A Curious Beekeeper looks at Bee Books

I’m an easy sell when it comes to bee books. My one requirement to think well of a book is that it be interesting – that is, present something unique or in a different way (and accurately too!).

On this group, we have talked a bunch about finding queens. There have been challenges and shared posts. More often than not I don’t have real trouble with them. (The challenges, that is.)

Going into a hive afterwards can be a different story. Sometimes queens don’t want to be found and sometimes they are not there to be found! Sometimes too I cross my fingers and hope she’s not on the frames I’m selecting for a new nuc.

Just this week I had what I think was a now missing queen from a swarm in a top bar hive. No eggs, larvae, capped brood. Super calm. No noise. No aggression towards my caged queen – actually little notice at all. I suspect a this was an after swarm with a virgin, who for whatever reason did not make it back from a mating flight.

(At EAS last week, we were told that new queens can take mating flights over 5 days and mate with as many as 60 drones.) (Don’t you love “new” findings? Replication, please.)

Anyway, while I left EAS with only a few books this year, I did manage to spend $13.49 (plus tax) on Amazon for something I hadn’t seen before – Queen Spotting by Hilary Kearney of Girl Next Door Honey. The book is subtitled “MEET THE REMARKABLE QUEEN BEE and discover the drama at the Heart of the Hive.”

I don’t care so much about the drama as much as the 48 “Queenspotting Challenges.” I did ok with them, missing a few, my excuse being that sometimes it is easier to spot queens when they are moving about / seeing in three dimensions instead of a picture. Of course, sometimes I want the bees on the frame I’m looking at to stop moving so I can figure out what is there.

And – as Hilary reminds us in the book – in most inspections you don’t need to find the queen, so long as you see signs (like eggs) that she is there.

Though I keep meaning to put a shaker box together (deep with a queen excluder and lots of duct tape) – Michael Palmer talks about these from time to time.

There are times, like when doing an alcohol wash, that I want to make very sure I know that the queen is safe and not in my sample!

The book is pretty good though there is the requisite amount of beginning beekeeping information in there. It is published by Storey Publishing and there are turns of phrase I’ll use: Such as “We are essentially staging a coup.” It is an easy read – kids and adults will like the challenges – There are interesting descriptions, such as what happens when those 20 swarm cells hatch. In general, the Storey books are decent, at least when the subject is bees.

There are lots of excellent pictures in “Queenspotting.”. Not all of queens.

This is definitely a book to take along on for exhibits.

Changing gears, I’m pleased to see that Eva Crane’s “A Book of Honey” has been republished. This book should not be confused with “Honey – A Comprehensive Survey” first published in 1975 – Crane, then Director of the Bee Research Association (now IBRA), is credited for that as Editor.

I’m not so happy that I paid well over $100 for an ex-libris copy of “A Book of Honey” a few years back, but I am glad it is available now. This is a reference book, not for light reading. Bee Culture Magazine says “it must be on the shelves of anyone who is serious about understanding honey.” I agree.

The section on ancient beekeeping history is classic. If you want to understand beekeeping history this volume, especially when paired with Tammy Horn’s “Bees in America” is all you need. These are a pair for your club library, where they can be borrowed when needed.

“A Book of Honey” is published by IBRA and Northern Bee Books. It will be available on Amazon July 31.

Dr. Eva Crane was a fabulous researcher who died in 2007. I wish I had known about her in my first years of keeping bees. Though I too wish that Varroa mites would suddenly vanish from my hives.

I need to stop wishing. That is not going to happen. Any more than my beekeeping book collection is going to stop growing.

Have you read something interesting lately? (bee related)

Andrew Dewey