Copper Bee Apiary

A garden apiary in Whittlesford, Cambridge, UK - honey bees and their beekeeper Hilary van der Hoff.

Looking forward to winter

I'm looking forward to winter, because I really want a nice rest. I want to sit down by the fire with a goblet of mead and a stack of beekeeping books while the snow falls outside and the deadlines are all far away.

I have accumulated a wonderful library, which is a mixture of books that I have bought myself or been given as presents. I have read but a fraction so there is a lot of reading to look forward to!

During the spring and summer I generally reach for a book only when I am seeking an answer to a specific question that has arisen in real life. Why are the bees doing X? How do I do Y? Practical beekeeping absorbs as much time as I can spare.

But now the call of the books is strong. Here's a look at my library. Like songs that bring to mind a certain occasion or period of life, many of these books are date-stamped in my brain with the time and place where I was reading them.

The Buzz about Bees, by Juergen Tautz

I've read enough of this book to know that it's got a depth of information that other books don't even get close to. It has extensive detail of bee biology. Sometimes that's what you need when you're really trying to understand something. You know, when a so-called simple explanation doesn't make sense because it's missing essential details. This book is where you'll get the whole story. Or more of the story at least. Because the mysteries of bees are still being worked out of course.

Honeybee Democracy, by Thomas D Seeley

This classic text was a Christmas present from Dad. It's a famous book and deservedly so. I think about the ideas in it a lot. It goes well with the Juergen Tautz book above, because both books discuss the concept of understanding the colony of bees functioning as one animal. Just as a thinking human mind somehow emerges from a group of brain cells, "higher" functions and behaviours emerge from the group of bees communicating with each other.  And with bees being that much bigger than brain cells, it's actually possible to see and hear the bee colony "think" as the bees dance to transmit their ideas.

A Bundle of Booklets

I have a treasure trove of these little publications, produced using typewriters, given to me by a friend's Dad who was a retired beekeeper. I was especially pleased to find among them that one on mead. I must study that before next year's attempt.

The Joys of Beekeeping, by Richard Taylor

This book was a present from Mum. I haven't read it yet, but this gift shows that Mum knows me very well because I recently came across a recommendation for the book and thought, "Oh I must get that!", and then I happily found that I already have it on my shelf, just waiting for me and for winter.

Honey-Maker, by Rosanna Mattingly

This book was recommended by Rusty Burlew of Honey Bee Suite, and procured for me from the author and publisher by my wonderful husband.

The Tears of Re, by Gene Kritsky

The inside cover says that according to ancient Egyptian mythology, when the sun god Re wept, his tears turned into honey bees upon touching the ground. I'm not much interested in history or religion, but I like Egyptian pictures, I like bees, and I like stories. I think this will be a good fireside book.


Down to the Grass Roots of Beekeeping, by G H Davis

This one I've fully read! It's nice and short. "The management of honey bees in the swarming season"...something I have yet to get the hang of.

Beekeeping and the Law - Swarms and Neighbours, by David Frimston and David Smith

Hope I won't be needing this one in earnest! It's full of stories of court cases involving bees. I thought it would be interesting to read about other people's horrors, if only to be glad that they didn't happen to me.

Keeping Bees, by Vivian Head

This is a beautiful cloth-bound book with gold lettering, and was a surprise present from a friend when I started beekeeping. Having now read it, I would say the cover is actually the best bit, but I love having this book.

Practical Microscopy for Beekeepers, by Bob Maurer

I bought this at the 2017 BBKA Spring Convention. Being the proud owner of a new microscope, I was browsing the book stall for books on microscopy, picked this one up and thought it looked good, so I began checking it for information about the author...I like to know whose book I'm reading. And it turned out that the author himself was actually helping to run the book stall. Not only did he sign my book, but we walked round to the microscope stall to look at the microscopes and talked about them and how I was going to use mine. So this is a very special book. Roll on the long dark winter evenings when there may be time for microscopy.

A Practical Manual of Beekeeping, by David Cramp

This is a "how-to" book, and so sort of an instruction manual for beekeeping. I'm trying to read the whole thing cover to cover rather than just dipping into bits when I need them. I've got part way through it and I like its style - it has a positive, encouraging tone. It does require some concentration to read, which is perhaps why it's still unfinished 3 years later, but that says more about me than the book...I rarely even finish a novel in less than a few months.

Bad Beekeeping, by Ron Miksha

I recently started following Ron's blog. Can't wait to read the book too. Here's what Ron says about it:

"It’s a story about keeping a few hundred hives and hauling them around North America, chasing the blossoms of apple trees, orange trees, alfalfa, and clover. In the book you’ll meet an elderly lady from Illinois who grew citrus crops in Florida (and went to school with Ronald Reagan), a native Cree cowboy who ranched in Saskatchewan (and had sons playing in the NHL), and a whole group of people who dressed in black and farmed together in one huge colony (and sang country songs in the evening). You will also meet a lot of other folks – and you may even learn a bit about beekeeping."

Beeswax Alchemy, by Petra Ahnert

Well, it's how advertising works. I want to be the sort of person who has time to make those nice beeswax candles and wax leaf decorations, so I bought the book.

Winter, I am ready. If we get snowed in for weeks, I'll be fine.

Writings, images and sound recordings are by the beekeeper unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

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