1st Batch of Beekeeping Books

I ordered some beekeeping books based on recommendations from various beekeeping forums — and I’m looking for other recommendations if anyone has any. Here’s a photo of the first batch of books that just arrived:

My first batch of beekeeping books. (Nov. 17, 2010.)

I’ll do a separate write-up for each of these books after I’ve read them. From left to right, the books are:

The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, by A.I. Root and E.R. Root — Originally published in 1877, followed by several revised editions, this is basically a 700-page beekeeping encyclopaedia. I have the 1947 edition. Other books with exactly the same title made shopping for it a bit frustrating. I chose this edition because it was the most affordable ($35 Canadian). I guess it’s good to have around.

The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden (Revised and Updated), by Kim Flottum — Detailed instructive photographs make all the difference when it comes to beekeeping guide books (and websites), and this book is packed with them. I’ve only skimmed and read bits and pieces of it, but it seems to cover all the bases. I can tell already it’s a good buy. I plan to read it before any of the others. ($20 Canadian.)

Fifty Years Among the Bees, by C. C. Miller — Originally published in 1915, everyone says I should read it because it’s still informative (most beekeeping knowledge doesn’t get old) and it just a good read. ($15 Canadian.)

First Lessons in Beekeeping, by C. P. Dadant — Originally published in 1934, it’s another classic everyone says I have to read, so I’m going to read it sometime over this winter with the rest of these books. ($10 Canadian.)

November 2018 Postscript: The Kim Flottum book is good for the photographs so new beekeepers can identify what they’re looking at inside the hive, but I wouldn’t call it essential. I’d probably pick The Beekeeper’s Handbook, by Sammataro and Avitabile, as the most informative single-volume beekeeping guide and reference book that’s not ridiculously expensive. My 1947 edition of The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture may be old but the information is solid. I often refer to it when I’m curious about a specific topic, and I end up reading it for hours. Much of the knowledge that pop ups up in online forums and current beekeeping books can be found in this old book, knowledge that has been around for a long time. Older editions are in the public domain and can be found online free of charge or in cheap but good enough reprints. The newer editions sell for more than $200. I won’t be picking that up any time soon.

A random entry from ABC and XYZ. Stuff that’s good to know.

7 thoughts on “1st Batch of Beekeeping Books

  1. I’ve begun to read “The Backyard Beekeeper.” The author recommends starting off with pre-assembled hives, pre-assembled everything. The author obviously doesn’t live on a distant island cut off from the rest of North America like we do, where all beekeeping gear has to be imported, which ain’t cheap and would be twice as expensive if everything arrived fully assembled. Fully assembled hives are not an option for most beekeepers in NL.

    If my beekeeping works out well, I’ve decided to do two things:

    1) I’m going to direct a documentary about the importance beekeeping in Newfoundland. We’re in a unique position in that we’re mite-free and our bees don’t require any chemicals or medications to stay alive like they do just about everywhere else on the planet. NL may become a haven for honeybees. They’re dying off in droves here yet.

    2) I’m going to write a guide to beekeeping in Newfoundland. Most beekeeping books are written by people who have easy access to beekeeping wooden ware and hardware — which is not the case in Newfoundland. There are unique challenges to beekeeping in Newfoundland, and if someone doesn’t write about them thoroughly and honestly in the next few years, I will.

    Okay, that’s it. Back to the book…

  2. I’ve been reading through the first chapter of “The Backyard Beekeeper.” Most of the info is common sense, some of it is overly cautious, most of it I already know, and some is informative. I’ll get into specifics after I’ve read the whole book.

    But something that’s new to me is the characteristics of various breeds of honeybees. I used to think mine were Italian honeybees, but I think they might be Carniolans because the drones are described as having nearly black abdomens (my drones are huge and almost totally black), whereas Italian drones have golden abdomens. Italian queens are supposed to be easy to spot too, but I’ve never been able to spot any of my queens.

    Caucasian honeybees are also darker, so mine could be Caucasians too. Or maybe the dark drones are just a variation within the Italians. Or maybe they’re hybrids. I’ll have to ask my supplier in the spring.

