I just read that a report to our Parliament set the contribution of bees to the New Zealand economy at $5.1 billion dollars. It is a bit sad that we have to put a dollar value on something to give it gravitas because actually bees are essential to the pollination of a very large number of crops we grow and a vital part of eco-systems but they are struggling in our modern world. Increasing numbers of people are looking to keep a hive or two in their back yard in an attempt both to make a difference and to harvest honey at home.
I have spoken to a professional beekeeper who finds it quite distressing to be called in to help with badly managed home hives. This is not an activity for the well meaning but naive enthusiast who thinks one can do it with little knowledge or support. Much can go wrong, including the death of the bees.
Will this book help? Yes and no. It is an Australian book so conditions are not the same. Indeed on page 12, the author says: “Australians are very lucky. At the time of writing Australia is the only country in the world without varroa mite and colony collapse disorder.” Don’t expect any advice on dealing with these. Varroa mite is a major issue in New Zealand.
This is a book written by a genuine enthusiast with an engaging writing style. Chapters cover hive location, equipment, beekeeping in each season, general management and maintaining bee health so there is some good generic information which is transferable. It is just not a complete reference of all you need to know and should not be treated as such. Just to back up the lifestyle genre, the final chapter has recipes using honey and beeswax.
If you are serious about keeping beehives, you will need more local information and additional resources. If you are more of a dilettante, you may enjoy reading this book while deciding that you will delay any commitment to getting your own hive and plant flowers to feed other people’s foraging bees in the meantime.
Backyard Bees, A guide for the beginner beekeeper by Doug Purdie. (Murdoch Books; ISBN: 978 1743361719)
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.