Want to start beekeeping? Or, want to be an armchair beekeeper as I was for 18 years? Where should you start? In my humble opinion (IMHO), this post is about what you should start reading. Hopefully, it is fall or early winter, and the local beekeeper association will offer classes you can take starting in January if you are going to do the hands-on beekeeping. You really should take a class, it fills in a ton of stuff, and there will be experts to answer all your questions. Plus, there is the little bit about how to handle the bees, the hive, proper use of the safety equipment, and how to examine the frames of brood, you know the experience part. Really, there is nothing like actually doing the handling of bees, you need someone to walk you through it. Books though are full of knowledge that you can apply when you are actually experiencing the bees.
Okay, you’re one of the other people, and you want to read the material before you show up to class, or you just kinda want to know what you’re getting into, well here is the recommended reading list in order of depth and importance. You should start by reading… wait, wait, what kind of beekeeper do you want to be Organic/Natural or Common Practice? To my mind, you really need to read both schools currently because we are ALL in a battle to SAVE the honey bee. Though personally, the preference is to be totally natural, most people agree that is a difficult path nowadays. Those people that are having success seem to be isolated in some way mostly geographically.
Let’s say you want the common approach and you want an intro to the hobby stem to stern. Then what was recommended to me, it seems to be the handbook, is Beekeeping for Dummies 4th Edition (2017) or later by Howland Blackiston. I have read it cover to cover and reverence it often. Warning: Get the most recent published edition, beekeeping is quickly evolving to battle varroa mites and hive beetles, and you want to be up to date on your information. Yes, saving money is great, but trust me once you drop hundreds of dollar on equipment, hive, and bees you don’t want to miss out on the best current information that could help you be successful keeping the bees alive.
What about if you are a fan of the Idiot’s Guide series of books? I read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping (2010) too, and though it came out in 2010, it is already a little dated. It does advocate a treatment-free/organic/natural beekeeping approach and even in that it is already behind new trends. Certainly, recommend you read it to understand the debates that are raging in the bee industry and hobby. Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer do focus on the care and feeding of the bees as the focus of stewarding bees. For me, it brought up a lot of question about why common practice is doing things a certain way. Supposedly there are a bunch of web resources for this book, but the sites aren’t focused on the book anymore. You should use this as a reference book, for now, I am looking for a good natural path beekeeping book to read this winter. Any suggestions?
Those are the basics, and one is optional, and you could stop there, and if you’re like me, that will just have wetted your appetite for knowledge. I would say you are ready for a beekeeping class. What if you have the urge to go one?
There were two more books recommended to me, and IMHO make a lot of sense, the next book came from the library, and it is highly informative. The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Diana Sammataro covers a lot of Hoe_To’s and whys with a ton of drawings. I have only read sections that interested me, but this winter it will be read cover to cover.
Finally, we enter the realm of the textbook, this volume is used to train master beekeepers, biologist, and anyone that wants to understand the bee in depth, and I can’t wait to find a copy at a good prices, textbooks are expensive, thus Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, Revised Edition by Dewey M. Caron is no exception. Though I have not seen it yet, I will assume the revised edition would be more useful in that it hopefully covers the current threats to the honey bee. I will know soon because I just requested it from my library.
So, that is the list of the books that were recommended to me. I might just recommend an additional book I found in the books store out of England, that has a lot of summarised lists to help you plan when working with your bees. Try to take a look at it, The Beekeeper’s Field Guide (How to) Revised, Updated Edition by David Cramp it’s the size of other field guide and fits into a pocket. Don’t the English just have the greatest names, Cramp, oh my! It is a really useful book of bullet points covering a myriad of situations. I think Mr. Cramp is a teacher of beekeeping since the book is available in spiral-bound form this just screams “Instructor!” The only downside is it’s all in metrics system so you will have to convert the units where needed, but it had instructions in the back for that. Many of these books are designed for the beekeeper novice, and the volumes get more serious as you go on. Plus, there are other popular books for the small-scale beekeeper that I have not gotten to read yet.
- Beekeeping for Dummies 4th Edition (2017) – is a must-read. ($$)
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping (2010) is a should read sometime soon to understand what beekeeping options were available using organic methods, however, even for a natural approach, it is already dated, in my humble opinion. ($)
- The Beekeeper’s Handbook by Diana Sammataro is a fascinating primer full of variations on what you have learned in the other books. ($$)
- Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, Revised Edition by Dewey M. Caron is the biology book every serious beekeeper must read. If you can get it through the library, do that and figure out how important the information it contains is to you. ($$$$)
- The Beekeeper’s Field Guide (How to) Revised, Updated Edition by David Cramp BONUS! I almost paid retail for this books I liked it so much, it is useful because it covers topics, in short, concise bullet form. Yes, it really is a field guide. ($$$)