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?


  1. #1 Tim Eisele
    May 27, 2010

    I think the big problem is that there is a shortage of extensive, formal beekeeping courses that would use such a general book, and so publishers don’t perceive that there is a demand. Hobbyist beekeepers who are trying to learn on their own (like me) end up starting with the “Beekeeping for Dummies” sorts of book, and then later get something like “The Hive and the Honey Bee” for reference, but don’t spend much time in that narrow window of knowing-enough-but-not-too-much to buy a formal textbook.

    I run into a similar problem in the Extractive Metallurgy course I teach. While my class is pretty large, there aren’t enough similar courses around the world for there to be a good textbook reliably in print. There have been some in the past, but they all went out of print after their authors retired. I get the impression that a lot of these specialty textbooks get created by a particular professor to use in a particular class, but once that professor is no longer teaching that class the market for the book dries up and the publisher drops it.

  2. #2 mousedude
    May 27, 2010

    Why don’t you write one? You might even make a few bucks.

  3. #3 LD
    May 27, 2010

    At Arizona State University, they have offered a bee-keeping course. You might contact the researchers/professors at the SIRG at ASU. Good luck! Bees rock!

  4. #4 simba
    May 27, 2010

    Why oh why am I unable to take this course?
    It sounds seriously interesting!

  5. #5 MrILoveTheAnts
    May 27, 2010

    I have a book called “The Hive and the Honey Bee” it’s huge and has some facts about different varieties, it’s also a Dadant Publication with a few dozen authors. You might want to give it a look. (perhaps they’ll send you a free copy to review if it means it will become a text book for a class.) The only issue is it’s from 1992.

  6. #6 Jim Harrison
    May 27, 2010

    If you were teaching at Oxford in the 19th Century, you could just assign the fourth book of Virgil’s Georgics (in Latin, or course) since that’s easily the most elegant available introduction to beekeeping.

  7. #7 Morgan Jackson
    May 27, 2010

    I took an introductory apiculture class during my undergrad, and the textbook we used wasn’t too bad. It was written specifically for the course and starts with the basics of bee physiology for those new to entomology and goes through most of the topics that you’re looking for. Perhaps worth a look!

    Kevan, P.G.. 2007. Bees, Biology, and Management. Enviroquest Ltd., Cambridge. 345 pp.

  8. #8 Katharine
    May 27, 2010
  9. #9 Tracey Byrne
    May 27, 2010

    Hi Alex,
    this website has great “hands-off” advice for beekeeping:

    There’s a growing middle ground of beekeepers who aren’t dummies or serious academics, who are not going with the conventional methods-which seem to be focused on large scale beekeeping. We’re going totally organic in our urban Seattle hives: no drugs, no foundation (to encourage natural cell size), and only hiving local swarms.

    Two books you might want to check out: “The Buzz about Bees, Biology of a Superorganism” by Jurgen Tautz, translated from German by Springer Press; and “Anatomy of a Controversy-the Question of a Language Among Bees” by Adrian Wenner and Patrick Wells.

  10. #10 palaeodave
    May 28, 2010

    Hi Alex. Been reading your blog for a while and really enjoy it.

    Do you know of any studies dealing with the negative effects of apiculture? i.e. decline of native pollinators in proportion to number of domestic bees in an area etc. Engel mentioned in passing in a paper (I forget which) that the domestic honey bee out-competes other pollinators in an area.

  11. #11 Alex Wild
    May 28, 2010

    Thanks for the suggestions, guys.

    MILTA- The first thing I did when looking for a text was check to see if there was a more recent update of Hive and the Honeybee. It’s a solid text, but 20 years old now and not up to speed on CCD, bee genetics & physiology, & varroa.

    Morgan- I’ve not heard of Kevan, I’ll have to take a look.

    Palaeodave- The ecological effects of the Apis invasion is a complicated issue, and one we’ll certainly be covering as part of the class. Surprisingly little research has been done on it, though, considering the ubiquity of honeybees in the Americas. There is this study documenting a slight negative effect on bumblebees.

  12. #12 Kim
    May 29, 2010

    What’s wrong with Dewey Caron’s College Level beekeeping text?
    As an aside…that there hasn’t been a college level course where you are should tell you something about…what, demand for the course, or lack of somebody to teach it until now?
    Kim Flottum
    Editor, Bee Culture Magazine

  13. #13 katie
    May 31, 2010

    Yeah, the Kevan book was written by the big beekeeping guy up here at University of Guelph. I haven’t taken his course, but I did some summer work with him and he seemed like he’d write a good textbook!

  14. #14 andrea
    May 31, 2010

    I took the beekeeping course at Guelph. It’s called Introductory Apiculture and it was a good coverage of many of the topics you listed above. We used a different textbook when I took it (the Professor was Dr. Ernesto Guzman) but I’ve read Dr. Kevan’s book and it covers all the topics above and it’s a pretty easy read.

    For anyone interested they offer it in a distance education format (

  15. #15 Alex Wild
    May 31, 2010

    Sounds like I should check out the texts by Kevan & Caron. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions!

    Kim- The lack of a beekeeping class here at Illinois is likely due to both factors at one time or another.

    Our department chair has noticed that hobbyist interest in bees and beekeeping has spiked in the last couple years, perhaps related to all the coverage of CCD in the news. Plus, there hasn’t been much interest on the part of the bee researchers on campus to teaching a regular semester class. They do offer a short course to the general public that has been enthusiastically received.

  16. #16 Honey Bees
    June 15, 2010

    The dance is either circular dance or ‘figure eight’ dance. Bees do the circular dance to indicate the location of food sources even a hundred yards away. In figure-eight dances, the bees waggle their bodies indicating a farther location of the food which is usually up to several miles from the hive. Studies show that their system of communicating the location of a food source is accurate. They are able to precisely trace food source to within 20 degrees in direction and within 15 percent of the distance.

  17. #17 Katie
    July 14, 2010

    Thought this might be of interest to you:

  18. #18 matthew feldman
    September 28, 2010

    What did you end up using?

  19. #19 sikiş
    September 29, 2010

    Gran torino
    Yönetmen: Clint Eastwood
    Yapım: 2008
    Tür: Aksiyon, Dram, Gerilim, Suç
    Ülke: Amerika, Almanya
    Gran Torino akarsumodası geçmiş, Walt önyargı dolu ve Kowalski bir emektar Kore Savaşı, bir acı, adam esnek. iş hattı sonra yıllar, o bira yudumlarken, tamircilik zaman ayakta çevresinde ve onun işgalci, katlanmış gördüm kendisini. ölmeden önce o, karısı itiraf gitmek o ifade dilerim, ama Walt konuşacak biri vardı, hiçbir şey itiraf etmek. köpek Daisy dışında onu, o güvenmiyor 1 onun M-, her zaman temiz, her zaman kullanıma hazır … Onun eski komşular taşınmış ya da ölü uzun. Onun mahalle hor olduğunu o göçmenler tarafından Asya şimdi doldurulur ve Walt sonsuz rehashing kini – kendi Afrikalı-Amerikalılar inanıyorum

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