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Backyard beekeeper kim flottum

Backyard Beekeeper

An Absolute Beginner’s Guide
to Keeping
Bees in Your Yard and
Kim Flottum

This book, the process that brought it to
be, and the evolution of the information
provided here is hereby dedicated to
Professor Chuck Koval, Extension
Entomologist, University of Wisconsin,
Madison—who first let me in and

showed me his way of sharing
information. I miss his good advice and
his humor, but not so much his liver and
To Professor Eric Erickson, USDA
Honey Bee Lab, Madison, Wisconsin
(and Tucson, Arizona)—who made me
learn about bees, and who encouraged
me to learn, and to use what I learned to
help those who could use that

To John Root, President (now retired),
of the A. I. Root Company, Medina,
Ohio—who hired me to shepherd his
magazine, Bee Culture, and who let me
bring together all that I had to take his
magazine to the next generation of


In the Beginning
A New Concept
Chapter 1 Starting Right
First Steps: Where Will You Put
Your Hive?
Bee Yards Other Than Backyards
Extreme Urban Beekeeping
Equipment: Tools of the Trade
Frame Assembly
Box Assembly
The Bees
Chapter 2 About Bees

The Queen
The Workers
Seasonal Changes
Review and Preparation
Chapter 3 About Beekeeping
Lighting Your Smoker
Package Management
Honey Flow Time
Keeping Records
Opening a Colony
Honeycomb and Brood Combs
Integrated Pest Management

Comb Honey and Cut-Comb Honey
Summertime Chores
Late Summer Harvest
Fall and Winter Management
Early Spring Inspections
Chapter 4 About Beeswax
Melting Beeswax
Waxing Plastic Foundation
Dealing with Cappings Wax

Making Candles
Making Cosmetic Creams
Other Beauty Benefits from Your
Hive and Garden
Making Soap
Encaustic Painting
Chapter 5 Cooking with Honey
Using Honey
To Liquefy Granulated Honey
Cooking with Honey
Recipes with Honey and Your
Garden Harvest

Photographer Credits
About the Author

Since the first edition of this book was
published, a tsunami of changes have
crashed over the beekeeping world.
Almost, it seems too many to number,
though I will try because it is important
to delineate why this book has been
updated and revised. Though much has
changed, much has stayed the same. I
have retained the sections and the
information that have not changed, and
that are unlikely to change. But the ideas,
techniques, and principles that are no
longer viable are no longer here.
The memory of Colony Collapse
Disorder is still fresh in the minds of
beekeepers and on the pages of

magazines and newspapers. It began as a
mystery, turned into a disaster, and then
harnessed the power of the government,
the beekeeping industry, the media,
funding agencies supported by fruit and
vegetable growers and other pollination
users, cosmetic companies that use
honey bee products, and certainly the
public. The threat (or supposed threat)
of the world losing this vital pollinator
to an unknown disease was a wake-up
call that nearly everyone heard, and
inspired many into looking at what was
going on.

In spite of all the attention, research,
money, press coverage, and the
discoveries that weren’t the solution to
Colony Collapse Disorder, the final

answer remained elusive. Along the way
many serendipitous discoveries were
made. For instance, honey bees were
increasingly being exposed to a witch’s
brew of sly new crop pesticides that
were, perhaps, poorly tested and poorly
regulated before being released. In
addition, climate aberrations in several
parts of the United States early on led to
several of years of drought and poor
foraging. This coupled with an
increasing diet of monoculture crop
monotony led to additional nutritional
The bane of beekeepers worldwide
was the continued presence of varroa
mites that refused to die. Beekeepers
kept trying to kill them by adding more

and more toxic chemicals to their hives
and not cleaning up the mess left behind.
The stress on some colonies from
moving from place to place was
measured by researchers, while at the
same time a nosema variant that was
new (or newly discovered) rose to
stardom and unleashed its particularly
nasty symptoms on the bee population.
Some thought that maybe it was one
of the viruses common to bee hives
everywhere that took advantage of all of
this. Or did one of those common viruses
suddenly mutate and change the balance?
Or—and I suspect this will be found to
be the answer—could it have been an
opportunistic new virus (or one not seen
before in honey bees) able to capitalize

on the weakness and stresses created by
all the other problems? Maybe the world
knows the answer by the time you are
reading this, rendering all the questions
moot and the solutions already in
motion. Maybe not.
Colony Collapse began mostly
unnoticed, made lots of noise during its
second season, was at its deadliest and
most noticeable the third, but by season
four made barely a whimper. And then,
it was (mostly) gone. Gladly, most
beekeepers weren’t affected by Colony
Collapse Disorder, nor were most bees
in the United States. Now its tune is only
barely heard. At its height, however,
something like 10 percent of all the bees
that died during one long cold winter

were lost to this disease alone. More
were reported in Europe and elsewhere.
What was left in the wake of Colony
Collapse was a much wiser beekeeping
industry. And this is why I have revised
this book. During the four years Colony
Collapse Disorder was running amok I
was fortunate enough to work with and
report on the results of the researchers,
the primary beekeepers, the funding
agencies, the government officials, and
the organizations and businesses that
devoted the time and money to bring to
light the answers we now have.
We learned good lessons: keep our
houses clean; keep our bees from the
harms of an agricultural world; our bees
need to eat well and eat enough; and we

need to be far more diligent in
monitoring the health of our colonies. As
a result, today bees are healthier,
Interestingly, so too are our beekeepers.
Now, this book will fill you in on all
we’ve learned. You will begin your
beekeeping adventure well armed with
all this new information plus the tried
and true ways that remain. Add to this
that urban and rooftop beekeeping has
risen and spread like warm honey on a
hot biscuit. If you are part of this
movement, then what’s inside will be a
welcome addition to your citified
beekeeping endeavors.
You are, right now, light years ahead
of where beekeepers were even five

years ago. With this book, a bit of
outdoor wisdom and a colony or two of
honey bees you will truly enjoy the art,
the science, and the adventure of
beekeeping. You will enjoy the garden
crops you harvest, the honey you and
your bees produce, and the beneficial
products made from the efforts of your
bees and your work.
So again I ask, what could be
sweeter? Enjoy the bees!
Kim Flottum

Backyards are good places to keep
bees because they are close; urban
areas support bees well with

diverse and abundant natural
resources; and bees are the
pollinators of choice for gardens
and landscape plants all over the

There has never been a better time to
have a few honey bee colonies in your
backyard. Honey bees pollinate the fruit
and vegetables in your garden and
increase the production of your orchard
trees. In fact, the crops that are
pollinated in part or in whole by honey
bees supply us with an incredible
amount of our daily sustenance.
Scientists and crop producers tell us that
honey bee pollinated plants may account
for a third or more of our daily diet.
With fewer honey bees what we could
eat is diminished, and the mundane
grasses—wheat, rice, corn, oats, and
barley—would take on an even more

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