The best beekeeping books

5 authors have picked their favorite books about beekeeping and why they recommend each book.

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The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore

By Hilda M. Ransome,

Book cover of The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore

This quirky little title captures a wealth of information about the deep relationship between people and bees. Ransome delves into mythology and folklore from around the world and across a huge span of history. Every page seems to offer some new and unexpected connection or story, from ancient Egyptians ferrying their honeybee hives up and down the River Nile to the Mayans cultivating a rainforest species with the agreeable trait of lacking a sting. No other book gives the reader such an exhaustive and entertaining exploration of how bees, more so than any other insect, have been part of human cultures since the dawn of civilization.


Who am I?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

Bees

By Piotr Socha,

Book cover of Bees: A Honeyed History

In my experience, Middle School youth can’t get enough of richly illustrated books that also serve as an encyclopedic compendium of fascinating facts. Want to know about bee anatomy? Hive-building? How bees communicate? Bees In mythology? Robotic bees? Beekeeping throughout history and across cultures? Current threats to bees? How to treat a bee sting? Look no further. But I warn you, it may be hard to pry this book from a young person’s hands once they start reading it. I had a hard time putting it down myself and I learned a lot of new facts. Bonus: this book’s large format lends itself to being held and pored over by two people at a time—cooperative learning at its best. 


Who am I?

I have long been fascinated by bees. I am a retired Middle School teacher (I taught mathematics, science, and creative writing in an inner-city school district) and am a volunteer community scientist with a special interest in pollinators. I love nothing more than being outdoors, meandering through empty lots, local parks, and my own backyard observing bees of all species. As a storyteller, I am fascinated by how honeybees weave through different cultures’ myths and how they are seen as a source of mystical and transformative power. Honeybees ignite my imagination and bring together my love of science and my concern for threats to our shared environment.


I wrote...

The Bee Maker

By Mobi Warren,

Book cover of The Bee Maker

What is my book about?

In 2036, honeybees are nearly extinct. Thirteen-year-old Melissa has never tasted a strawberry because the world's crops are disappearing. Her absence seizures earn her the hated nickname statue girl at school and her mother changes custody arrangements, leaving her with a reluctant father. To cope, Melissa folds origami. She decides to fold a thousand honeybees as a prayer for bees and a way to connect with her father, a honeybee scientist.

Melissa’s seizures and origami magically combine to open a portal to ancient Crete where she encounters a disabled boy who communicates with honeybees. He is blamed for a deadly fever and condemned to die. His sister can ransom his life but only if she wins an impossible race. Can Melissa save both the bees and the boy?

Bees in America

By Tammy Horn,

Book cover of Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation

Bees In America is a great read, as it chronologically takes you from the earliest European colonists who brought their bees with them—as honeybees are not native to North America—through to the present. It’s a mix of American history, biology, and American ingenuity, all rolled into a nonfiction account that’s chocked full of interesting facts and details.  For anyone interested in honeybees and/or beekeeping, it’s fascinating to learn the role they played in our developing nation. Plus, it’s exciting to read about all the innovations and advancements in beekeeping that have been discovered in America over the past 200 years. 


Who am I?

I am the author of Bee People and the Bugs They Love, an adjunct instructor at the Cornell University Master Beekeeping Program, a master beekeeper, former vice president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and I have written multiple articles featured in the widely circulated Bee Culture Magazine. As president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers—a position that I held for over a decade—I founded the “Honey Cup," an annual honey tasting competition. I have promoted beekeeping throughout the Northeast by speaking to everyone from school children to gardening clubs and civic organizations, and have led beekeeping seminars across the Northeast and at The New York Botanical Garden.


I wrote...

Bee People and the Bugs They Love

By Frank Mortimer,

Book cover of Bee People and the Bugs They Love

What is my book about?

Who wants to keep bees? And why? For the answers, Master Beekeeper Frank Mortimer invites readers on an eye-opening journey into the secret world of bees, and the singular world of his fellow beekeepers. Buzzing along from hobbyist to expert, Mortimer – aka “Frank the Bee Man” – delivers an informative, funny, and galvanizing book about the symbiotic relationship between bees and the beekeepers who are determined to protect the existence of one of the most beguiling and invaluable creatures on earth.

With a swarm of offbeat characters and un-bee-lievable facts, (did that bee just waggle or festoon?), Frank the Bee Man takes his obsession to the next level, as he is indoctrinated into the millennia-old craft of beekeeping.

The Beekeeper's Handbook

By Diana Sammataro, Alphonse Avitabile,

Book cover of The Beekeeper's Handbook

If you want to keep bees and only plan on buying one “how-to” beekeeping book, then The Beekeeper’s Handbook is for you. Filled with lots of basic information to get you started, this how-to book goes further and also provides in-depth/technical information that you’ll need after you have been keeping bees for a few years and have a strong foundation of beekeeping knowledge, but are still looking for more.  This easy-to-follow handbook has plenty of step-by-step information that will come in handy for beekeepers of all experience levels. If you’re serious about bee-ing a beekeeper, this book is a must-have!   


Who am I?

