Archives for category: Reviews

I can’t say that I’ve ever picked up a beekeeping book as well-researched as Farming for the Landless by Sarah Waring. I had the pleasure of reading this book recently and was surprised by the level of detail and supporting data found within the pages because not many beekeeping books cite as many real world studies and examples as Farming for the Landless.

This book is very focused on European beekeeping practices and politics, which I was not very familiar with (even though the bees that I–and most of us–keep are European honeybees). It doesn’t take long, while reading this book, to realize that many of the problems affecting bees are spread worldwide. Waring explores the lives of beekeepers big and small as well as agricultural scientists as she details many of the ailments currently threatening honeybees across the globe.

If you are a beginner beekeeper looking for an instructional “how-to” guide, this is likely not the book for you. However, if you are a beekeeper (or not) concerned about the health and survival of honeybees, then this book is likely one of most informative books you will find. Even if you never plan on keeping bees yourself, the information in this book will alter the way that you look at bees and open your eyes to the huge problems that the tiny honeybee is facing.

Farming for the Landless is an excellent book to add to your beekeeping library and Waring’s research and commitment to the study of honeybees shines through every page of this book.

FarmingForTheLandless

Farming for the Landless
By Sarah Waring
Published April 2015
Platin Press

The Honey Connoisseur cover

I’m sure that there are many beekeepers out there – perhaps most – that do not feel the need to eat honey beyond what comes from their own hives. After all, why would you pay for honey, when you have more than enough of your own? Well, after reading The Honey Connoisseur, you’ll have all the reasons you need to want to try every honey on the planet.

The Honey Connoisseur: Selecting, Tasting, and Pairing Honey, With a Guide to More Than 30 Varietals is a brand new book by well-known authors Marina Marchese and Kim Flottum. Many beekeepers will recognize Flottum’s name from several well known books including The Backyard Beekeeper, Better Beekeeping and contributions to The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture. Marchese wrote the first beekeeping book that I ever read, Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper. Together, this dynamic duo have created an excellent resource for honey lovers everywhere (whether beekeeper or not).

When I first picked up this book and started flipping through the pages, it became immediately apparent that there was a huge amount of material in this book. Even more evident was that an extraordinary amount of research and scrutiny would have been required to write such a detailed book. The book is broken up into several sections; basic information on honeybees and beekeeping,  honey “terroir” and geographic regions, instructions on how to smell and taste honey, as well as pairing honey with different foods and throwing a honey tasting party.

The largest section of this book by far, is devoted to describing – in great detail – many different types of honey. Flottum and Marchese examine over thirty common and exotic floral sources which create some of the most interesting honeys in the world. I loved reading about flowers and honey that I’ve never heard of before and their interesting tasting notes and physical properties. For example, who knew that grapefruit honey is extremely thixotropic, meaning that it sets up in a thick gel until you shake it? Or that Saw Palmetto is considered one of the finest honeys in the world. Not me!

There were more than a few times, while reading through the honey varietals, that I thought to myself, “this would make an excellent coffee table book!” (and I mean that in a very good way). I think that just about anyone would love to pick up this book and start reading about honeys like Kudzu, Sidr, Tamarisk or Manuka.

Having read a large number of beekeeping books, it was quite refreshing to read The Honey Connoisseur and learn all sorts of new, fascinating stuff about honey. Even though both Marchese and Flottum keep bees, you definitely don’t need to be a beekeeper to appreciate this book or the honeys that it presents. This would be an excellent book for foodies or anyone that appreciates a great glass of wine, a slice of fine cheese, or just someone with a sweet tooth for honey. The Honey Connoisseur has an excellent section on creating a honey tasting party for your friends, including instructions on how to prepare tasting flights and setting up an Aroma Sensory Table, all complete with mouth-watering photographs of food, honey pairings and a few simple recipes.

I walk away from this book with a new appreciation for honey. I will no longer be satisfied eating only the honey that my bees produce. I will be visiting farmer’s markets, visiting apiaries in rural areas and keeping my eyes open for exotic honeys while traveling.

Purchase this book at Amazon:
The Honey Connoisseur
By: C. Marina Marchese & Kim Flottum
Released June 2013
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers

More than honey image

I recently had the pleasure of watching More Than Honey – a film by Markus Imhoof. If I had only one word to describe this documentary about honeybees, it would be “Beautiful”. (Luckily for you, I have many more words than just that.)

The movie opens with one of the most amazing scenes ever caught on film: a close-up of a Queen honeybee emerging from her cell. In fact, the cinematography and stunning imagery never ends throughout this film and I found myself constantly wondering, “How on Earth did they manage to get that shot?”

