April 06, 2009

Book Review: Beekeeping for Dummies

by Howland Blackiston

I bought this book at full price, which is a rare occasion indeed, but I fully intended on leafing through then returning it. A year later, I am using the receipt as a bookmark.

Likes: a comprehensive guide for the beginner. There's a lot one could bookmark, but these are my favorite sections:
  • section on the life of the worker, describing her development and corresponding duties as a house bee (so if you see a bee extruding a wax flake, for example, you know she's at least 12 days old)
  • pictorial instructions on hiving a package of bees
  • week-by-week inspection checklist for the first 8 weeks after hiving your bees – it's nice to have detailed guidance on what you're supposed to be looking for, and why it's important.
For Top Bar Hivers lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on your POV) starting with ready-to-use brood and honey combs, no adjustments are needed. Since we have combs from our failed colony, we'll be using this checklist once our package is installed this weekend.

For Top Bar Hivers starting from scratch, I recommend giving the bees a couple extra days than the book says, to build combs before peeking into the hive. A swarm of bees gets busy building comb and stocking the pantry, and they work surprisingly fast. But the book is written for Lang-style beekeepers, and their bees typically* have the head-start of having foundation. If your bees have nothing but fresh top bars to build on, then instead of opening the hive on the fifth day to see if the queen was released (in the case of a package) or laying (in the case of a swarm), I'd wait 'til the 7th or 8th day, respectively. After that, the checklist should be the same.
    Dislikes: mostly text and, with the exception of the afore-mentioned pictorial, the few photos aren't very useful (or inspiring).

    To whet your appetite and entice you to buy the book, the Dummies folk have put the essentials online; http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/the-essentials-of-setting-up-a-backyard-beehive.html

    *Be sure to check out beekeeperlinda, who's going foundationless in Atlanta, GA. She's on the blogroll.

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