I am the author of Bee People and the Bugs They Love, an adjunct instructor at the Cornell University Master Beekeeping Program, a master beekeeper, former vice president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and I have written multiple articles featured in the widely circulated Bee Culture Magazine. As president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers—a position that I held for over a decade—I founded the “Honey Cup," an annual honey tasting competition. I have promoted beekeeping throughout the Northeast by speaking to everyone from school children to gardening clubs and civic organizations, and have led beekeeping seminars across the Northeast and at The New York Botanical Garden.


I wrote...

Bee People and the Bugs They Love

By Frank Mortimer,

Book cover of Bee People and the Bugs They Love

What is my book about?

Who wants to keep bees? And why? For the answers, Master Beekeeper Frank Mortimer invites readers on an eye-opening journey into the secret world of bees, and the singular world of his fellow beekeepers. Buzzing along from hobbyist to expert, Mortimer – aka “Frank the Bee Man” – delivers an informative, funny, and galvanizing book about the symbiotic relationship between bees and the beekeepers who are determined to protect the existence of one of the most beguiling and invaluable creatures on earth.

With a swarm of offbeat characters and un-bee-lievable facts, (did that bee just waggle or festoon?), Frank the Bee Man takes his obsession to the next level, as he is indoctrinated into the millennia-old craft of beekeeping.

The Making of the Modern Self

By Dror Wahrman,

Book cover of The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England

Wahrman’s book is eminently readable but nonetheless provocative. He asserts that toward the end of the eighteenth century a radical change, a cultural revolution, in fact, occurred in notions of self and identity. He uses a fascinating and engaging range of evidence to make his point,  from theater to beekeeping, fashion, philosophy, art, travel accounts, and much more. 


Who am I?

I stumbled upon Hickey’s memoirs and while reading them became captivated not only by the frequently hilarious episodes he recounts from his life, but also by the subject of autobiography and how narrating our life story somehow projects a sense of self and identity to the reader. Trying to grasp this process led me to exploring a wide range of books, and opened up understanding of how our selves are fashioned and what they mean to others. An endlessly fascinating subject.


I wrote...

Who Was William Hickey? A Crafted Life in Georgian England and Imperial India

By James R. Farr,

Book cover of Who Was William Hickey? A Crafted Life in Georgian England and Imperial India

What is my book about?

This book explores an autobiography that was written in the early nineteenth century and will appeal to many readers who are interested in understanding the connections of memory, identity, narrative, and ideas of selfhood. The author of this autobiography, William Hickey, draws upon memories of episodes in his life to project a sense of self through the act of writing, and crafts a persona that, whether true or not, he hopes his readers will accept as his authentic self.

The Queen Must Die

By William Longgood,

Book cover of The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men

There are scores of beekeeping memoirs in print, many of them very engaging. But if I had to choose only one, there is something to be said for this little classic. The biological information is good, but the book rises above the average in the way Longwood conveys it - with charm, wit, and an obvious fondness for his chosen subjects. Paired with a modern how-to manual, this volume could convince just about anyone to try their hand with hive, suit, and smoker.


Who am I?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

The Bees in Your Backyard

By Joseph S. Wilson, Olivia J Messinger Carril,

Book cover of The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America's Bees

The only thing better than reading about bees is getting outside and seeing some! This book combines good pictures with descriptions of behavior and habitats that will help identify what you find – if not to species, then at least to the major families and groups. Though focused on North America, many of the same general types of bees can be encountered anywhere: sweat bees, miners, diggers, leafcutters, cuckoo bees, and more. In addition to the identification tips, the book includes a generous introduction to bee biology and behavior, as well as a primer on how to improve the bee habitat in any yard through the addition of flowers, nesting sites, and more.


Who am I?

Author and biologist Thor Hanson’s research activities have taken him around the globe. He has studied Central American trees and songbirds, nest predation in Tanzania, and the grisly feeding habits of African vultures, but bees rank among his favorite subjects of all. He wrote Buzz to explore their fascinating natural and cultural history. No other group of insects has grown so close to us, none is more essential, and none is more revered.


I wrote...

Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

By Thor Hanson,

Book cover of Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees

What is my book about?

Bees are like oxygen: ubiquitous, essential, and, for the most part, unseen. While we might overlook them, they lie at the heart of relationships that bind the human and natural worlds. In Buzz, the beloved Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. From honeybees and bumbles to lesser-known diggers, miners, leafcutters, and masons, bees have long been central to our harvests, our mythologies, and our very existence. They've given us sweetness and light, the beauty of flowers, and as much as a third of the foodstuffs we eat. And, alarmingly, they are at risk of disappearing. As informative and enchanting as the waggle dance of a honeybee, Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect. Read this book and you'll never overlook them again.

Zinnia and the Bees

By Danielle Davis, Laura K. Horton (illustrator),

Book cover of Zinnia and the Bees

This is a delightfully wacky book with endearing characters. Zinnia is having a bad hair day, literally. A hive of bees takes up residence in the wild and curly mane of her hair to add to her troubles—a missing brother and a mother who doesn’t seem to care. I fell in love with this book on the first page when I learned that Zinnia was about to yarn bomb a statue of her school mascot. (I’m a knitter and have fancied taking up yarn bombing myself.) Quickly-paced chapters alternate between Zinnia as narrator and the bees discussing their own perilous situation. Told with both humor and empathy, this is a book where you can’t turn the pages fast enough in order to find out how things resolve.


