvesting, extraction and bottling in detail. His discussions are augmented by colorful pictures and diagrams. And what I really love about this book are the recipes! There are recipes for dips and dressings, for salads and vegetables, for entrees (I bet you never thought about using honey in your spaghetti sauce!) and desserts (including my family’s favorite baklava recipe), for pastries and baked goods. And he closes his book with a recipe for Beekeeper’s Mulled Wine. . .the perfect drink to accompany your holiday season. A good read and a great book. . .especially if you love great food. Enjoy!
FIELD GUIDE to HONEY BEES and THEIR MALADIES
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
- We all anticipate, with trepidation, that inevitable day (hoping against hope that it isn’t today!) when we remove the outer cover, lift that first frame and . . .”WHAT HAPPENED HERE?” or “should it smell like this?” or “OH YUCK!” We all have insight into the damage that mites, parasites and predators have brought upon the bee population, including the harm they inflict upon the bees as well as the diseases they carry. This little guide, with its explicit pictures and descriptions, helps the beekeeper diagnose what’s happening and what steps are necessary to deal with the condition. Though small in size, this field guide is a big addition to every beekeeper’s equipment; it should be in every beek’s tool box, no matter his/her level of experience. Its small size and spiral binding allow it to fit nicely into a pocket or pouch of a bee suit or tool kit. It should travel with you every time you inspect your bees. The Field Guide to Honey Bees and Their Maladies is not intended for bedtime reading. As the name implies, it is for use ‘in the field’. Remember that the key to dealing with harmful conditions in your hives is to treat the problem early. And, with this guide in your tool kit, you can still keep on hoping that terrible day is a long time coming. (never would be nice!) But if/when it does happen, you’ll be prepared.
HIVE MANAGEMENT: A Seasonal Guide for Beekeepers
- I love this book. Let me say it again. I love this book. Bonney gears his text to the intermediate beekeeper and assumes the reader has mastered basic hive management skills. He moved me from a reactive bee-haver to a proactive beekeeper. For example, I didn’t worry about my hive swarming right after I installed them. And I hoped, with fingers crossed, that they wouldn’t swarm the following season. I had no idea that I could have taken steps—proactively—to greatly reduce the chance that my hives would swarm. When my bees produced enough capped honey for me to extract, I found myself with more questions than answers. How can I tell when the honey should be taken off the hive? What do I do with unripe honey in the supers? Should I leave a super on the hive over the winter? What do I do with wet supers after extracting? Bonney answers these specific questions and follows the answer with a discussion about why a procedure should be followed. He shares questions that beekeepers should ask a dealer when purchasing packages or nucs. He offers late season suggestions to help beekeepers prepare their hives for the coming winter—beyond candy boards and wrapping. I kept going back to read, over and over, each of the sections and found myself thinking “why didn’t I think of that” or “of course; that makes perfect sense”. I wanted to absorb every detail because I realized that beekeeping was more dependent on my actions than ‘relying on luck’ and ‘hoping I did everything right’. I can now look at my hives, analyze what I see, and figure out the solution. No more guessing. I love this book
The Queen Must Die and Other Affairs of Bees and Men
By William Longgood
- Appropriate for even the novice beekeeper, this ‘easy read’ book provides an overview of many aspects of beekeeping. Longgood examines the workings of a contemporary hive and discusses the roles of the queen, worker bees, and drones in making the hive function efficiently. He lightheartedly philosophizes about the work ethic observed in the hive and compares it to the work ethic observable in today’s society. Even the fledgling beekeeper can enjoy the experiences of Longgood as he unwittingly acquires his original hives and progresses through his seasonal apiary responsibilities. We can all relate to his anxieties as he examines his hives throughout the summer, harvests and extracts honey in the fall and prepares his hives for winter. He even shares a little insight into monthly beekeeping meetings! This is a great book to add to your winter reading list. Although it’s not a ‘how to’ book, it philosophically reinforces all the skills taught in beginning bee schools with a touch of humor. The Queen Must Die will get you excited about opening your hives and will renew your appreciation for the hard-working Apis mellifera.
Fruitless Fall - The collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis
By Rowan Jacobsen
- Many of us recall Rachel Carson’s dire prediction outlined in A Silent Spring. Rowan Jacobsen’s Fruitless Fall details how we may see Carson’s prediction becoming a reality. In 2007, Dave Hackenberg, a commercial beekeeper from Pennsylvania who wintered some of his bees in the southern United States, was confronted with an unthinkable situation. Hackenberg had 400 of his hives in a Brazilian pepper field in Florida. It was a warm sunny day, ideal weather for bees to forage, yet there were very few bees visible in the pepper field. He consulted other commercial beekeepers in the area, only to hear the same lament, “my bees are dying”. Fruitless Fall provides detailed, instructive information about honeybee biology to give the reader the background necessary to understand Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). He discusses the role of pollinators in the food production chain and the magnitude of the problem should the agricultural pollination cycle collapse. This collapse will be felt world-wide as one third of the food on out plates is a direct result of honeybee pollination. Jacobsen discusses the role of commercial beekeepers in understanding the reality of CCD. He discusses how commercial beekeepers are still transporting pollinators around the United States, stressing the bees, exposing them to pesticides, unusual weather climates and agricultural products harmful to their biological needs. Jacobsen urges the reader not to take the abundance of Mother Nature for granted. He provides insight onto questions the backyard beekeeper might ask: should I purchase ‘packaged bees’ offered for a lesser price or purchase bees that are locally raised? What harm is there in treating my vegetable and flower gardens with powders and sprays to kill mites and unwanted pests? Fruitless Fall was an informative, thought-provoking read that traced the development of Colony Collapse Disorder and scientific attempts to find resolution. It will reinforce your need to lobby Congress and speak out against large pesticide-producing companies.
By Lawrence John Connor
- Are you a back yard beekeeper who sometimes ponders selling honey at the local farmer’s market? Do you stay awake nights worrying about spring swarms and what you might do to prevent them. Are you intrigued by the thought of more hives, greater pollination, and increased honey production? If you are an experienced beekeeper, diligent about the maintenance and well-being of your hives, Increase Essentials will give you several hours of focused ‘honeybee’ reading on a cold winter night. And when you’ve finished the last chapter, and reflected on all that you’ve read, you’ll be motivated to build more hive boxes, assemble swarm traps for spring and have your nuc boxes ready for next season’s build-up of bees. And you’ll be focused on building more supers so you’re ready for the first honey flow of the season. Increase Essentials, as the title implies, expands the reader’s knowledge of the process and timing of splitting your hives, building nucs, capturing swarms and managing bees for utmost pollination and maximum honey production. Dr. Connor teaches the beekeeper how to increase the number of hives by using hive notes and records to determine the hives to be split, the timing of the splits, and options for requeening hives. He gives detailed instruction in assembling nucs and talks about when, how and why to requeen hives to break the varroa mite cycle and increase honey production. Increase Essentials is built on the premise that you have a solid understanding of beekeeping basics. It emphasizes practical management techniques. Every chapter in the book is relevant and offers solutions to many of the seasonal problems faced by beekeepers. I find it a valuable resource throughout the year. . . a real “go to” reference.