The book of the month

You can find here all the books recommended by the association members. All books from the association’s Library are available to borrow. We have had a recent addition of 10 new books this January. Collection can be organised during a monthly Association meeting.

July 2021

English Pastoral, an inheritance by James Rebanks

pastoral coverJames is now a recognised writer and poet on the English countryside, but he was brought up on a farm in the Lake District and the book follows his time learning farming ways from his grandfather, then watching the destruction and desolation inflicted by the “productivity at any cost” approach during his father’s time and how, under his own stewardship he is returning the farm to long-term sustainability in harmony with the environment. It’s not nearly as heavy going as my description might suggest!

June 2021

Bee Journal by Sean Borodale

This month’s recommendation has been picked by David Fray. An unusual choice as this is a collection of poetry. It is written in the form of a journal over 2 years by an established poet who took up beekeeping in Somerset in 2009 with support from a beekeeping mentor. Each time he visited the colony at the bottom of his garden, he wrote a spontaneous poem, there and then, about his impressions.
Some are very short, others more complex but all of them convey something of his experiences and impressions of opening up a colony of bees. He writes well of the smells and small-scale sounds and sights of the hive. For the beekeeper, it describes what he does and, indeed, you can see his mistakes [a lost swarm after a three week period between inspections in June; no surprise, there!]
Perhaps best for a Winter read, when you are missing the experience of handling your colonies. For me, it encourages a little more ‘mindfulness’ down in the apiary!

February 2021

Wilding by Isabella Tree

Wilding-coverJulia’s suggestion for this month may be familiar to some members. It is “Wilding” by Isabella Tree. It’s not specifically about bees, but describes an innovative and pioneering project to rewild a “broken” estate from 2001 onwards and the transformation that resulted. It’s an approach which has been copied many times since – even in “The Archers”.

The Gardian wrote a review in 2018 if you would like to read a little more before you decide to dive in.

January 2021

Bees and their keepersBees and Their Keepers in religion, revolution and evolution  – by Lotte Moller, translated by Frank Perry

Sweden’s Gardening Book of the Year 2019 * Shortlisted for the August Prize 2019 * Winner of the Swedish Book Design Award for 2019

Beekeeper and garden historian Lotte Möller explores the activities inside and outside the hive while charting the bees’ natural order and habits. With a light touch she uses her encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject to shed light on humanity’s understanding of bees and bee lore from antiquity to the present. A humorous debunking of the myths that have held for centuries is matched by a wry exploration of how and when they were replaced by fact.

bees and keepers

November 2020

The Good Bee by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum

This book looks at all types of bees and reminds us there are some 20,000 species worldwide. It covers human interaction throughout history, bee behaviour and some of the things we still don’t know, with the aim of increasing awareness of how important bees are and why we should look after them. It’s a recent acquisition by the library (No. 366) and not currently on loan.

For anyone who would like something less intense, there is a new(ish) book, “The Bee Book” by Charlotte Milner, with the same aim, but written primarily for children. Unfortunately, we don’t have this in the library.

October 2020

Apis through the looking glass by Graham Royle

apis thorugh the looking glassWhere most of the books on the “must read” list are about the whole colony, Apis investigates the amazing bodies of individual bees. The book also has stunning photographic illustrations.

August 2020

Bees make the best pets by Jack Mingo

bees make the best petsAs we all need cheering up, Julia’s suggestion this month might do the trick. This book is full of facts and observations about bees with a rather “off the wall” approach. For example, did you know that bees keep elephants out of your garden?

We will have a copy in the library as soon as we re-open and I donate mine!

June 2020

Making your own Mead by Bryan Acton and Peter Duncan

While this book is not in our library, it is available to buy online from most book retailer. In these times of isolation, it feels an ideal opportunity to give it a go using some of that spring honey or the left overs from last year.

Making Your Own Mead: 43 Recipes for Homemade Honey Wines (Fox Chapel  Publishing) Basic Guide to Techniques, plus Recipes for Mead, Fruit  Melomels, Grape Pyments, Spiced Metheglins, & Apple Cysers: Duncan, Peter,Once the drink of choice for Viking marauders and medieval kings, mead is enjoying a renaissance in popularity. The “nectar of the gods” is easy to make at home using just honey, water and yeast. This practical guidebook will inspire you to take up the craft, with a basic guide to mead-making techniques plus 43 recipes for brewing the world’s oldest alcoholic beverage. It also suggests tasty mead variations, by blending honey with herbs, spices, fruits, berries, and more. You’ll also find recipes for mixing up your mead in classic drinks like a honey bishop or a twelfth night wassail.

