Time for a little rant. I’ve been assembling the syllabus for a summer beekeeping course here at the University of Illinois- the first time we’ve offered beekeeping as a regular class in over 30 years- and I’ve run into an annoying snag: the lack of a suitable textbook.
There’s no shortage of books about bees. From The Beekeeper’s Handbook to Beekeeping for Dummies, hundreds of volumes have been penned for the starting hobbyist. Others are works of literary art, like Sue Hubbell’s musings in A Book of Bees. The internet hosts online forums and thousands of how-to beekeeping videos. Many of these sources are ideal for a lay audience but lack the biological depth for a university class. There’s no rigorous coverage of physiology, evolution, genetics, ecology, or behavior.
Sufficiently detailed works covering the biology of honey bees have been written by bee researchers. These more scholarly works include Winston’s 1991 classic but dated The Biology of the Honey Bee, and Tautz’s rather odd but beautifully illustrated The Buzz about Bees. But these books do not address the practical aspects of beekeeping, and the best of them (Winston and the amazing Eva Crane), predate significant advances like the sequencing of the Honeybee genome and the unfortunate advent of Colony Collapse Disorder.
At this point I’m stringing together a series of readings for the students from disparate sources rather than searching for a singular text. It all seems so unnecessary. Surely there must be a market for educated beekeepers, right? Or are bee people really that bimodal, falling into either the academic camp or the beekeeping-for-dummies camp?