Finding That “First Read” Alternative Beekeeping Book

There are excellent books for Alternative bee keepers. The selection of Alternative books is smaller then the selection of mainstream bee keeping books. Even then it is difficult to pick a best one. Finding the perfect "first" how to keep bees book is somewhat like trying to find the perfect hive. Beekeeping is so complex and diverse that there just doesn’t seem to be one that can be considered the single perfect book. Even books narrowed down to a specific hive and management style differ in quality of helpful information for a first read. I have an extensive personal beekeeping library containing over 70 books and 12 videos. In the Alternative keeping category I have several books and videos that stand out as what I would consider-"first reads". I think most of these books can be found on Amazon, but I have included a website associated with the author and book. I am not attempting to do a "sales pitch" for any of the books or videos only to help anyone interested in them to local sources for them.

Top Bar Hive

"The Thinking Beekeeper" by Christy Hemenway.
I consider this book, not only the first read, but as the owner’s manual for Top Bar keepers. Ms Hemenway owns the Goldstar Honey Bee Company . She has written this excellent book for bee keepers starting out with a Top Bar hive. The book is invaluable in that it covers situations and solutions directly affecting Top Bar keepers in our kind of temperate climate zone.
"Back Yard Hive, Alternative Beekeeping Using the Top Bar Hive and The Bee Guardian Methods" a video produced by Corwin Bell. I mention a video in a book review because of the level of information in this excellent video. This hour and half video stands alone- I have not found a Top Bar beekeeping video even close to the quality and professionalism of this one. The graphics showing and explaining the life cycle of a colony in a Top Bar hive is incredible.

Warre Hive

"Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual", by Dr. David Heaf
Dr. Heaf is the man that started the modern Warre hive revolution. He translated Abbe’ Emile Warre’s book about the Warre hive-"Beekeeping for All" from French to English. After years of experience keeping Warre hives, Dr. Heaf wrote"Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual" A modern how to book that stands alone as the state of the art in Warre Beekeeping.

Langstroth Hive

"Natural Beekeeping", by Ross Conrad.
For those of you that are considering Alternative keeping in a Langstroth or keeping a Langstroth along with your Alternative hive, this is the book to have in your personal library. In his book, Mr. Conrad has approached keeping bees in a Langstroth "naturally" as an alternative method of keeping bees. Mr. Conrad also has a video associated with this book which I have not reviewed- yet. Both book and video are available on Amazon.
"It’s all about the bees"

The Warre Hive

The Warre hive, (pronounced war-ray) was really named The People’s Hive. It was developed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s by an Abbe in Northern France named Emile Warre. Emile wrote a book about this method of beekeeping called "Beekeeping for All". The hive has experienced a resurgence in popularity recently because it’s design and management style promotes natural principles, ease of construction and relatively simple management. Emile had a simple focus for developing this hive, he wanted Happy Bees and Happy Beekeepers. After experimenting with over 350 different hive designs and methods he produced the Warre, blending the best of both worlds for the bees and the beekeepers.

The Happy Beekeeper is the easy part, Emile's hive is easy and inexpensive to build, easy to maintain, and easy to harvest. He wanted a hive and system that appealed to the family farms and homesteaders, because farming and homesteading can be time and labor intense, Emile wanted the Warre to require a minimal level of management to be successfully maintained. It is designed for the bees to behave as they would in the wild. Building their own combs and moving down in the hive on their own as they need more room.

It has a similar method as the Top Bar hive in that the Warre has bars also and not frames. It has been referred to as the Vertical Top Bar hive, but that is where the similarities end. The Warre has a unique management style of stacking the boxes from the bottom. As the bees fill a stack of boxes, from the top down, the stack is lifted and an empty box placed on the floor then the stack set down on it. The bees then move down into the next empty box building comb. Again this is very similar to the behavior of wild bees in tree hollows.

The happy bees part of the hive is relatively simple also. The hive lets bees be bees, it's design and management emulates the life style and behavior of wild bees in a hollow tree cavity. The bees in a Warre do what bees have done for millions of years in the wild. Emile developed a bit of a hands off management style, feeling the less intrusion into the hive the better. However, modern day beekeeping has some problems that Emile Warre do not have to face. Now we should enter the hive periodically to inspect for the problems facing today's bee colonies. To monitor hive health removing a bar with comb can be done the same as one would with a Top Bar hive. Emile also designed frames for his hive. Any keeper wishing to use their Warre hive with frames can find out how in Emile's book. The framed method does increase the investment, time and labor involved in keeping the bees. The Warre hives tend to have smaller colonies and produce less honey then commercial hives. However since the Warre is normally about 1/3 the size of commercial hives with 1/3 the amount of bees, it is attractive and practical for backyard beekeepers and hobbyists. The Warre isn't as intimidating as a large commercial hive. It also usually produces proportionally less honey then larger Langstroth hives. The honey is ready to harvest in the Fall after the bees have filled 3 boxes or more with comb. It is harvested by removing the top box, reducing the hive down to 2 boxes. Many keepers, such as pollinators, hobbyist and backyard keepers, are willing to except the difference in honey production in exchange for the lower costs and less time spent managing the hive.

The best book on the market for keeping Warre hives is "Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual" by David Heaf.

Emile Warre's original book "Beekeeping for All" can also be found on Amazon.