May 2020

Plants for Bees by W. Kirk and F. Howes

For those of us lucky enough to be confined with a garden, this period is a great opportunity to keep busy with plants and bees.

Plants for Bees by W. Kirk and F. HowesPlants for Bees by W. Kirk and F. Howes colour

This is why this month, Julia has chosen this comprehensive guide to wild and cultivated plants that are useful to bees. There is an overview of the plants relevant to each of honey bees, long-tongued and short-tongued bumble bees and solitary bees, while the bulk of the content is a beautifully illustrated, alphabetic guide to the plants. Each plant has a detailed description and a table to show the type of plant, when it flowers and which bees use it. There is also a quick reference guide showing the value of each plant to the four types of bee. If you only have one book about plants for bees, this should be it.

March 2020

The Beekeeper’s Problem Solver by James Tew

tew“The Beekeeper’s Problem Solver” by James Tew is a beautifully produced book with short sections on many aspects of beekeeping, arranged in reader-friendly sections. It will not provide definitive answers to every problem, but it is an engaging way of becoming aware of what may become a problem or a challenge, helping the less-experienced  beekeeper to recognise when they need to take action or seek advice.

February 2020

The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson

Recommended by one of our newest beekeepers, this book is the second one we recommend form this author, a great favourite.

A recent acquisition for the library, The Garden Jungle is about the wildlife, the worms, woodlice, centipedes, flies, silverfish, wasps, bees, beetles, mice, shrews and much, much more, quietly living within just a few paces of us

the garden jungle

Dave Goulson gives us an insight into the fascinating and sometimes weird lives of these creatures, taking us burrowing into the compost heap, digging under the lawn and diving into the garden pond. He explains how our lives and ultimately the fate of humankind are inextricably intertwined with that of earwigs, bees, lacewings and hoverflies, unappreciated heroes of the natural world.

He explores the environmental harm inadvertently done by gardeners who buy intensively reared plants in disposable plastic pots, sprayed with pesticides and grown in peat cut from the ground and argues that gardens could become places where we can reconnect with nature and live in harmony with wildlife.

If you want to read more about this book (in case you need further convincing) you can find an article by PD Smith / The Gardian.

November 2019

Queen Rearing by L E Snelgrove

Queen Rearing by L E Snelgrove

Julia, our librarian, is suggesting it for anyone who has never raised their own queens but has the winter to consider it for next year. Although we have several other books on queens in the library, this is probably the definitive one. It has been in print since 1946 with the latest update in 2008 and it would be difficult to find an aspect it doesn’t cover.


September 2019

The Beekeeper’s Field Guide by David Cramp.

It is a compact reference book which can be used as a first port of call or a handy reminder of all the basics. It’s especially useful for less experienced beekeepers and, while not quite pocket-sized, could be kept with your beekeeping kit for immediate consultation before and after inspections.

July 2019

The Book of Bees by Piotr Socha

the book of bees

How do bees communicate? What does a beekeeper do? Did you know that Napoleon loved bees? Who survived being stung by 2,443 bees? This book answers all these questions and many more, tracking the history of bees from the time of the dinosaurs to their current plight. But more than the content, it all about how it is illustrated simply and with humor.

As described by Nikki Dakin earlier this month in our committee meeting, this book is always a success, with the younger ones as well as any experienced beekeeper. Anyone curious enough to open will get absorbed and turn every page.

Piotr Socha is a graphic designer and illustrator, and the son of a beekeeper. He is one of Poland’s most popular cartoonists, famous for his comic drawings in various prominent Polish magazines and newspapers.

dakelche-pchelite-page-1Enjoy! The SCBKA library has got a copy you can borrow if you wish to have a look before you buy but by all accounts, it seems worth investing … and covering!

In addition, he has also written ‘The book of trees’ and his books have been translated in several languages including French, Polish, Spanish and German – with a slightly different cover. A great idea for a present and a great study in preparation for Pete’s Christmas quiz!

June 2019

Collins Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, honey, recipes and other home uses

Recommended Collins beekeeping bibleby Alan Smith, the library will soon have a copy of this most comprehensive beekeeping resource.

This ultimate guide covers all the practical essentials and will teach you everything about caring for bees and apiary management, with clear instructions and step-by-step illustrations. It also contains a wealth of information about the culinary, medicinal, cosmetic and domestic uses of honey, beeswax and pollen.