Who am I?

I have long been fascinated by bees. I am a retired Middle School teacher (I taught mathematics, science, and creative writing in an inner-city school district) and am a volunteer community scientist with a special interest in pollinators. I love nothing more than being outdoors, meandering through empty lots, local parks, and my own backyard observing bees of all species. As a storyteller, I am fascinated by how honeybees weave through different cultures’ myths and how they are seen as a source of mystical and transformative power. Honeybees ignite my imagination and bring together my love of science and my concern for threats to our shared environment.


I wrote...

The Bee Maker

By Mobi Warren,

Book cover of The Bee Maker

What is my book about?

In 2036, honeybees are nearly extinct. Thirteen-year-old Melissa has never tasted a strawberry because the world's crops are disappearing. Her absence seizures earn her the hated nickname statue girl at school and her mother changes custody arrangements, leaving her with a reluctant father. To cope, Melissa folds origami. She decides to fold a thousand honeybees as a prayer for bees and a way to connect with her father, a honeybee scientist.

Melissa’s seizures and origami magically combine to open a portal to ancient Crete where she encounters a disabled boy who communicates with honeybees. He is blamed for a deadly fever and condemned to die. His sister can ransom his life but only if she wins an impossible race. Can Melissa save both the bees and the boy?

A Book of Bees

By Sue Hubbell, Sam Potthoff (illustrator),

Book cover of A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them

Hubbell has done a great job of capturing what it’s like to be a beekeeper. The book is organized around a calendar that serves as a year in the life of a beekeeper, highlighting what beekeepers do at different times of the year. The book is as much about Hubbell’s life, dealing with loneliness, and how her bees bring her strength through her solitude. She writes beautifully about being out in nature, amongst the sights and sounds of Southwest Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. There are many details about honeybees along with descriptions of the various chores and responsibilities that a beekeeper has to do.  


Who am I?

I am the author of Bee People and the Bugs They Love, an adjunct instructor at the Cornell University Master Beekeeping Program, a master beekeeper, former vice president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and I have written multiple articles featured in the widely circulated Bee Culture Magazine. As president of the Northeast NJ Beekeepers—a position that I held for over a decade—I founded the “Honey Cup," an annual honey tasting competition. I have promoted beekeeping throughout the Northeast by speaking to everyone from school children to gardening clubs and civic organizations, and have led beekeeping seminars across the Northeast and at The New York Botanical Garden.


I wrote...

Bee People and the Bugs They Love

By Frank Mortimer,

Book cover of Bee People and the Bugs They Love

What is my book about?

Who wants to keep bees? And why? For the answers, Master Beekeeper Frank Mortimer invites readers on an eye-opening journey into the secret world of bees, and the singular world of his fellow beekeepers. Buzzing along from hobbyist to expert, Mortimer – aka “Frank the Bee Man” – delivers an informative, funny, and galvanizing book about the symbiotic relationship between bees and the beekeepers who are determined to protect the existence of one of the most beguiling and invaluable creatures on earth.

With a swarm of offbeat characters and un-bee-lievable facts, (did that bee just waggle or festoon?), Frank the Bee Man takes his obsession to the next level, as he is indoctrinated into the millennia-old craft of beekeeping.

The Backyard Beekeeper

By Kim Flottum,

Book cover of The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden

This book was exactly what I needed to better understand what is involved in starting a beehive in an urban setting. Flottum starts his readers with the bare-bones basics and builds from there. He also goes into what he calls “Extreme Urban Beekeeping” with tips on considerations for those of us with close neighbors. I have not started beekeeping yet, but Flottum has inspired me to add it to my list of future endeavors. 


Who am I?

For me, backyard composting is more than just a way to lessen how much waste I send to the landfill. When you compost you transform items that many people consider garbage into a valuable soil amendment for your garden. You are creating something with real value that can help plants thrive and act as a carbon sink to help reduce negative impacts of climate change. Composting is so easy and rewarding that I really want to see everyone give it a try.


I wrote...

No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

By Michelle Balz,

Book cover of No-Waste Composting: Small-Space Waste Recycling, Indoors and Out. Plus, 10 Projects to Repurpose Household Items Into Compost-Making Machines

What is my book about?

In No-Waste Composting, you’ll discover the hows and whys of composting and find over a dozen practical step-by-step plans for building both indoor and outdoor composting systems that require a minimal amount of space. Build a DIY worm-composting system for a cupboard or garage. Craft a layered, composting system from terra cotta pots.  Construct a simple outdoor compost bin from repurposed wooden pallets. Use upcycled wire fencing to build a mobile composting system on the driveway.

Whether you’re just starting your no-waste journey or you’re a seasoned recycling and repurposing pro, No-Waste Composting is an invaluable tool to have at your side. This book is part of the Cool Springs Press No-Waste Gardening series, which also includes No-Waste Kitchen Gardening and No-Waste Organic Gardening.

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