The front cover picture made me want to read this book, and the photography throughout was beautiful, engaging and very helpful. I am not a bee keeper, nor do I really intend to be although I like the idea of it. In spite of that I really enjoyed this book. It is interesting, highly readable and I learnt a lot about bees.
We know a fair bit about bees, but this book was so interesting and informative that I now know a lot more. I have a new found fascination and respect for bees, and for honey. The effort those tiny creatures put in to making honey and in doing so pollinating our plants is remarkable!
The complexities of bee social behaviour and hive management is fascinating reading for anyone with any interest in natural history but especially gardeners, as so much of this is going on under our noses, and is vital to a successful garden. This book actually covers quite a lot of bee behaviour which is useful for anyone who has bees in our garden (I hope that is all of us!), and anyone who comes into contact with bees regularly. For example, did you know that the bees fear pheromone smells like bananas? This means you are more likely to be stung by a bee if you are eating a banana near the bees!
In particular this book is especially for the backyard beekeeper. Even more interestingly, it is very focused on bee friendly bee keeping, rather than maximising honey production, with the awareness that bees have an enormous value beyond just being honey machines. Of course there is honey a plenty to be gathered and completely organic too. I had always thought of honey as a very natural product and never thought that large scale honey production may not be very bee friendly.
The bee keepers featured in the book are in New Zealand but the book looks at honey bee keeping for anywhere in the world. It covers honey bees only, not the many native species of bee which can be found here in Australia or other countries. It is directed at the modern home food grower and will appeal to anyone interested in backyard food production, but it does encourage us all to think about bees and also encourages children to get involved with bee keeping.
Whilst much of the technical detail of hive management was not information I have much use for, it was still presented in such a way as to be easily readable and interesting. For anyone thinking about keeping backyard bees, I highly recommend reading this book first to give you a good idea of what is involved. The second half of the book follows the efforts of 3 new beekeepers with 3 different styles of hives. I found I had worked out where to best locate a hive in my garden and which style of hive would suit me best before I remembered that I am not about to keep bees!
There is no index and the book is written to read rather than as a reference book, but it follows a very logical flow and is very easy to pick up and return to as you wish to refocus on topics it contains. The book offers a wealth of interesting information in an easy to read style which can be enjoyed by older children and adults, and makes the book worth reading even if you don’t plan to keep bees. If however you are planning on keeping bees or already do keep bees, I suspect you will appreciate this book even more and find the information it contains extremely useful. Read it before you get your bees – you may just find yourself rethinking traditional bee keeping and eagerly sourcing a different hive design!
A Beekeeper’s Year: a practical guide to caring for bees and beehives
New Holland Publishers Australia
About Kate Wall
Kate has gardened since she was a child. Gardening as a profession came almost by accident – after volunteering to rescue flooded gardens and working in over 100 gardens, she felt her trial by flood had directed her to her true calling, and she has gardened professionally ever since. Kate is primary care giver to approximately 20 gardens concurrently (including her own), in addition to consulting, garden makeovers and creating new gardens. She lives and works in Brisbane, Queensland, and is passionate about gardening to suit our sub-tropical climate.