A Beekeeper’s Diary: Self Guide to Keeping Bees by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins. Published by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, LLC. Rolla, MO. Copyright © 2021. This review refers to the softcover edition.
For those of you just starting out with honey bees, the process may seem daunting. Everything that looked simple on a video becomes immensely complicated when you try it alone. And scary, too.
Now, help is available. Missouri beekeeper Charlotte Ekker Wiggins has published a new book titled A Beekeeper’s Diary: Self Guide to Keeping Bees. Part instruction manual, part workbook, and part diary, the book is filled with useful tidbits to get you started.
Charlotte starts by asking you to think about why you want to keep bees in the first place and providing a gentle reminder that honey bees are not endangered but facing unprecedented challenges. She then goes on to explain how honey bees mesh with the other 20,000 species of bees, which I think is an excellent place for an ethical beekeeper to start.
A list for everything
The book contains the necessary sections on feeding, hive choice, equipment selection, bee acquisition, diseases, and inspections. But what makes the book unique are the checklists she provides to help you remember the odds and ends many of us overlook. For example, the apiary location section asks you how much land is available at your location and what the ground beneath the hive is made of. In addition, it asks you to evaluate the proximity of neighbors and farm animals, and reminds you to research local laws and ordinances.
Charlotte provides plenty of options. Instead of merely saying you need a bottom board, she lists the various choices. You may want a solid bottom board, a screened one, or a combination of the two. In addition to the checklists, she provides plenty of space for notes and observations.
Whereas many beginner books simply tell you what to buy, this book is filled with insider tips like how to wash your beesuit, how to light your smoker, and how to cook with honey. It even contains a hive inspection guide and a month-by-month to-do list.
The things bees depend on
Because she is a passionate gardener, Charlotte provides much information on the plants bees love. Too often, beginning beekeepers are overly focused on the bees and don’t pay enough attention to their environment, a place that needs to be filled with the right type of flowers. Included are lists of spring, summer, and fall-blooming plants, many of which can work in most parts of the country. When you become aware of your local flora and when it blooms, beekeeping can be much more fun.
I ran into a few new-to-me things as I read through the book, including how to make a wax moth lure and how to make a bee-watching bench from a shipping pallet. I can’t wait to try both.
By the way, if you would like to see a beautiful shot of Charlotte’s backyard apiary, check out this month’s (April 2021) issue of American Bee Journal. It’s right there on the front cover!
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