There is an old saying: if you ask five beekeepers what they think about something, you'll get six answers! Beekeeping is an art and a science, and there are countless ways to approach it. There seem to be equally many books on the subject. So where's a novice to start?
When I first became interested in bees, I took a small group class. No book can give you the feeling that you get when you get your hands in a hive for the first time. For anyone starting out, see if you can find an introductory class in your area (for those of you that happen to be in Central Texas, BeeWeaver offers private and group lessons).
But its hard to know what you’re getting into after just one trip to the apiary, so reading is a great way to round out your knowledge.
When choosing a beekeeping book, it’s helpful to consider what you hope to achieve with your bees. Are you mainly hoping for pollination help for your backyard garden? Are you keen on harvesting honey, wax and other hive products? Are you against using pesticides and chemical treatments in your hive?
With those thoughts buzzing in your brain, take a look at our top five book recommendations for novice beekeepers!
Beekeeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston is a great no-nonsense primer and a handy reference for any backyard beekeeper. Blackiston covers everything from hive maintenance to honey extraction to pacifying skeptical neighbors. Also included are some ideas for using hive products (such as honey and propolis), and a fantastic FAQ addressing many novice beekeepers’ biggest question.
Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2nd Edition by Ross Conrad. Bees face many challenges, from varroa mites to pesticides to the mysteries of colony collapse disorder. Increasingly, beekeepers are looking for solutions that don't rely on artificial chemicals. In this book, Vermont-based natural beekeeper Ross Conrad describes a holistic approach, emphasizing the health and welfare of bees over short-term gains. This book is full of practical advice for beekeeping without chemicals, as well as a thorough discussion of Conrad's beekeeping philosophy - his love of, and reverence for, the bees makes for an inspiring read. Also includes a chapter on selling and marketing your naturally-produced bee goods.
Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell. Top-Bar Hives have become increasingly popular in recent years. In this fantastic and concise book, the pros and cons of this beekeeping style are discussed, as are many techniques specific to top-bar hives. However, much of the information contained here is applicable to all beekeepers, especially the sections on raising queens and maintaining colonies without medication or chemicals.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Diane Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile. This book is perfect for beekeepers or wannabeekeepers seeking more in-depth knowledge. The authors cover all the basics of beekeeping in great detail, as well as some more advanced beekeeping concepts like double-queen colonies – aided by a plethora of useful diagrams and illustrations. Also includes a very comprehensive discussion of honeybee pests and pathogens.
The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism by Jurgen Tautz. While this book isn’t a how-to guide, for anyone fascinated by the complex behavior of honeybees, this is a must-read. Tautz, a renowned bee researcher, takes the reader on a detailed tour of the realm of bees. Everything from bee vision to the function of “heater bees” to the famous “waggle dance” is covered. If the author’s enthusiastic, lucid prose doesn’t win you over, the phenomenal photography surely will!
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