11 Beekeeping Books I've Found Most Helpful

Transitioning from a curious beekeeper to a successful one is no easy task. After 13 years of beekeeping, let me warn you now: there are no shortcuts. The lengthy annual cycles involved with keeping bees requires a long-term approach to learning many lessons and books need to become your friend. That's the nice thing about downtime and winter months: books.

From my perspective, show me a reading beekeeper, and I'll show you a successful beekeeper. Along with finding a mentor and a local beekeeping club, you'll want to ensure you are reading as many books as you can.

I usually suggest starting with the "the old dead guys" like Langstroth, Miller, Adams and more. These are the folks that pioneered so much of what we take for granted today. Much, if not most, of what you'll learn from the "ancients" will guide you well in the present.

Now let me introduce you to just some of the treasured books that you'll want to start adding to your library. These books represent a wide spectrum of practice and philosophy with much disagreement among them. I find that this is both useful and even necessary for those truly interested in developing well-rounded ideas, giving you the raw material with which to test and make your own decisions. I recommend:

  • 1. "Fifty Years Among the Bees" ― by C.C. Miller

    Miller was quite the genius naturalist and one of the early giants in beekeeping. Who wouldn't want to listen to the advice from someone who spent fifty years raising bees? With his big old beard and grandfatherly way of speaking, you'll feel like you're spending time with a family member.
  • 2. "Scientific Queen Rearing" ― by G.M Doolittle

    Doolittle's work and study on queen rearing is a must. You have to be patient with his writing as he takes the entire book to get to the point, but the lessons learned along the way are valuable. I have an original copy from the late 1800's on my shelf.
  • 3. "The Hive and the Honeybee" ― by Rev. Langstroth

    Langstroth's book should be required reading. This is the man who, after much experimentation, put together the existing hive and frame spacing that most beekeepers use today. The Reverend's work is worth your time.
  • 4. "The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture" (41st edition) ― by Root, et all

    Make sure to get the latest 2007 update edition. This encyclopedia of information goes back more than a hundred years, initially put together by A.I. Root and the gang. There is much to learn here on just about any beekeeping topic you can thing of. Very handy.
  • 5. "Increase Essentials" ― by Lawrence John Connor

    Want to understand and learn how to increase your colonies in an effective manner? Than you'll want this book. It's short but very sweet (pun intended).
  • 6. "Better Beekeeping" ― by Kim Flottum

    Flottum has done a great job with assessing the current state of beekeeping and offering different ideas and solutions along the way for you to think about. A well-crafted and illustrated manual for beekeepers.
  • 7. "OTS Queen Rearing" ― by Mel Disselkoen

    This book by Mel has changed the way I do beekeeping. After purchasing the book from Mel at the Tri-County workshop four years ago I read and re-read the book several times before the lights came on.  I now no longer buy bees. I no longer am dependent on queen producers. I raise my own quality queens very easily without grafting and split colonies as much as my budget for hive boxes allows. 
  • 8. "The Practical Beekeeper" (3 volumes) ― by Michael Bush

    From the natural beekeeping end of things, Michael is probably the best representative. You may or may not agree with how he does things but his success is hard to argue with. I find there's much to learn from him and his three companion books (which is basically a print out of his website).
  • 9. "The Beekeeper's Handbook" ― by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile

    This was recommended by the Eastern Apiculture Society as part of their master class. I've found it very thorough and helpful.
  • 10. "Honey Bee Biology" ― by Dewey M. Caron

    Ditto. This reads and feels like a textbook. Worth every penny.
  • 11. "First Lessons in Beekeeping" ― by Keith S. Delaplane

    This was my first beekeeping book back in 2004. I think it was useful and a quality starter book for someone curious about getting into bees. 
  • (BONUS: If Michael Palmer ever gets around to writing a book, buy it.)

    Photo credit: Echoes from the Vault

"On The Spot" ― OTS Queen Rearing

Five years ago I ran across Mel Disselkoen behind a table at the Tri-County Beekeeping spring workshop in Wooster, Ohio. He was, as usual, busy explaining to several beekeepers that they could easily raise their own quality queens and control mites at the same time. In short, he was describing what he has called "On The Spot Queen Rearing" or "OTS".

I was intrigued, to say the least. I was quite familiar with grafting and raising queens, and the time and effort that went with it. But, Mel was discussing something much simpler using a simple technique he had discovered call "notching". This was all well and good, but what really captured my interest was his methods for controlling mites without chemicals using OTS with brood breaks at the proper time of year.

In a nutshell, Mel had learned how to 1) raise quality local queens and 2) control mites simply, and without commonly-used miticides.

My mind was swimming. I grabbed his material (not cheap!) and took it home. After re-reading it several times I was thoroughly convinced. I decided to change my beekeeping practices the following spring and put OTS to test.

So how did it turn out? It is now five years later and I'm not looking back.

  • I haven't bought bees since
  • I raise high-quality queens that don't disappoint
  • I have great overwintering success
  • I can easily expand my bees, using my own queens, as much as my budget will allow.
  • I don't worry about mites nor the diseases that come with them.

In a nutshell, OTS just works. In fact, Mel has been using OTS methods for over 25 years now without miticides and without buying bees.

I plan on adding many new posts all about the OTS beekeeping over time starting March 2017.


2017 Update: Over the past two years, I've seen re-infestation of mites later in summer and early Fall due to wandering drones and/or insufficient mite kill with my July 4 brood break. This results in some weak colonies that don't make it over winter. I plan on adding in oxalic vapor alongside OTS (21 days after removing queen) this year and anticipate great results. Let me know if you have any questions... glad to help.

Branding Boxes

Our family and some friends spent some time together this past weekend. And, with the sunshine and lovely weather, we decided to fire up our little "rocket stove", heat up the branding iron, and brand 25 boxes with The Bee Farm logo. Beekeeping with friends... lots of fun!