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.

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