My friend Joanna asked me to recommend a book about bees and beekeeping several years ago. I gave her a spare copy of Bees at the Bottom of the Garden from the beginners’ course that I took at Ealing and District Beekeepers Association. Bees at the Bottom of the Garden by Alan Campion is a bestselling book for novice beekeepers that explains very simply how to set up a hive and what to expect in your first few years of beekeeping. It’s an easy-to-understand, practical guide for beginners with useful diagrams and seasoned advice from an experienced beekeeper. Joanna found the book interesting but too technical, for her: “I don’t want to keep bees, Emma,” she said, “It’s a very good textbook, but I just wanted to have a read about bees and beekeepers for enjoyment.” I was surprised by her comment; by then I was already a beekeeper in my second year and still closely reading Alan Campion’s book alongside all my beekeeping activities.
When Alastair Laing, an editor at Dorling Kindersley (DK), approached me to write a section for The Bee Book, I thought of my conversation with Joanna. The publisher had an idea for a book that would open a window onto the amazing world of bees and show what the beekeeper does for everyone to enjoy. There would also be a section on planting gardens for bees and pages of recipes for making the most of bee bounties like honey and beeswax at home.
My family and friends have asked many questions about bees and beekeeping over the years: “What’s the difference between honeybees and bumble bees?”, “Why do bees swarm?”, “How do you get the honey?”, and “What do beekeepers do in winter?” I have always enjoyed telling people about the bees, although I have seen a few glazed eyes from sharing too much information. DK is well known for their beautifully illustrated books that make a detailed topic accessible to every reader – so I loved the idea of being part of a book that would allow my non-beekeeper family and friends to enjoy the wonder of bees. Alastair needed a writer for a section that showed how a beekeeper cares for bees and for a recipe section. So I accepted the job. I hoped that my pages would provide a helpful look at the year ahead for the novice beekeeper about to take their first steps, as well as an enjoyable read about a fascinating hobby for the arm-chair enthusiast.
Writing for The Bee Book was a lot of fun and I felt lucky to be part of the team as the pages were brought to life by the beautiful design of Kathryn Wilding and the wonderful photography of Bill Reavell. Alastair commissioned Judy Earl and Bill Fitzmaurice of Harrow Beekeepers Association for their expert knowledge on crafting with beeswax, candle-making and recipes on honey, beeswax and propolis, and to take part in the photoshoots as well. My favourite story from the making of the book is how a swarm of honeybees happened to settle on a tree around the corner from a photoshoot one day. This allowed Bill Reavell to capture Bill Fitzmaurice demonstrating swarm collection in action (pages 158–159)!
The chapters that I enjoyed reading most, however, were on the amazing world of bees by Fergus Chadwick, and how to plant a garden to attract bees by Steve Alton. I hadn’t seen these pages during the production of the book and was full of curiosity by the time my copies arrived in the post. Fergus reveals a treasure chest of bees around the world including the Himalayan honeybee, Australia’s sugarbag bee, and the blue carpenter bee of southern Asia. His section is beautifully illustrated by Bryony Fripp. Steve explores how to attract bees to your garden with an array of bee-friendly plants and guides to making bee homes.
I wrote my pages with my first year of being a beekeeper in mind. I remembered there was so much to learn and I couldn’t know everything at first. The Bee Book is a great introduction to bees and beekeeping for those who would like to become beekeepers but are not quite ready to own a hive yet, and for the novice beekeeper about to take their first steps, it illustrates what might be expected of the year’s work ahead.
My acknowledgements thank my first-year mentors Ian Allkins, Andy Pedley, Pat Turner, John Chapple, and Alan Gibbs, and also my hive partner Emily Scott of Adventures in Beeland. Mentoring doesn’t stop after your first year and there is always more to learn, which is why it’s so important to be part of a beekeeping association. I’ve enjoyed keeping hives at Ealing apiary alongside practical beekeepers like Thomas Bickerdike, of Beekeeping Afloat, and Llyr Jones, often a beekeeping partner-in-crime, and many more. I’d also like to say special thanks again to David Rowe for his assistance during the photoshoot at Ealing apiary, to John Chapple for his tip about the winter tunnel (page 166), and a huge thanks to Ealing and District Beekeepers Association and Harrow Beekeepers Association for letting DK photograph the hives at their apiaries.
You can find out more about The Bee Book and order a copy from DK or Amazon. And if you are thinking about becoming a beekeeper, do follow one of the most important pieces of advice in the book – join your local association and take their introductory course! You won’t learn everything you need to know about bees and beekeeping even with a library of books at your disposal, but hopefully The Bee Book will be one of many that you’ll enjoy reading.
The Bee Book published by DK (1 Mar. 2016). ISBN-10: 0241217423 | ISBN-13: 978-0241217429. Order from DK or Amazon.
Ealing and District Beekeepers Association website
Harrow Beekeepers Association website
William Reavell Photography
Bryony Fripp Illustrations
Bees at the Bottom of the Garden by Alan Campion
Well done! It’s great that you share so much knowledge here and now in a book. I hope the book sells like hotcakes and the word spreads about how amazing the humble bee is.
Thank you Laura! It’s always fun to talk about bees 🙂 I have bought quite a few copies myself for my family! I hope the word spreads too how easy it is to make a garden bee-friendly 🐝
What a great book, Emma, can’t wait to get a copy. I looked at the U.S. Amazon.com and it is 95% 5-star reviews – congratulations! Also the #1 seller in the Biology of Insects and Spiders section:
Here’s to multiple re-printings in the future!
Thanks Erik – I bought a few copies myself so maybe that helped 😉 Good to know it’s been well received in US. I know they sent the book to a US beekeeper consultant before print so hopefully he/she checked it was ok for US readers too 🙂
Great achievement! Well done. I always find DK books so accessible and beautifully illustrated. I’m sure this will inspire many more new beekeepers.
Thank you! The team at DK have done an amazing job putting the book together and they were so nice to work with. I hope it also inspires people to care for all bees by planting more and making spaces for bees in their gardens 🙂
Congratulations Em, huge achievement and I know you put a lot of work into it. I am enjoying reading my way through its beautiful pages and have been blown away by Bryony Fripp’s gorgeous illustrations.
Thanks Em, it was worth the work! I love the gorgeous flower photos in the gardening for bees section too 🙂
Congratulations for your part in what looks like a fantastic publication! I liked the idea that from the start they described other bees and how you can have so much enjoyment watching wild bees whether you keep honey bees or not. I did a double take on the cover. It is so like the cover of a book called “The Bees” that Kourosh was given at Christmas. This is a fiction novel and so far he has only managed the first few chapters. Amelia
Thanks Amelia, yes I also really like that the book tells you about the world of bees and how to enjoy them, not just about the honeybee and beekeeping. The cover was a surprise to me also – it reminded me of The Bees, a favourite novel of mine too 🙂
Congratulations, Emma, that’s a great thing to have been part of.
Terrific, EST, how wonderful to part of the project. Proceeding to Amazon forthwith… RH
Thanks RH, it was lots of fun to do. That’s so nice of you to get a copy, I hope you enjoy it. Now I’d like to get a book all about Abaco Adventures! 🙂 EST
Congratulations on being a published author. The book looks to be an informative and well-rounded insight into the life of bees and their keepers that you can be proud to be a part of.
Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!
Thank you! 🙂
Wow Emma, well done on your writing, and being part of this wonderful book.. It looks fascinating reading.. How thrilling to be part of it.. Congratulations upon its publication.. 🙂 xxx
Thanks Sue it was so much fun to be a part of the writing team 🙂 xx
🙂 it was excellent