Beekeeping Books for Beginners

April 2019 Introduction: I’ve rewritten and updated this post since it was originally written in 2013. You can read it 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 overpriced beekeeping books that are popular these days. Save yourself some money and turn on your computer instead.

There’s a boatload of beekeeping videos on YouTube. Videos posted by the National Honey Show are world class beekeeping presentations from some of the biggest heavy hitters in the beekeeping world.  They probably go a bit too deep for absolute beginners, but it doesn’t hurt to have them on the radar. The University of Guelph produces more beginner-friendly videos from its beeyards that are also well worth checking out. Ian Steppler’s beekeeping videos out of Manitoba are exactly the kind of videos I would post if I was a commercial beekeeper. I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the resources to keep bees on that level, but if I ever thought about hitting the big time, I’d be all over his videos. Even as a backyard beekeeper, I’ve learned quite a lot from him. A simple search on Twitter (and other social media apps) for beekeeping also reveals all kinds 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 for anyone with a connection to the internet who pays attention to their bees. But let’s get back to the question: What books are useful for new beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland (or for people keeping bees in a similar cold climate)?
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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 From My DIY Extractor

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.

May 2019 Postscript: I’ve since deleted the post that demonstrates how I made my DIY honey extractor because it’s not a good design and I don’t want to lead anyone down a path of frustration. I made it from a blue food-grade plastic barrel that I purchased for $25 off Kijiji, some large food-grade plastic cutting boards that I cut into odd shapes, a stainless steal metal rod, some stainless steel bolts and screws, some 2×4 lumber, a cheap honey gate I bought off Amazon and an old electric powered drill which functioned as the motor for the extractor. Total cost was about $100. It was fine for small batches of honey, but it would never work in any convenient way for more than two honey supers of honey, and even that wasn’t easy. I’ve since tossed that extractor.

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.