This beautiful almanac is also a fascinating read, overflowing with charming bee trivia, fascinating folklore, an engaging history of beekeeping and much more.

May 2019

A Guide to Bees and Honey (The revised edition) by Ted HooTed Hooper – A Guide to Bees and Honey - revised editionper

Recommended by Sydney Hollinshead. This is the ideal guide for anyone wanting to start beekeeping and a revered reference book for experienced beekeepers. It includes information on all you need to know, including how to avoid swarms, plan requeening, or provide the colony with winter stores. It features key information on Varroa. It is copiously illustrated throughout. Fully revised and updated, this new edition of “Guide to Bees and Honey” also presents expert advice for readers who plan to maintain a few hives for personal recreational use, as well as those who want to expand an existing colony into a commercial venture.

April 2019

Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley

Nichola Summerfield, who is one of our best-read beekeepers recommends “Honeybee Democracy” as our April book of the month. It looks at the science behind bees’ ability to act as a single unit. It is especially pertinent to swarming. As one reviewer put it: “Fantastically complex science, explained with perfect simplicity”.

Honeybee-DemocracyDr. Thomas D. Seeley is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University, where he teaches courses in animal behavior and does research on the functional organization of honey bee colonies.

Honeybees make decisions collectively – and democratically. Every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing and traveling to a new home, honeybees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building. In fact these incredible insects have much to teach us when it comes to collective wisdom and effective decision making. A remarkable and richly illustrated account of scientific discovery, Honeybee Democracy brings together, for the first time, decades of Seeley’s pioneering research to tell the amazing story of house hunting and democratic debate among the honeybees.

March 2019

In Praise of Bees – A cabinet of curiosities by Elizabeth Burchill

in praise of beesThis fascinating and comprehensive book explores the bee’s place in human society from prehistoric cave paintings and inscribed clay tablets through to our contemporary world – a cabinet whose drawers are filled with nuggets of bee science and practical beekeeping, myth, religion, politics, philosophy and folklore. There is a selection of verse and a rich variety of illustrations ranging from Old Masters and scientific etchings to modern photographs. An in-depth look at bees’ complex society and their present plight, the ongoing political and scientific to and fro regarding pesticides and other threats are also discussed, given the bee’s importance as plant pollinator in agriculture and the wild.

It’s obviously the result of a great deal of research. Gathered into topics with short sections and lots of illustrations, it’s an enchanting book to dip into.

February 2019

Swarming: Its control and prevention by L. E. Snelgrove

swarming preventionAlthough it was published in the 1930s, it was the result of careful observation and analysis and is still relevant to how we manage swarming today. Just as importantly, it is written in simple and straightforward language and is (relatively) short. There are 2 copies in the library.

More about this book on this page.

November 2018

A Sting in the Tail by Dave Goulson

a stingDave Goulson has always been obsessed with wildlife, from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets and dabbling in experimental taxidermy to his groundbreaking research into the mysterious ways of the bumblebee and his mission to protect our rarest bees.

Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee is now extinct in the UK, but still exists in the wilds of New Zealand, descended from a few queen bees shipped over in the nineteenth century. A Sting in the Tale tells the story of Goulson’s passionate drive to reintroduce it to its native land and contains groundbreaking research into these curious creatures, history’s relationship with the bumblebee, the disastrous effects intensive farming has had on our bee populations and the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

July 2018

Peter Sutcliffe recommended

Nudge Nudge, Hint Hint by John Yates

yates_nudgenudgehinthint-2John Yates wrote a series of monthly articles for the Plymouth Branch of the Devon Beekeepers’ Association during the period August 1989 – October 1992. These were published  as a most successful book later in 1992. The volume is full of wise advice and beekeeping insight which while written for the micro-climate around Plymouth can be applied anywhere in Great Britain so long as notice is taken of regional climate which in some parts is 3 or 4 weeks in arrears.

June 2018

Andrew Esterbrook recommended

The Bad Beekeepers’ club by Bill Turnbull

B Turnbull - the bad beekeepers club

Hello. My name is Bill and I’m a bad beekeeper. A really bad beekeeper.’
So begins Bill Turnbull’s charming and often hilarious account of how he stumbled into the world of beekeeping (sometimes literally). Despite many setbacks – including being stung (twice) on his first day of training – beekeeping somehow taught Bill a great deal about himself, and the world around him.

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