Overview of “The Backyard Beekeeper”
The Quarto Publishing Group released the 4th edition of Kim Flottum’s book, “The Backyard Beekeeper”, in 2018 and it is one of the recent books on the subject I have read. Back in my earliest years of backyard beekeeping, I was fortunate to hear Kim Flottum speak at a GCBA membership meeting, sometime in 2010, I believe. Mr. Flottum is a local beekeeping legend as he lives in the Medina area and has been the editor for Bee Culture magazine for decades. He is considered one of North America’s experts on beekeeping. This book was one of three I had purchased to read over the winter and its front cover attracted me to pick it up and give it a go first.
I enjoyed this book and found it full of updated and useful information. As I fan through the pages now, I can see I used a highlighter on just about every page. I know I will be returning to it as a reference resource this upcoming beekeeping season. Mr. Flottum wrote in clear, straight-forward language, only getting scientific and technical when needed. Although it is packed full of information, the book is an easy read that even a beginning beekeeper would agree. The book is 238 pages long, including the index, and contains hundreds of relevant, clear, colorful photos.
Flow (no, not the flo hive)
The layout of the information contained within “The Backyard Beekeeper” is a beginning to end format, pretty much following the beekeeping season. Right at the start, Mr. Flottum discusses the basics of backyard beekeeping, including building DIY hive boxes, site selection, equipment, and installation. He then gets into bee races, temperament, behavior and biology. Next up, Mr. Flottum explains hive inspections, smokers, management of hives, requeening, and overall beekeeper responsibilities. He writes in-depth about pests and diseases and all the available mitigation techniques and treatments. Lastly, he covers honey and beeswax extraction and products.
What I really like about this book is how relevant I found the updated material to be, mainly the information about Varroa Mites. Nowadays, a beekeeper can pretty much assume their hive has Varroa Mites. They are a relentless pest that causes havoc in a hive with the diseases they bring. There is a 13-page section dedicated to all things Varroa. This is a significant chunk of pages dedicated to one subject; it kind of acts as a red siren light going off. If a beekeeper did not think they had to be mindful of Varroa all season long, they would after reading this section.
A Beekeeping Picture is worth . . .
As mentioned, the book contains hundreds of photos. Just about every page has one if not several. Captions accompany each photo, making them useful and supportive to the narrative. Another feature I like about the book is the “Beekeeping Tips” sprinkled throughout. Contained in contrasting yellow hexagons, these tips are quippy and light-hearted and give helpful tricks of the trade, like always clean your tools after inspections or else you’ll have “a hive tool so sticky from honey and propolis that you can’t let go of it.”
In summary . . .
Overall, this edition is one of my favorite books on backyard beekeeping. Some books I find are fine narratives and enjoyable. But typically, I am not looking for a good story when reading books on beekeeping. Rather, I am looking for straight forward, updated information to add to my library of resources. If you aspire to be a backyard beekeeper this book is good. It reinforces it is a dynamic hobby, some aspects of it seemingly doing a 180 degree turn from year to year. As a beekeeper it is hard to keep up, but Mr. Flottum’s 4th edition will help. I look forward to using it this season.