SoCal Beekeeping

Books on Bees
Updated 12/1/2020
P. Michael Henderson

There are two sides to learning about bees.  The first, I'll call the technical side - the biology of bees - the social structure of the hive, how long bees live, the functions that various bees perform in the hive, how they bees interact with each other, and much more.

The second side, I'll call the practical side - how the beekeeper interacts with the hive - how to light a smoked, what to wear, how to do a hive inspection and what to look for in an inspection, how to process honey, and more. 

Some of this can be learned from books, but for some you'd do best to have a person teach (mentor) you in person.  I can't help much with the mentoring  but I'll recommend the books that I've found valuable so far.

Blackiston, Howland Beekeeping for Dummies.  Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.  A decent "getting started" book.  Covers quite a bit and may overwhelm you at first.

Bush, Michael The Practical Beekeeper. (no city given): X-Star Publishing Co., 2004.  This thrust of this book is "natural" beekeeping, for example, not using foundation and letting the bees make comb from scratch.  You can get some ideas from this book, but it's not very appropriate for Southern California - more for northern, cold climates.  Read this one after you've read some others, and have some experience.  X-Star Publishing Company seems to be the imprint associated with Bush Farms and not a general book publisher.

Caron, Dewey M. Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping. Kalamazoo, MI: Wicwas Press, 1999.  A good book on bee biology and lots of pictures.

Connor, Lawrence J. Queen Rearing Essentials. Kalamazoo, MI: Wicwas Press, 2009.  A good book on how to raise queen bees.  Not for beginners.

Johnson, Samantha and Daniel Johnson The Beginner's Guide to Beekeeping.  Minneapolis, MN: Quatro Publishing Group, 2013. Very basic and not very information dense.  Not really recommended.

Kearney, Hilary. Queen Spotting. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing 2019.  This is a basic book about queen bees, perhaps targeted at children.  However, it's a very enjoyable read and almost any beekeeper can learn from it.  The book production is excellent - great pictures and format.

Koeniger, Gudrun, et al. Mating Biology of Honey Bees. Kalamazoo, MI: Wicwas Press, 2014.  A very interesting book on how queen bees mate.  Not for beginners.

Langstroth, Lorenzo L. The Hive and the Honey Bee.  Originally published in 1853.  Available from Amazon.  There's good and bad about this book.  It was apparently written to sell his hive design and much of the text is about how his hive design is better than others.  He was also a minister and he attributes things he doesn't understand to divine creation.  But it does have some good information about bees if you can tolerate his sales and religious pitches.

Seeley, Thomas D. Honeybee Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.  This one is mainly about how bees swarm, and how they decide where to set up a new home.  Not as valuable as The Wisdom of the Hive but gives some valuable insights into the swarm.

Seeley, Thomas D. Honeybee Ecology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985. Seeley's early book on bees.  Hard to find but a good read for an advanced beekeeper.

Seeley, Thomas D. The Lives of Bees. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019.  Seeley reports on how bees live in the wild in upstate New York, which is quite a bit different from southern California.  But a good, interesting read.

Seeley, Thomas D. The Wisdom of the Hive.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1995.  This book is about the functioning of the hive.  It really helped me to understand what's happening in the hive.  I highly recommend it.  It's a hard book to find at a reasonable price.  Try bookfinder.  I think it's used in college courses on bees and that's why there's such a demand for the book.  I wish they'd do another printing.

Tautz, Jurgen The Buzz about Bees. Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag, 2008.  Translated from the German.  It's a decent book on honeybee biology, taking a bit of a different approach to the biology.  Interesting.  There are a few errors but he does state that he's speculating when he offers those theories (one is his theory about why bees make hexagonal cells instead of round cells).

Tew, James E. Beekeeper's Problem Solver. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books, 2015. I didn't find this to be of much value.  Maybe after you've had some experience in beekeeping and are looking for solutions to specific problems.