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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Advanced Beekeeping References

In yesterday's recommendations, I seem to have skipped over the excellent The Beekeeper's Handbook, Third Edition from Cornell University, one of the nation's top research sites for honeybees and developing new varieties of fruit trees (among other things). A book seldom makes a third edition without a lot of sales and in this case, each edition has been updated with the latest research and status of honeybee diseases and pests.

If you are wanting to get more detailed information about honeybees (or their disease and/or parasites), there are some weighty tomes out there to guide you (as well as excellent conferences each year geared towards both beginning and more advanced beekeepers). Two of the best are The ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture: An Encyclopedia Pertaining to the Scientific and Practical Culture of Honey Bees and 21st Century Complete Guide to Bees and Honeybees, Beekeeping, Apiaries, Africanized Honey Bees - USDA Government Research, Parasites, Mites, Pathogens, Threats to Pollination, Food Supply (CD-ROM). The first covers practically every topic you can thing of that pertains to honeybees, while the second specifically deals with the threats your hives.

One that is a little less helpful is A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply. While giving a good overview of what is going on with CCD, which is still being investigated by top researchers around the world, and it's possible consequences, this particular book has a definite political slant. Right now, CCD is a collection of symptoms (a disorder, not a disease); only when the true source has identified will we be able to name the culprit (and find a cure). The prospects of growing food without the european honeybees, an insect that has been cultivated by man for nearly as long as he has farmed, are definitely not all rosy (although roses won't be affected). While rice, wheat and corn (and other grass grains) do not need honeybees to be grown as crops, many other staple foods do: beans (including soybeans), squash, peppers and many more. Alfalfa doesn't need pollination before being feed to cattle, but does use honeybees on fields where seed will be grown for the alfalfa farmers. Canola is another heavily pollinated crop, as are some crops that may not technically need honeybees (the alternate pollinator is in parentheses next to each), but have much higher yields when they are used: tomatoes (wind pollinated, bumblebees in greenhouses), apples (orchard mason bees) and blueberries (some native bees are better suited, but not easily raised in the numbers needed). However, the costs of raising enough of the alternate pollinators (which often have no honey crop to offset costs to the beekeeper) and/or the lower yields of wind pollinated crops will probably mean much higher prices in stores, if the european honeybee were to disappear. It's true that the european honeybee is not native to the US (or many other parts of the world) and that native pollinators do exist (or did) in most areas. The difference is the increased yield that commercial honeybees bring to intensive monocrops and the decline of native pollinators in nearly any area that is commercially farmed (or subject to typical surbuban grass monoculture practices). I'd skip this one for now and instead keep up with the topic in the bee journals (see below) and wait until a treatment is found before worrying too much about laying blame.

An hour long, in depth view of the inner workings of the hive, NOVA: Bees - Tales From the Hive doesn't get into beekeeping, but will provide you and any school age children a fascinating look at what goes on inside the hive.

Last, the second US magazine for beekeepers is the more technical American Bee Journal. Many starting beekeepers skip this one for a while, instead opting for Bee Culture magazine that I mentioned yesterday, but you really can't go wrong with either one (or both - they seldom overlap in their coverage).

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