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Great Books for the Beekeeper

There’s no shortage of ways to learn and share information about beekeeping. Between the internet, social media, and discussions with other beekeepers, a new beekeeper will quickly learn that if you ask 10 beekeepers the same question, you’ll likely get 11 answers – or maybe more.

At times this information stream of the modern-era can start to become overwhelming. More often than not, the old stand-by – a book – can be a refreshing escape. For new beekeepers and experienced beekeepers alike, having a small library of beekeeping books on hand is always a nice to have when getting started, when questions might come up along the way, or just to pass the time on a rainy day.

Beekeeping Basics

Beekeeping for Dummies

Beekeeping for Dummies

For those just getting started in beekeeping, how-to books are an invaluable resource. One very popular option is Beekeeping for Dummies. Part of the Dummies series of books that cover just about every topic imaginable, this beekeeping title is an easy-to-read book on how to get started and manage hives, and you’ll learn some interesting information about bees along the way, too. A great book to read before you get your bees and to have on the coffee table to turn to when simple questions come up.

The Backyard Beekeeper

The Backyard Beekeeper Book

For hobbyist beekeepers, The Backyard Beekeeper is another title that is nice to have on hand. This book covers many of the same topics as Beekeeping for Dummies, but is aimed further at hobbyist beekeepers and features more of a standard, instructional book type of flow, while still containing enough pictures and infographics to keep the book out of textbook type of territory. Further, it’s written by a different author – so naturally you can cross-compare and then make your own call from there.

For those with more of an informational-based, scientific mindset, The Beekeeper’s Handbook stays with more of an informational type of textbook approach that sticks to the point and focuses on the information, complimented with to-the-point illustrative work. If you’re someone who wants a great resource and prefers to read more information-packed pages, this book is worth a look.

The Beekeepers Handbook

Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees is a great book for new beekeepers that is to-the-point and easy to read without diving into possible informational-overload territory. Bolded where needed to remain skimmable when you’re in a hurry, but with enough information to learn more when you’re not, the book is a nice blend of styles. If you are looking for a no-nonsense…and perhaps opinionated (this is beekeeping, after all) guide to start beekeeping, this is a great title to have in your collection.

Story's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

The Science of Bees

Even if you don’t keep bees, honey bees can be fascinating to learn about. If you do keep bees, it seems that learning about their behavior is a never-ending pursuit. In both cases many books are out there that dive into the complicated and extensive topic of bee biology. 

Honey Bee Drones Book

Honey Bee Drones is one such book that will help you learn more about bees than that which can be found in more beginner, overview type titles. As you might expect, this one is targeted at learning more about drones – the male bees of the hive.

Understanding Bee Anatomy will surely open your eyes regarding what makes a bee a bee. With 600 high quality photographs, including electron micrographs and stained microscopic images, you’ll be able to see bees in a way you’ve never seen before. While more of a beekeeping manual and textbook, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping is one that focuses on the topic of beekeeping, but with the biology of the honey bee being approached first and foremost.

The Bee A Natural History Book

As beekeepers, we focus so much on the western honey bee, that at times we may forget that many, many other types of bees inhabit the planet. The Bee: A Natural History is a fascinating look at the more than 20,000 bee species on earth, their evolution alongside the evolution of flowers, and where those bees stand today. Bees descended from carnivorous wasps? Who knew, but this is just one thing you can learn from this book, which dives into everything from leaf cutter bees to solitary bees and more.

Managing Your Beehive

While getting your hives started and up and running is one thing, it’s called beekeeping for a reason. Keeping those bees requires management and troubleshooting specific issues, and as complex as beekeeping can be there are no shortage of book titles available on such subjects. 

More in-depth than just a beginner book, The Hive and the Honeybee is suitable for any beekeeper’s bookshelf. Considered by many to be The Bible of beekeeping, the book’s 1,057 pages cover it all. In a revised work that got its start at the hands of people with last names like Langstroth and Dadant, you know this one will be worth the read – for the information as well as for the lessons a reader will gain in beekeeping history. 

The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture Book

The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture is another classic book, considered to be the encyclopedia of beekeeping all in one book. In its 42nd edition, the book features 831 pages with hundreds of photos. For years, this has been considered by many to be one of the best classic reference books available on beekeeping that you can get.

One major concern for any beekeeper is the management and control of swarming. Written by L.E. Snelgrove, Swarming: Control and Prevention was written in 1936 and is a book that has without a doubt, stood the test of time. Books like this are worth the read to gain historical perspectives as much as anything. But while some of the equipment and techniques may have changed over the years, and then Varroa showed up, the honey bee has remained much the same. To get started with swarm control, look no further than this book written by the inventor of the Snelgrove Board himself.

