Chelsea Green kindly sent me a copy of Ross Conrad's Natural Beekeeping for review.They aren't paying me to talk about the book, unless you consider a free copy of the book payment. So keep that in mind as I talk a little bit about what I think.
My (non-existent) beekeeping back story (if you're not familiar): We're still trying to catch a swarm that annually splits off the hive living in the wall of our house. We haven't seen one since the early spring sighting, but I've tried pheromone lure and lemongrass lure, both to no avail. It will happen, but we don't have the time to invest in really watching out for swarms, plus the heat is keeping us inside more often than previous summers.
All excuses aside, beekeeping is our goal, though it just might have to wait until a certain little girl is old enough to understand directions like "Stay there, stand back." In the meantime, I'm trying to absorb as much information as possible.
This book is exactly what I was looking for: a succinct, in-depth guide to all things beekeeping that echoes my own approach to life: Let's just keep things natural. I don't want some sort of chemical "treatment" for every type of ailment we have around our home. Natural Beekeeping focuses on organic approaches and preventative measures to care for your hive without all the crazy weird (scary) chemicals.
Natural Beekeeping is a comprehensive (though not intimidatingly thick) tome that starts with a broad approach to keeping a healthy hive. From there Ross Conrad pinpoints the specifics for maintaining your hive. I sat down to read it straight through for the purpose of this review and many things seemed over my head, but that's because I'm a hands-on learner. Some of the terminology I wasn't familiar with, some of the techniques seemed like a foreign language. The beauty of having the book, though, is that I know where to find the information when the time arises.
It's an invaluable reference for any beekeeper, even the conventional ones will want to have a copy around. Why?
As we're learning is the case with the meat industry, overly prescribed treatments are only a temporary solution to a problem. As these problems continue they evolve to develop tolerances to the prescribed solution. All of the sudden we have a widespread seemingly unsolvable mystery on our hands. Colony Collapse Disorder ring a bell? Varroa mites are another intimidating problem. If the conventional solutions aren't working you better have a Plan B to try, so why not try something natural?
Looks like there is also a soon-to-be-released companion DVD. I have a feeling the DVD will reinforce the knowledge I've gleaned from the book, giving me the hands-on experience I need, possibly before we get our hands on some bees.
If you're already a beekeeper I can't recommend Natural Beekeeping enough. You'll find all the answers you need to take an organic approach to caring for your bees. If you're a beginner like me, the book is chock full of information, but you might need a guiding hand or a local Backwards Beekeepers group to help you understand the complexity of caring for a hive the natural way.