Beowulf Cooper’s pivotal book on the native bee is available in print once again

Beowulf Cooper was one of the founding members of what is now the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association (BIBBA). The fundamental drive behind this organisation is that the best honeybee for the British Isles is the native dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) and that contrary to popular belief the native bee had not been wiped out by the so called “Isle of Wight disease” in the early twentieth century.

The Honeybees of the British Isles by Beowulf Cooper

This is one of my favourite beekeeping books, that I probably refer to more than any other. Beowulf Cooper was a Government entomologist who travelled widely in his work. In doing so, he visited many beekeepers, which still provides stories from older beekeepers about his unexpected visits, often rather late at night. Beowulf was very knowledgeable about many things other than beekeeping. If he found you had an interest he shared, he would talk for hours. In talking to beekeepers and from his own experiments and observations, he made many notes for over 40 years.

“The Honeybees of the British Isles” is credited to Beowulf Cooper, but was collated and edited after his death by Philip Denwood from some of the many notes made by Beo. The result is a book that is still relevant to modern beekeepers and is still eagerly sought 35 years after it was first published.

The book concentrates on native bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) and covers their characteristics, supersedure, management, breeding, selection and mating behaviour, including an explanation of apiary vicinity mating and the formation of drone assemblies. There is a list of a few known drone assemblies and it would be interesting to know if they still exist. It is often thought that Beo was only interested in native bees, but he was shrewd enough to realise that in the areas where pure native bees don’t exist, that the local population will revert to “near native” if they weren’t subjected to continued importations.   
This book is a welcome change from the usual beekeeping book and can easily be understood by a beginner. Even as an experienced beekeeper, every time I read it I am inspired.

Roger Patterson


Beekeeping: Challenge what you are told!

“Have you ever met a beekeeper with fixed opinions about a beekeeping topic? Have you questioned that experience and knowledge they are based on? The craft used to be local, traditionally learnt by observing bees, whereas today, we are bombarded with international communications, promotions, soundbites, sensationalism and the like, with the same information, whether reliable or not, appearing in many places. Taking inappropriate advice can mean a dead colony, so we need to occasionally check and challenge what we are told.”


Colony Increase: The Roger Patterson Method

This book describes a little known but simple way of quickly increasing honey bee colonies. Rather than just being one method, there are several techniques that can be used on their own if needed. The author has used the whole method or parts successfully for over 40 years. Although it has been used in the UK, there is no reason why it can’t be successful implemented throughout the world. It is suitable for all beekeepers, whether small scale where selective parts of this book can be used, or by larger sale where the full method is more appropriate.


The Teaching Apiary: A brilliant resource

For many years Teaching Apiaries have been used by Bee Keeping Associations (BKAs) to teach the practical side of beekeeping. Alas, not all BKA’s yet have these valuable facilities, though this book should encourage them to consider the value of having one. Roger Patterson has been involved with his local BKA teaching apiary since 1967 and managed it for around 15 years to show practical beekeeping, provide bees to local beekeepers and to reproduce colony scenarios for training new and experienced beekeepers alike. This book brings together a range of challenges and opportunities that almost all apiaries will encounter and the contents suggest some approaches for setting up the apiary, holding apiary meetings and how the apiary support network is established and maintained. It should appeal to Apiary Managers, Committee members and beekeepers. In today’s world, PowerPoint presentations (and more recently, webinars) are often used as a way to educate others. This book reflects a need for a physical teaching and resources apiary to spread and nurture the craft of beekeeping.

Queen Rearing Made Easy: The Punched Cell Method

Raising queens using the Punched Cell method has been in use for over a century. Richard Smailes published “Raise Your Own Queens by the Punched Cell Method” about half a century ago. Little has been published since. Few have continued to practice the method. It’s time to learn something old to help keep the craft of beekeeping alive. Small-scale queen rearing is needed more than ever to overcome the increasing number of queen imports into the UK and their genetic impact on the locally adapted and native bees. For many, weak eyes and trembling hands make the idea of larval transfer via grafting a worrying challenge, especially when the larva is separated from its royal jelly and the potential princess bee is often bumped unceremoniously into a plastic cup of some kind. The Punched Cell method does not separate the larva from its food, it is not moved from its original wax cell and it is not touched in any way during the whole process. Good light is not even needed; indeed, the whole process can be easily performed on the hive roof in the apiary. This practical book covers the history, methods and examples of how every beekeeper can have their own sustainable supply of quality queens for many years to come.

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