Book review – From A to Bee: My First Year as a Beginner Beekeeper, by James Dearsley

James Dearsley began beekeeping in 2009. Since then he has started the world’s most popular Facebook page for beekeeping (the Beginner Beekeepers page), released a ‘Beekeeping for Beginners’ video with Charlie Dimmock (famous here for her presenting slot on the TV gardening show Ground Force, making her beloved amongst British men for her striking strawberry blonde curls and habit of going braless) and now has published his first book, From A to Bee. Could you let the rest of us know your secret please James?!

James offers us an entertainingly jolly, extremely readable account of all the trials and tribulations of becoming an English beekeeper. Not only is he combining this with a hefty workload as an international travel agent and being dad to a young toddler, he has to face the worried looks of his wife and friends as he turns into a complete bee geek. The book is written in diary format and follows his challenging journey during 2009 from complete bee novicery to getting his first pot of honey.

My favourite aspect of the book is that James is fearless in poking fun at himself. At a gangly 6″5, he creates a picture of himself as a clumsy Mr Bean style character, at one point falling down a flight of steps as he leaves his beekeeping classes. On another occasion he attempts to communicate with Polish beekeepers that he is a fellow beekeeper too by running around making buzzing noises and pointing at their honey – “As I walked away, I did turn back for one last look at these moustached Polish beekeepers and they were just looking at each other with a rather strange expression; one then shrugged whilst the other started laughing.”

It is quite touching how completely absorbed he becomes in the bees, obsessively reading the nights away (a glass of red wine or whiskey at his side) and driving around trying to find out the local forage in his area. He also develops from being most interested in getting his first pot of honey to being deeply concerned with all the threats his bees and those across the world face. I think all of us beekeepers understand that feeling of wonderment at how much there is to learn, and how amazing these fascinating little creatures are.

I especially liked how he included my blog in his list of recommended beekeeping blogs at the back. The first time my name has appeared in a book – thank you so much James! He also lists bee-themed twitterers. Keeping the bee blogging community happy is a shrewd move.

By the way, if you choose to buy this book or indeed any other items from Amazon, please consider going through the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Fundraising page. Each time you access Amazon.co.uk via their link and make a purchase this brilliant charity receives a donation worth 8% of your total purchase, at no extra cost to you.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper living in Ealing, west London. I have been keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary since 2008 and created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully - future successes. Busy taking the British Beekeeping Association module exams too!
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21 Responses to Book review – From A to Bee: My First Year as a Beginner Beekeeper, by James Dearsley

  1. milapostol says:

    I am hoping James’ book will make it across the Atlantic. I love beekeeping books that AREN’T manuals. Thanks for the review.

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  2. I think James’s secret is very hard work! An amazing achievement for a young beekeeper, I’m reading his book this week. Thanks for the link to my book review above, Em! 🙂

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  3. willowbatel says:

    Fantastic! I’m so thankful you blog. Every time you post I learn something new! I think its time to expand my bee-book collection, because the two books I have now are simply not enough.

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    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks 🙂 I started off with just a couple of books and now have more like twenty!

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      • willowbatel says:

        I really need to expand my book collection.

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      • willowbatel says:

        Sorry to be a bother, but would you mind listing 4 or 5 of your favorite beekeeping books for me? I really need to properly expand my book collection, and you know what you’re talking about, so I’d love your advice on what to buy!

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        • Emily Heath says:

          My favourite at the moment is Jürgen Tautz, The Buzz about Bees. It’s not really about beekeeping but about honey bee behaviour, though I think understanding bee behaviour really helps you know what you’re doing when beekeeping.

          Most of my bee books are UK based, so might not be so appropriate for you, but will have a look. We seem to suffer similar climates at the moment!

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          • willowbatel says:

            Bee behavior is as important as anything in beekeeping I think. I’ll look around dat my local bookstore and see if they haven’t got it.
            I think our longitudes are basically the same, and its only the difference in oceanic… flows (? [that’s not the name, but I can’t think of what it is. Its a huge underwater current]) that make our climates so different. If I remember correctly, you have a flow/current that comes up from the south, while we have one that comes down from the north. That’s why you have have palm trees in your general area, right? Or is that on Ireland…?

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  4. I have just made my first purchase on Amazon via the Bumblebee Conservation Trust Fundraising Page. I started to hunt through the Amazon site for a start, then it took me ages to find the link on the Fundraising page as I had read it in their booklet. It is not such an obvious link and I do not think it is even well marked on Trust site. Now I have done it, I know but I have never done it this way before, maybe I am just a bit slow.

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    • Emily Heath says:

      That is so great that you did that, even though you had to hunt for a while! You’re right, the link could be more obvious. I have it bookmarked on my browser so that I can just click on it when I need to. And it makes me really happy that you enjoy my blog, I really like reading yours too.

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  5. Yes, I am a bit slow I meant to congratulate you on getting your name into print. I really enjoy your blog so it is certainly a good one to recommend for someone who would enjoy learning about bee keeping in a fun and informal way.

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  6. Thanks for the prompt Emily. I think you have to see something mentioned at least 5 times before you buy something … and I think this was the final nudge I needed. Plus your endorsement is of course worth at least 100 mentions elsewhere! I have just ordered a copy. I also bought The Barefoot Beekeeper whilst I was at it. I will review them both on my beekeeping books page when I have read them.

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  7. Hi Emily,
    I have now reviewd The Barefoot Beekeeper! What do you think?
    It’s made me consider not using smoke when inspecting the hive. Any experience of this anyone?
    Roger

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    • Emily Heath says:

      Great review!

      Emma and I have stopped smoking the front of our entrances before inspecting as our bees are so gentle it’s unnecessary. We keep the smoker next to us mainly as a precautionary measure, and then just use it at the end of the inspection to get the bees to go down when we’re replacing crownboards etc, so they don’t get squashed. However not all bees are as good natured as ours and some bees I would want to smoke.

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