    Carniolans were originally bred in a colder climate, so they may be more suited to NL than Italians… Yeah. Everything I’m reading about the Carniolans makes me believe I may not have Italians after all… Well, that’s interesting. Some of the behaviour from my bees is starting to make more sense now too.

    Reading about Caucasians, those definitely are not my bees. (See pages 43-45 of “The Backyard Beekeeper.”)

    My bees (at least Hive #1) seemed to act much like Russian honeybees. (Page 47.) Wow. I have to talk to my supplier. Some of the strange behaviour from Hive #1 makes more sense now… or maybe I’m jumping the gun. Still, it’s interesting.

    Something else. From page 46: “At the time of this publication [2010], varroa mites can be found everywhere on the planet except Australia.” WRONG! They’re not in Newfoundland either.

  3. Our bees are a combination of Italian, with some Carniolans and Russian bread into them. I was asking Andrea the summer and she mentioned that they have brought in some Russian and Carniolans genetics to mix up the gene pool a bit. That may explain why some of the bees are a little darker in colour.

  4. Our bees are a combination of Italian, with some Carniolans and Russian bred into them.

    Okay, that makes sense, especially when I consider the behaviour of Hive #1.

    The Carniolans bees were bred in a part of Europe with unpredictable winter weather — sounds like Newfoundland. “As a result, they react quickly when favourable weather arrives in the spring, increasing their population rapidly… When fall approaches, they slow their activity even more, and during the winter they survive with a small population… Drones are large and have all-black abdomens.” (Page 44)

    My drones are huge and all black. The colony in Hive #1 was very sensitive to the fall conditions. They shut down as soon as the weather cooled. Now this could be general honeybee behaviour, too, so it might not mean anything, but it’s good to know the behaviour of certain breeds of honeybees.

    Russian honeybees are the most sensitive to environmental conditions. “When food is plentiful they build their population rapidly and take advantage of the bounty. They are generally slow to build their population in the spring… Defensiveness is sometimes an issue with these bees…” [Ours were definitely defensive in the fall.] “Tracheal mites are essentially nonexistent in Russian bees, and above-average hygienic behaviour keeps colonies clean and disease at bay… Russian bees cease rearing brood earlier in the fall than most bees because of their environmental sensitivity. As a result, they go into winter with fewer bees, and consume less honey during the winter than almost any line of bees.” (Page 47.)

    Italian honeybees aren’t as protective of their hive, but apparently they’re challenged more by unpredictable cooler climates.

    Again, I might be stretching it a bit here, but the behaviour of our bees makes more sense now after reading about the Russian and Carniolan breeds. I’m not as worried about them surviving the winter now too.

  5. Good info Phil. Maybe the difference between the two hives may be due to genetics of the differnece bees. One may have more russian DNA or traits versus Italian or Carniolans. Could be a good question in the spring to ask Andrea/Page regarding do any of the queens have different traits?

    Who knows they may have some diversity in the queen pool.

    • Maybe the difference between the two hives may be due to genetics of the difference bees.

      It’s possible. Hive #1 may have more Russian genes, shutting down in the early fall the way it did. Hive #2 seems more Italian, robbing more and working well into the fall, almost not knowing when to stop.

      I’m definitely going to ask Andrea and Paige about it.

      And how about this weather we’re having? My hives are totally soaked and so is the wrap. I wonder how useful the wrap is when it’s soaking wet half the time.

      The bottom part of Hive #1 has a thicker wrap I found in my shed, not so much paper-thin but stiff with what looks like dried tar, more water proof. I’ll bet it’s protecting the hive just as well from the wind as the roofing paper, but doing so without getting wet. So it’s probably better.

      Some beekeepers don’t wrap because it can increase the moisture inside the hive. I know all the pro beekeepers in NL use the roofing paper, but when all I see is soaked paper wrapped around the hives, I wonder about it.

  6. yeah, but this is not really normal weather. And with all this precipitation how can everythign not be wet.

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