I’ve had this post geared up for a while now. With the new beekeepers coming out of their classes, this may be a good time for it.
When I take on a project, I read. A lot. I will read everything I can to figure out the basics before starting. I am not the type to figure it out as I go.
When you are looking for information, there are so many places to find it! There are books, websites, blogs, forums, associations and they all offer a slightly different perspective on the topic. Normally, when you’re pursuing a new topic, there are people you can talk to but beekeeping isn’t like having a dog, it’s kind of specialized. So when I realized I was going to be a beekeeper I knew I needed to start reading.
The first place I started was on Amazon by looking at the beekeeping books and their reviews. The reviews were enlightening: I had NO IDEA that beekeepers used medicines! And fed the bees sugar syrup! And high fructose corn syrup! Who knew???
I read the comments for the poorly reviewed books to see why people didn’t like them. Since these were reviews by beginning beekeepers and experienced ones, their comments were very interesting. It gives you an idea of what people look for in a beekeeping book.
Then of course I read the reviews for the well-rated books. And I checked those out of the library. Once I found some books I liked, I bought them.
Here are a few I read and liked enough to buy: Beekeeping for Dummies, Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees and the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping. My favorite are the first two for their step-by-step explanations.
I like the Storey’s series because the writers are generally recognized as experts in their field and have a great deal of practical experience. If you do any beekeeping reading you’ll come across the name Richard E. Bonney. He wrote Beekeeping: A Practical Guide and Hive Management, books that are referenced by pretty much everyone it seems. He has passed away and his books have been edited and reissued in Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees. I really enjoyed reading this book and I use it for reference.
The Beekeeping for Dummies book is a perfect start to finish book, it explains EVERYTHING. I look at this book repeatedly to help me understand the bees. What I don’t use it for is hive management. It does not advocate a treatment-free approach.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping is a guide to treatment-free beekeeping but it is not a beginner’s book. It was the first beekeeping book I started to read and I found it very difficult to understand as it was not written with the beginner in mind. The information wasn’t presented in an organized way for me to understand how to keep bees. Now I understand it, but I just didn’t get it at first.
Another book I can recommend, without actually reading it is The Practical Beekeeper by Michael Bush. He has a great website and many posts on the Beesource forums. He says his book is a compilation of his website and myriad posts on beesource and beemaster. If that’s the case (and the reviews bear this out) this is definitely one I would recommend. Based on his posts on beesource, he explains things very well and is very practical in his approach.
Websites that I’ve used for reference have included other blogs. I like it when people post their mistakes and foibles, those are what you learn from the most I believe.
Beesource forum posts are also a good read as long as you understand that everyone has a different approach. There are both “know-it-alls” and very reasonable, practical people who will post answers. Lurking taught me who to listen to. I want people who will give logical answers and explain why they suggest this particular approach. Please understand that there are often many answers to a problem or situation. Knowing a few of the answers will give you more options and help you make the better choice when you are in the field and “in the thick of it.” When you are in the middle of a hive inspection, the bees don’t give you time to go look something up. You’ll have to do your best and address the problem another day.
Join your local beekeepers club and sign up with a mentor. I didn’t have one and that was part of why I read everything I could. Your local club will have someone who will be able to help you, give you advice and act as another pair of eyes during a problem, two heads are better than one! When my husband and I do the hive inspections, I’m doing a running commentary to help me understand what is going on and if I’m seeing what I should be seeing. And if I’m not, why not? It definitely helps to have another brain with you.
A couple of pieces of advice:
- Read everything 🙂
- Listen to other approaches and file them away, you never know when you’ll need them.
- Never assume you know what’s going on