I have great respect for Imhoof, and his ability to portray not only these amazing creatures but also the problems affecting honeybees in a way that allows the viewer to decide for him/herself that there must be a better way to treat the honeybee than what we’re currently doing.

The movie highlights the harsh contrast between a beekeeper in the Swiss Alps – who is shown relaxing on the mountainside in a field of wild flowers – to a money-hungry, American commercial beekeeper trucking thousands of colonies of bees around the United States every year. The whole while, Imhoof tells the story of the honeybee, and the common diseases and pests that affect this amazing insect.

More than Honey makes you think strongly about what life would be like without the honeybee. Is man able to pollinate as well as a honeybee, by hand or machine? Could we, as humans, pollinate plants the way that honeybees do? How much of our food would be impacted if they disappeared? As the title of the film implies, there is certainly more to the honeybee than just honey.

I won’t reveal too much about this movie, but I will reiterate that the photography throughout this movie will absolutely blow you away. Even if you keep bees as a hobby or a living, you have never seen inside the hive like this! I have included the trailer at the bottom of this post, so prepare your eyeballs.

While this movie is not yet available in Canada or USA, this would be an amazing film to show at a local film festival or to screen at a small independent theatre near you. Thank you Markus Imhoof, for making a film that will definitely open the eyes and hearts of people world-wide.

The Thinking Beekeeper - A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives

I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of this book since I first heard about it. The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives, by Christy Hemenway explains – in fantastic detail – what it means to practice truly natural beekeeping, specifically in top bar hives.

Towards the end of last beekeeping season, I read Phil Chandler’s book, The Barefoot Beekeeper (full review here) which introduced me to the concept of top bar hives and what it means to be an intervention-free beekeeper. While Chandler’s book is wonderful, and highly recommended, I found that Hemenway’s book, The Thinking Beekeeper, provided a more complete explanation and breakdown of becoming a top bar hive beekeeper from scratch.

This is a perfect book for a beginner beekeeper and may actually become one of my top recommended books for anyone that is new to beekeeping and wants to approach beekeeping as naturally as possible.

The book begins with a history lesson on beekeeping and offers a look at some of the most common beekeeping practices – such as the use of wax foundation – and the impact that these practices may have on bees.

Further into the book is a full instructional guide to getting up and running with your first top bar hive. Aside from full plans and instructions on constructing your hive (which are regularly available for free on the Internet), Hemenway breaks down everything that you need to know as a first-time, top bar hive beekeeper. From installing your bees to collecting honey, overwintering, and then even managing your hive the following spring to ensure you’re left with the strongest colony possible.

One of the best parts of this book are the top-down (bee’s eye view) diagrams of the hive at specific stages along the way. These diagrams are extremely helpful for understanding how you manipulate the bars and follower boards throughout the season. I now have a much better understanding of how to have a middle entrance in a top bar hive and still allow the winter cluster of bees to move in a single direction consuming honey. Pure genius.

Towards the end of the book, Hemenway briefly describes the most notorious pests and diseases that every beekeeper should be on the lookout for, and finishes the book with a few of her personal thoughts and stories.

If you’re even remotely interested in top bar hives, or learning more about intervention-free beekeeping, I highly recommend this book to you.

Order this book from Amazon.ca:

The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives
By Christy Hemenway
Published Jan 1, 2013

Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities

Winter is a time for beekeepers to reflect on their previous beekeeping season, build and repair hive parts and read as much beekeeping material as possible. Reading books such as Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities is how I choose to spend the winter months.

This 180-page book, written by Luke Dixon is a very easy read and includes many full colour photographs covering a wide range of bees, hives, beekeepers and urban apiaries. These photos definitely make this book.

I enjoyed reading this book very much as it served as a refresher and inspiration for me as a beekeeper. The fact that the author is from London, England highlights some of the differences in hives, weather and practices between beekeeping in Ontario, Canada and other parts of the world.

I would not necessarily recommend this book for a beginner beekeeper requiring specific instructions on how to get up and running with his/her first hive, as many of the specific details of beekeeping are omitted from the text. Subjects such as dealing with queen cells, robbing and winterizing hives are covered only with broad strokes. However, for any novice to experienced beekeeper, this book is an excellent resource.

Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities is a great eye-opener for how easy it can be to start your own urban hive and one quote that stood out to me from the entire book was presented on page 1:

If you have room for a composter or water barrel, you have room for a beehive.

The last section of the book is dedicated to sharing the stories of 23 different beekeepers located all over the world. It’s amazing to see the different ways that people from countries like Hong Kong and South Africa compare to the UK, USA and Canada.

I would encourage just about any beekeeper to add this book to their beekeeping library.

Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities
By Luke Dixon
Timber Press 2012