The Beekeeper's Problem Solver Book

While swarming is one thing, there are a whole host of other issues that can keep a beekeeper guessing in their apiary. When problems arise that need a resolution, The Beekeeper’s Problem Solver features 100 common issues encountered by beekeepers, followed by their solution. It doesn’t get much easier than that, and best of all, the book even includes information on how to avoid those problems to begin with.

For beekeepers in northern climates, special challenges will be faced over long winters and during shorter summers. The University of Minnesota Extension’s book on the subject – Beekeeping in Northern Climates – features 75 pages devoted to northern beekeeping with 10 accompanying illustrations. Not only that, but with the purchase of the book you’ll gain access to a companion 40-minute video on the University of Minnesota’s website, focused on beekeeping in those cold, northern locales.

Just like keeping bees up north requires unique considerations, so does beekeeping in a city…no matter where you live north to south. Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities looks at keeping and managing honey bees, and all from the perspective of a beekeeper in an urban environment.

Bee Health 

Honeybee Diseases and Pests Book

Published by the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, Honey Bee Diseases & Pests looks at honey bee diseases, both those that are common and those of the more exotic and rare variety. Combined with information on integrated pest management and treatment methods, this 68-page title looks at a wide variety of honey bee diseases and treatments. 

Honey Bee Veterinary Medicine details management of honey bees from a veterinary point of view and covers a wide range of topics from medicine itself, to climate change and antibiotic resistance. This more scientifically-oriented title is written by Nicolas Vidal-Naquet, DVM – a lecturer in honeybee biology and diseases at the Veterinary School of Alfort, France. 

Bee Health and Veterinarians provides an overview of beekeeping from a medical standpoint, and is catered towards practicing veterinarians who may need to work hand in hand with beekeepers to address certain diseases.

And in this day and age, beekeepers will go to nearly any length in the fight against Varroa mites. In Increase Essentials, author Larry Connor details a method for Varroa control that utilizes increases by way of nuc colony utilization, having spare queens on hand, and the use of local queens and bees for successful beekeeping.

Honey, Pollen, and Foraging 

The Honey Handbook

As a follow up to The Backyard Beekeeper, also by Kim Flottum, The Honey Handbook dives deeper into the harvest, from a similar perspective as the author’s previous work. From the floral source to the table, this book evaluates the steps that it takes to make a final product, and follows a process that preserves all the nuances of the honey crop. Not only that, but the book is complete with recipes and details on what to do with that crop once the harvest is complete.

While extracted honey is one thing, making comb honey is an entirely different skill – or art, altogether. Books to check out to learn more about comb honey include Comb Honey Production, by Roger Morse. This book focuses on traditional methods of producing comb honey. Honey in the Comb, by Eugene Killion, also looks at comb honey production – both square and round sections – and provides insight on colony management and swarm control along the way.

One of the most interesting things in beekeeping is watching honey bees bring in pollen. Varying by season and coming through in nearly every color, determining exactly what pollen is being brought in can get to be quite the guessing game. A Colour Guide to Pollen Loads contains a key with 500 colors and describes 268 plants. The book is focused on European plants, but can be of interest and helpful for beekeepers worldwide.

About Beekeeping

Honeybee Democracy Book

Honey Bee Democracy, written by Thomas Seeley, evaluates the swarming behavior of the honey bee and in particular the decision-making processes made by the colony and how those decisions are made. Applicable not only to bees but to people as well, this book is both informative regarding the keeping of bees, and is also food for thought in many other regards. 

The Land of Milk and Honey provides a history of beekeeping in Vermont, and would still be of interest to anyone with a passion for beekeeping across the country. From the early 1800s and onwards, the book details the people and the inventions along the way, focusing on the relationship between bees and people and how today that is both similar – and different – from the early days. 

Bee People and the Bugs they Love, by Frank Mortimer, is an entertaining read that gives the readers facts about the bees – with some story telling along the way. Both humorous and informative, this book by “Frank the Bee Man” is a fun and refreshing read. 

While Honey Bee Democracy taught us that we might just have something to learn from bees, in Bee Lessons, author Howard Scott takes a more relaxed approach to the subject. Throughout 40 lessons, the author takes an often times informational, often times humorous approach regarding what we can learn from bees that makes a great addition to any beekeeper’s coffee table.

From books on beginning beekeeping to specialized and advanced books on bee biology and everything in between, sitting down to read a book is a way for beekeepers to get their information fix in a streamlined, focused fashion without the additional chatter and noise you might have to sift through from other sources.

For beginners, some of these books can be like having an on-call beekeeping mentor right on the bookshelf. For other beekeepers, these books could help refine your craft, learn something specific, or expand upon existing knowledge about the bees themselves. Either way, when it comes to beekeeping the learning never seems to stop. And these days, while there are many ways to learn – we’d argue that books still can’t be beat.