Reading for Beginner Beekeepers

The following was rewritten and updated in 2018. Or just skip the whole thing and browse through Rusty Burlew’s bookshelf instead.

I was asked by someone in Newfoundland about what books they could read before they get into beekeeping as a hobby. I don’t think you need to read any books. Seriously. If you know how use the internet, you don’t need to buy any of the standard over-priced beekeeping books that are popular these days. Any of the websites maintained by David Burns, Michael Bush, Rusty Burlew, Randy Oliver, and Ron Miksha, should provide more than enough practical information on honey bees and beekeeping to help anyone get started. There’s a boatload of beekeeping videos on YouTube. Video presentations from the National Honey Show, for instance, are as good or better than anything I’ve had to pay to see locally. A simple search on Twitter for beekeeping reveals all kind of fascinating information about beekeeping. The internet is an invaluable tool for new beekeepers, especially in a place like Newfoundland where there aren’t many beekeepers and where it’s not easy to meet up with other beekeepers. All of my beekeeping mentors are beekeepers I’ve gotten to know online. Most of what I’ve learned about beekeeping, outside of my direct experience with the bees, I’ve learned online. Beekeeping associations, beekeeping workshops, beekeeping books — none of them are necessary if you have a connection to the internet and you pay attention to your bees. But anyway…

david-burnsYou have only a rudimentary understanding of beekeeping, you live in Newfoundland, and you’re wondering if there are any good books for beginners that you can read before you start ordering hives and bees and all that jazz. Well, I can’t think of a single book that covers all the bases, but my top recommendation for beginners online is David Burns’s Basic Beekeeping lessons. The preambles to his lessons can go off on various tangents, but the actual beekeeping lessons are the best I’ve found anywhere — in any book or online. He could easily sell the lessons in book form and make a mint. I studied his lessons before I did anything and referred to them all throughout my first year of beekeeping.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Morning Glory

In my continuing efforts to document flowers in and around St. John’s that seem to attract honey bees, allow me to introduce a viney plant we call Morning Glory that blooms around this time of the year. Here’s a photo from September 5th, 2011, proof that honey bees go for it:

Honey bee on white flower. (Sept. 5, 2011.)

Honey bee on white flower. (Sept. 5, 2011.)

I first recognized Morning Glory as a pollen and nectar source for the bees after saw what I thought were Mutant Bees. Here’s another shot of Morning Glory from September 18th, 2013:

Morning Glory, a pollen source in the fall. (Sept. 18, 2013.)

Morning Glory, a pollen source in the fall. (Sept. 18, 2013.)

It’s also known as Field Bindwind or Convolvulus arvensis.

Pouring Extracted Honey

Here’s a cell phone video of me pouring some honey that I extracted using my home made honey extractor.

The sound and video quality isn’t the best and it’s not smoothly edited. It’s also a little repetitive, but it demonstrates a cheap and simple method of filtering honey and you’ll hear me blather on a bit about the difference between blended honey and single-colony honey. Anyone who appreciates single malt scotch over blended scotch will know what I mean. And if you want a better view of my flawed-but-functional extractor in action, check out my DIY Honey Extractor video from last year.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Japanese Knotweed

Although it’s an invasive plant, Japanese KnotweedFallopia japonica — provides a hit of pollen and nectar for the honey bees well into the fall season.

Flowers on Japanese Knotweed, a little boost for the bees before winter. (Sept. 11, 2013.)

Flowers on Japanese Knotweed, a little boost for the bees before winter. (Sept. 11, 2013.)

Plants like Japanese Knotweed help delay the nectar dearth that would occur this time of the year as many of the native plants die off.

Bee on Japanese Knotweed.  (Sept. 5, 2011.)

Bee on Japanese Knotweed. (Sept. 5, 2011.)

Japanese Knotweed isn’t difficult to spot. The plants grow well over 6 feet (about two metres) and the stock of the plant is hollow and looks like bamboo (the stocks are full of water). It only takes one plant to take root in some broken soil and it quickly takes over and is nearly impossible eradicate.