Bee Attitudes

Bee school is finished and the bees are coming. I’ve been trying to read yet another bee book, but my mind wanders to thoughts of actually having bees. My apiary is not quite ready, but with some upcoming days to work on it all should be well.

150326 Bee School Cake

Our last few bee school classes covered installing and taking care of bees throughout the year. Installing packages and nucs; and the challenges and actions for the beekeeping year from August with the buildup for winter through to the end of the season in July. Yes, the season ends in July in Virginia as little can flower in our summer heat. So late summer and early fall is aimed at winter preparations.

Our final class discussed plants for pollinators; and additional organizations and online resources for beekeepers. A very pleasant class, and I’m not sure any of us are fully ready to have bees, that’s what experience is for. Our recent outing at the monastery really gave me some confidence, so I feel as ready as I can bee.

We finished off with cake and discussion, with one of the cakes shown as the picture for this post. I ended up speaking with a few other students that will manage top bar hives this year as well. This remains an ongoing interest so I look forward to following their progress. My first bees arrive in two weeks on April 12.

I thought I would round out what might be my last Before Bees post with a summary of additional books I have read in recent months.

Honeybee Democracy

Honeybee DemocracyI mentioned this wonderful book by Thomas D. Seeley previously in my posts To Bee or Not to Bee and CCBA Honeycomb: A Way That Appears to Bee Right. It was recommended by the bee school folks as well as Emily Scott in yet another post Book of Bees, so how could I go wrong. While I have overheard people say it is a bit scientific, it was at just the right level for my interest. If you want to learn about the swarming behavior of bees, this is the definitive book.

Fruitless FallFruitless Fall

Another book I have previously mentioned, this one by Rowan Jacobsen appears in my post All Dressed Up and No Place to Bee. Published in 2008, this is perhaps a little dated, but a thoughtful book full of cautions for the future of pollinators.

The Backyard Beekeeper

Backyard BeekeeperKim Flottum is a former researcher at the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab and writer and editor for Bee Culture magazine. This 2014 book provides a practical guide to backyard beekeeping. Definitely worth reading if you are starting out, Flottum is specifically focused on hobby beekeepers looking to start with a few hives. The coverage of Langstroth hives is very good, the coverage of Top Bar Hives is so-so. There are some obviously inserted sections on TBHs which seem out of place. As I said, though, worth a read.

Bad BeekeeperConfessions of a Bad Beekeeper

I asked our Bee School principal for her favorite book, and Bill Turnbull’s 2011 text was her choice. She later revised her answer to The Sacred Bee by Hilda Ransome, but the damage was done. I had already bought the book from Amazon. Subtitled What Not to Do When Keeping Bees (with Apologies to My Own), Turnbull is a journalist and longtime co-host of the popular TV show BBC Breakfast in Britain. The book is more autobiographical than beekeeping guide, but an enjoyable read with a number of good insights into the keeping of bees. At times I thought Turnbull tried a little too hard to be funny, sometimes at the expense of the story. Still, a nice bit of insight into Turnbull’s life and British beekeeping.

The Beekeeper’s Handbook

Beekeepers HandbookIncluded with our Bee School tuition, with weekly reading assignments that covered most of the text, this 2011 book by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile tries to be a definitive guide to beekeeping. In its fourth addition, it does a fairly good job at this, providing details of bee anatomy, hive behavior and beekeeping practices I’ve not seen in many books. It has a definite point of view, in that it seems to favor a preventative treatment approach for Nosema and other diseases, in addition to treating for mites of course. The final chapter on pollination with a list of toxic and favorable nectar plants seems quite useful. Not sure of my view on the book overall, but I am happy to have it in my library as a reference.


The title is a play on the word Beatitudes, which are blessings in the Gospels of the Christian Bible. The caring of bees seems to take the right attitude, and the survival of honey bees could certainly use some blessings, so it seems appropriate.

I especially like that each Beatitude is composed of a condition and result: those who mourn shall be comforted, the meek will inherit the earth, and so forth. In beekeeping, inspecting a hive seems much the same. The condition of a hive requires an appropriate response, or result. That’s how I think of it, anyway; hopefully the bees won’t mind.

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