An A-list of bee books

Even though she grew up in a frugal rural family, my mother always believed that if a cookbook delivered just one great recipe, it was worth the price. After all, she would use that recipe countless times and perhaps pass it on to others.

Today, I feel the same way about bee books. If I get one snippet from a bee book that improves my skills or deepens my understanding of bees, then the book was worth both the time and the money.

In these modern times fraught with honey bee problems and native bee disappearance, there is an ever-expanding library to pick from. Here are a few of my current favorites for you to consider.

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The Beekeepers’s Handbook, Fourth Edition by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile. 2011. This is my first choice for an overall beginner how-to book. The sequence is logical, the explanations are clear and concise, and it gives you enough to get going without overwhelming your brain. Many clear diagrams, bulleted lists, and appendices. If you can buy only one beekeeping book, this is the one. [/column] [column width=”1/3″]

Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark L. Winson. 2014. This book is both a memoir of the author’s life and a dissection of the many disturbing aspects of a contemporary bee’s life—from Varroa mites to CCD. Winston’s love of honey bees shines through every word he writes, and he makes us think about how we might learn from the bees and become better stewards of our dwindling natural resources.[/column] [column width=”1/3″]

The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich. 2014. It has always been my contention that understanding bees generally—all of them—makes one a better beekeeper. Conversely, you don’t need to be a beekeeper to enjoy the fascinating pas de deux between flower and bee. Not a beekeeping how-to, this book puts honey bees in the context of all bees and explains their relevance to our daily lives [/column][/columns] [columns][column width=”1/3″]

Bee by Rose-Lynn Fisher, 2010. This is picture book for honey bee lovers. The photographs, taken with the aid of an electron microscope, reveal the honey bee and all her parts in stunning detail. Whether you are a beekeeper, gardener, photographer or just curious, this book is a joy. This is nothing like seeing the parts up close to understand how they all work together to pollinate our world.[/column] [column width=”1/3″]

California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists by Gordon W. Frankie et al. 2014. You don’t have to be from California to appreciate this book. The book details the basic families of bees and the plants they like using colorful photos of both. It also explains the complex relationship between bees and flowers and explores ways to build better native bee habitat. [/column] [column width=”1/3″]

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson. 2014. Some books I don’t want to end, and this was one. It reads like a cross between a novel and an adventure story as it follows the author’s fascination with bumble bees from childhood to the founding of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Along the way you will learn more about bumbles than you ever thought possible.[/column][/columns]

*Click on book jackets for more information.


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  • My new favorite bee book is one only recently published: “The Song of Increase: Returning to Our Sacred Partnership with Honey Bees,” by Jacqueline Freeman. Unbelievably good!! It’s on Amazon.

  • Rusty, I’ve been interested in the “California Bees and Blossoms” book since you (I think) mentioned it before. Do you have an idea how many of those ‘Californian’ bees are in the Midwest also? I’ve been looking for a way to identify non-honey bees in the Michigan area, and this book seems fairly promising.


    • Aaron,

      There is some overlap in genera, but I think the main thing is to learn to tell families apart. It gets really difficult down at the genus and species level, and a positive i.d. often requires a dichotomous key and a microscope. But families you can learn and this book would be a big help.

  • Thanks Rusty 🙂 I have ordered the Mark Winston one. I tried to get the Noah Wilson-Rich one too but it proved difficult to get hold of, at least in the UK.

  • Thanks Rusty.

    I love reading bee books. I was given Dave Goulson’s book for Christmas, along with his other one “A Buzz in the Meadow”. I agree, its a fascinating read for a bee lover.

    • Meriel,

      I didn’t know about “A Buzz in the Meadow” until I read your comment, but now it’s on order! Can’t wait.

  • Just bought Sting In The Tale by Dave Goulson, partly as I like bees but also we are buying a barn and land in France to enable us to gather honey from local sources and further afield. Its a very entertaining read, full of detail, and funny observations.