BEEKEEPING : A Novice's Guide
In recent years there has been a considerable increase in the attractions of beekeeping. The membership of the BBKA has risen sharply and there is great demand in many beekeeping Associations for classes to encourage and support novice beekeepers. It is one the privileges of this reviewer to currently be responsible for a lecture series where sixty new beekeepers are eager to learn more about the craft. One of the most regular questions that I get asked is, “What book do you recommend I read?” Everyone has their favourite book and in recent years I have unhesitatingly recommended Ted Hooper’s fine book: A guide to bees and honey. But there is a new kid on the block – and I now commend to all beginners that they should read David Wootton’s: Bee Keeping – A Novices Guide (First ed. Pub 2010; ISBN 978-0-9566877-0-8; pp128)
David Wootton clearly outlines his aim in writing this book to his potential readers in the Introduction: ‘Most beekeeping books are written by experts who assume that you know something about beekeeping … this book is not an expert’s view on how to keep bees, there are plenty of those … this is an aid to discovering the pleasures of how to keep bees written in layman’s language by someone who only a short while ago was in the same position you are in now.’ There is no doubt, in my mind, that David Wootton has more than succeeded in fulfilling this aim, because, quite simply, this is an outstanding book.
David Wootton is an extremely accomplished professional photographer and thus the standard of illustrations and photographs in this book are of the highest quality. Every beekeeping operation is fully described and illustrated with a superb accompanying photograph. Nothing is assumed and everything is explained in a clear and direct manner. There are handy boxes of text on most pages containing ‘Hints and Tips’
The book outlines a beekeeper’s experiences during his first year of keeping bees – with all the fun and excitement that sometimes more experienced beekeepers have forgotten. Wootton begins with ‘Getting started’; he then moves on to the hive and other equipment needed by the beekeeper. The book then gives one of the clearest outlines of the life cycle of the honeybee that I have read. The location of the hive is discussed, followed by how to open the hive, how to feed the bees and what should happen during routine inspections. The delights and challenges of swarming are described, and this is followed by chapters on extracting and presenting honey. There are two pages that give a month by month list of things to remember during the ‘Beekeeper’s Year’.
I particularly liked the chapter at the end of the book called ‘The End’ – when the author says, “If you have got to this stage, congratulations you are a beekeeper”. This phrase captures the author’s desire to encourage new beekeepers and also his realisation that he still has much to learn. Wootton knows well enough that there are many aspects of beekeeping that he could have added to his book – but as a description of the first year of experiencing beekeeping this book cannot be matched for its clarity and sense of excitement. The book concludes with a five page Glossary of beekeeping terms and expressions.
Since it was first published in 2010 the book has attracted its fair share of criticisms. David Wootton has addressed these in the second edition (to be published on Nov 5th 2011) Wootton writes: ‘I’ve received numerous comments from readers who were not novices, some saying what I wrote was wrong and others saying it was correct. Some criticised me for writing the book in the first place as a novice without any beekeeping experience. As I have pointed out to them, they have missed the point of the book. It is written by a novice, for novices, to demonstrate that taking up beekeeping doesn’t need to be complicated.’
In the second edition the text has been improved by the author using the services of a professional proof-reader. The second edition has also benefited by the suggestions made by more experienced beekeepers. The author has added more details and has re-arranged the chapters. Two new chapters (on frames/foundation and on pollen) have been added. The book contains the experience of another year’s beekeeping – but not at the expense of losing the freshness and vitality of the first edition.
Of course there are things in this book that I would personally do differently e.g. I would prefer that more hives were discussed than simply the National hive. But my personal preferences take nothing away from the very considerable achievement that this book represents. This book does exactly ‘what it says on the tin’ – it is a novices’ guide written by a new beekeeper. Without hesitation I commend this book to my students (and to those who it is my privilege to mentor) as they start out on the beekeeping journey that David Wootton so admirably describes.
Dr Stephen Palmer
Fintry - Aberdeenshire
Review of the book in the British Beekeeping Associations News Magazine – December 2012
Dr Stephen Palmer; FRGS, FLS; is a former British Beekeeping Association (BBKA) Executive and holder of the Master Beekeeping certificate. Dr Palmer has kept bees for 30 years and has lectured widely on a variety of beekeeping subjects. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and has recently retired to Turriff, but he continues to serve as Chaplain to HM Queen.
' Thank you for such a lovely book, as a new beekeeper I have found it very informative and easy to understand all the necessary steps. The beautiful colour photographs are exciting to see and make you want to read on just to turn the page to see what comes next. I will be taking my book to my next apiary meeting so I can show all the new and old members and hopefully they will want to own a copy of the book themselves. Well done.'
Janet Dolan - Surrey
"Great book - I can't wait to finish my course and get my bees"
Mark S - Suffolk
"Just what I have been looking for, easy to understand and the photos take you through each step."
Bob G - Cumbria
Thank you for my order, I am so pleased with the book, the quality is fantastic and the photographs- what can I say! Wish I could take photos like that. Can't wait til spring when I get my first bees."
Katie C - Wiltshire
"Great book, now will just have to wait til spring to get my bees though I've started building my first hive. My Dad's now reading the book it and he wants to become a bee keeper to."
Steve A - Norfolk
Review by buyer of the book on - Amazon.co.uk
"What a fantastic book this is ! I bought it for my husband as he is the beekeeper but have hardly been able to put it down myself ! There are some beautiful photographs and the information in the book is clear and consice. We have quite a few other beekeeping books but this is definately going to be a favourite. "
Date: 11 November 2010 Rated by Buyer: Mrs K
Review by a buyer of the book on - Amazon.co.uk
A beautiful and really useful book for the novice beekeeper. The photography is really excellent. This book gave me a lot of help with things that I did not really understand and had no-one to ask through the pictorial illustrations - I wish it had been available in the Spring when I first became a beekeeper, still I wouldn't be without it now - Many thanks
Date: 12 November 2010 Rated by Buyer: Sharon H
Reviewed by buyer of the book on Amazon.co.uk
A truly informative, easy to follow book, how to work through a beekeeping year stage by stage, and how to follow up the following year, easy to find specific subjects, with fantastic photos to show you how to do things and what the hive and bees are like inside. I have read several beekeeping books by professionals and although informative have tended to be a bit too in depth and can therefore be confusing, this book is a great start and I would whole heartedly recommend it to aspiring beekeepers.
Date: 5th February 2011 Rated by Buyer: Saustin
Reviewed by buyer of the book on Amazon.co.uk
I have read many books about bee keeping and also attended a course. I just haven't taken the plunge yet into actually getting my own bees! I found this book to be the best I have read on the subject. It is easy to understand and the pictures are of an excellent standard. What I really liked about the book was that the narrative and the pictures linked up. Sometimes, especially in bee keeping I have found that talking about the hive and supers etc. are better understood visually. However this book does what other books have failed to do for me: make real sense! I now feel confident to get my own bees and I am even thinking of making my own hive. Well done to the author, David Wootton who has done a really good job. I gather that he started looking after bees two years ago as a novice and has now even sold honey to Prince Charles! I believe the author took all the pictures and published the book too. He has certainly been an inspiration to me. Well done.
Date: 10th January 2011 Rated by Buyer: Latino
Reviewed by buyer of the book on Amazon.co.uk
A beautifully produced book with the most stunning photographs. The clear and interesting information makes the non-bee keeper want to start keeping bees immediately and the photographs of the jars of golden honey make the reader want to reach out for a spoon of this delicious nectar.
Date: 23rd December 2010 Rated by DONB
Photographer is creating a buzz with his new book - Click Here for the Newspaper Article