Honeybee Books

Fall and winter in Washington state are cold, wet and dark: the perfect time for reading.  I know this is being read on the web, and I’ve written a blog-bit on websites and forums.  However, I don’t really like the internet.  It’s useful, but given the choice between reading on an electronic screen and holding a book or magazine, I’ll go for the paper.

There some great reading on beekeeping, bees, other insects, and arachnids out there, the books that follow are some of what’s on my shelf and some of my current bee reading.   In each category they are in alphabetical order, not order of preference.

Books with tons of information (how’s that for a category?):

Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera”, Eric Grissell: OK, it’s not just about honeybees.  But all the others are really neat as well.  Did you know sawflies go back to the dinosaurs?  I didn’t, and I think that’s wonderful.  The book gives good biological background on the different bugs, and how they function in our gardens.  It then goes on then give more detailed information as one delves into the types of insects being discussed.  A fun book to pick up, open to any page and begin to read.

Biology of the Honey Bee”, Mark L. Winston: I love this book.  It’s another book you can pick up, open it to any chapter and begin to read.   Want to know about development and nutrition? It’s there.  Drones, queens, and mating? Chapter 12 does it.  Winston’s research and science are solid, but – even better – he makes the reading it a joy.  The only down side is the lack of blank pages in the back of the book – it’s where I write down all my notes, and there’s just not enough room for all the wonderful information.

“40 Years Among The Bees”, C.C. Miller.  If there had been blogs in Miller’s time, this would have been one.  Short pieces about how and where he kept bees as well as musings on beekeeping.  I learned a lot.  I now used what I call the “Miller Shake” when putting my supers down after checking a hive: takes no time, but no more squished bees.  Some irony: I found Miller was using many of today’s “new ideas”. Queen Rearing: after all he invented the Miller Method, which required no grafting. Camaraderie: he wasn’t great at grafting either.  And of course a bit of feminism (sorry guys) one of Miller’s main assistants was a woman.  It’s a great book.

Honeybee Democracy”, Thomas D. Seeley:  All about how swarms make the decisions on where to go when they swarm.  It’s fascinating how the structure works in the hive, in both consensus building and in the physical aspects.  The book’s well written in clear language, which says a lot. When scientists write books the reading can be hard going at times.  This one is a great read.  For those who relish all the how’s and why’s of behavior experimentation, the studies are explained.  For those who just want to know, but don’t really want to delve into the details of how the information was collected and analyzed, the chapters are laid out so one can easily read the results.   This book has its own facebook page.

Insects of the Pacific Northwest“, Peter Haggard and Judy Haggard: A must have if you’re into bugs and live in the Pacific Northwest.  Full of absolutely beautiful pictures that clearly show each insect (or group of insects for the tiny ones).  Great information, well presented. It’s pretty durable (I bring my copy into the wilderness).

How to Keep Bees:

Natural Beekeeping” Ross Conrad– When I first read this book, my two thoughts were: “yes…yep..of course…” and “where was this book when I started out.”  Doesn’t really matter if you’re just starting or been in beekeeping awhile.  It’s full of good ideas for keeping bees without chemicals or antibiotics.

Queen Rearing: Even if you’re not contemplating rearing your own queens, these are interesting to read, and will give you great insight in when and how the bees are rearing their own queens:

Bear in mind that each one has a slightly different take on timing and methods.  That’s beekeeping: it’s not only local, it’s personal.

Better Queens” and “Queen Rearing Simplified”, Jay Smith.  These are very helpful as they are clearly written.   Smith covers the basics of how and when to work with your hives.  He lays out clear goals for each step of the way, and offers methods to help you reach them.

Breeding Queens”, Gilles Fert:  I really like this book.  It’s clear and easily understood.  By now you’ve gotten the idea that I like books that don’t make you struggle to understand what the author is trying to say.  Ferts’ methods are both different and similar to other people’s methods.  The long starter is intriguing; the idea of not lifting is always attractive to me.  I found the book on an interactive library loan, then bought it from Ferts website. In fact we had a credit card glitch, and he sent me the book before he had the cash – that’s faith, and customer service.  Hard to find on a search so: www.apiservices.com/fert/fert_us.htm

Successful Queen Rearing”, Dr. Marla Spivak :  Simple instructions and even a cool wheel at the back to help with the timing.  Timing, and critical mass of bees, are two important aspects in queen rearing, no matter what method you use.  The book is about grafting, but the time lines, and methods of getting that critical mass in one’s starters and finishers hold true for whatever method of queen rearing one undertakes.  If you’re into visuals, you can get a DVD or VHS (I thought I was the only one who remembered those) to go with this “manual”.

Honey Plants:

American Honey Plants”, Frank C. Pellett: Like a dictionary; written in 1920.  It seemed to me the emphasis is on the eastern side of the U.S. I do not find it as complete as Honey Plants of North America (next entry), but interesting.

Honey Plants of North America”: John H. Lovell:  This is like a dictionary.  It’s wonderful.  You look up a flower and usually it’s there with information about the plant’s usefulness as a source of nectar.   It was written in 1926, which goes to show how much one can accomplish without the aids of modern technology.  The photos are in black and white, so I use it in conjunction with plant directories that relate to my area of the Pacific Northwest.

Magazines: There’s a lot from all over the world, but the 2 here in the US are:

Bee Culture:  I admit it, I really like this magazine.  When it comes, I tend to find myself sitting in my truck at the post office leafing through the articles before I drive home.  It’s always informative, full of ideas, research, and interesting musings.  The magazine tends to emphasize natural beekeeping (my preference).

American Bee Journal ABJ’s an excellent magazine, but seems to me aimed primarily at the folks who have thousands of hives.  On the plus side, they carry (carried? I don’t subscribe for the foregoing reason) Kirk Webster’s column.  This Vermont beekeeper has practiced chemical-free beekeeping for years and has innovative ways to raise queens.

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