Beekeeping for Dummies is a readable, easy text and is a useful book for beginning beekeepers. However, the following corrections to the book should be noted, especially if this will be your primary guidebook to beekeeping.
The following paragraphs are my thoughts as a 15-year beekeeper in the Pacific Northwest, in an area primarily noted for long, cool springtime weather—even until early July in some years—and mild rainy winters.
Comments are listed to correspond to the chapters and page numbers in the paperback 4th Edition (2016) of Beekeeping for Dummies.
Chapter 2: Getting to Know your Honey Bees
Page 37. “The Woeful Drone” – This is an unfortunate section title. In a technical, scientific, or any nonfiction work, it is not appropriate to project anthropomorphic terminology and human emotion onto nonhuman creatures, and to pass one’s own ideological judgment upon them.
The drone is the male of the honey bee species, with particular physical and behavioral characteristics, and with a vital role to play in the colony—it is not “woeful,” and not “merely” a drone (p. 38).
The author claims (p. 38) that drones are sometimes described as being “glutinous” (which means sticky and glue-like), but perhaps Mr. Blackiston meant “gluttonous” (given to excessive eating)–which again is a value judgment and irrelevant to a drone’s actual role.
Drones have high energetic needs, because they must perform long, high mating flights, then hover in the gathering-place for at least an hour at a time at each flight, and compete with other drones to mate with a virgin queen and pass on the genes of their colony.
The pheromones of drones play an important part in stimulating brood production in the hive. We know that drone brood pheromone is present and influential in a hive, because not only the worker bees react behaviorally to it, but also Varroa mites, which are blind, detect and locate drone brood to attack by following this chemical signal alone.
Hives deprived of drones are lethargic.
Chapter 6. Obtaining and Installing Your Bees
Page 124. Russian bees are described as “gentle” on the same scale with Italian bees. No beekeeper alive would describe Russian bees as gentle. Do not start with Russian bees. Any other bee race is fine.
Page 133. Syrup recipe. This is very confusing. It is better to just think of a simple visual measurement. Fill a vessel halfway with white, granulated cane sugar, then add warm water to fill the vessel to the top.
Page 134. With reference to “Hiving . . . Step 1”: Please Do Not spray your bees with sugar syrup! If there are other bees or wasps around, this will cause a feeding frenzy, or as I call it, a “bee riot.” If the bees need water, you can spray a small amount of water, or LIGHTLY brush the package cage with water.
Do not under any circumstances rub your finger against the containment screen. You risk damaging the queen’s feet if she happens to be clinging to the screen.
Chapter 8: What to Expect When You’re Inspecting
Page 161. Never remove the #1 or #10 outer frames first, if you can help it. Get in the habit of removing either #2 or #9 first, because the bees build burr comb between the hive wall and the frame, so in removing the outermost frame, you will tear the comb and might kill some bees.
There is also a small chance that the queen is on the outside of the #1 or #10 frame. Removing #2 first is the best compromise for not damaging the queen and not tearing up your frames and angering the bees at the beginning of an inspection.
Page 176. There is no hard-and-6 fast rule that supersedure cells are found on the face of the frame. They can be tucked in anywhere, including the very top and bottom of the frame.
Page 178. There is no hard-and-fast rule that you must add a second deep hive body to a Langstroth hive. You might want to add a western (medium) hive body for your second brood chamber. That way you almost never have to lift a heavy, full deep hive body (90 lb).
It is also possible to have a single deep brood chamber, but in that case, you must be constantly vigilant for swarming.
Chapter 9: Different Seasons, Different Activities
Page 184. You can see from the photograph, Figure 9-1, that the author is using only western hive bodies, both as brood chambers and as honey supers.
Page 185. “Your summer to-do list”: you must inspect your hives every 7 days, not every 2 weeks. Queen cells are capped on the 8th day, and the colony can swarm any time after one queen cell is capped. If you are finding charged queen cells, inspect every 5 days.
Page 186. The easy way to make simple syrup (saturated sugar syrup solution) to feed to the bees in preparation for winter is to fill a vessel to the top with sugar, then pour in the hottest water from the tap and stir vigorously. You might need to add some boiling water. No sugar crystals should remain.
Page 199. Our region (Zone C on the map) is described as having a “long and hot summer,” which is not correct.
Chapter 10: Anticipating and Preventing Potential Problems
Page 208. The statement “don’t expect your bees to swarm the first year” is wrong, as many beekeepers find out. Even with ample space in the hive, bees can swarm at any time – including 5 weeks after being originally hived from a package, or in late August, both of which I have personally experienced in my apiary.
Chapter 11: Colony Collapse Disorder
Page 210. The statement, “inspect your hive during swarm season every week or 10 days,” is ambiguous and misleading. It should read “inspect your hive during swarm season AT LEAST every 7 days”— but better every 5 days, if you are finding charged queen cells.
Page 212. The method described in the gray box “Using an Artificial Swarm to Prevent a Natural Swarm,” is actually a “Taranov split,” which requires a lot of space, and has risk of crushing a number of bees in the process. If it is performed in an apiary with more than one hive, it has the potential to cause a robbing riot.
The author is mistakenly referring to this method as a “shook swarm.” The actual “shook swarm,” which is also called “Padgens artificial swarm,” is a better method to apply for preventing natural swarms from your hives.
You can find several videos online that demonstrate the Taranov split, and others that show how to conduct a Padgens artificial swarm.