Beekeepers’ Problems Solved

Tew’s Problem Solver

A publisher sent a new beekeeping book to me. As usual, I promised to read and review it – but warned the publisher that I am an awfully slow reader, and even worse – I can be awkwardly honest. (As you may have noticed in my reviews of the movie Bee People and the “Honey Tap Hive” – both of which I’d avoid like mites and measles.) I am never paid for spewing my inner beekeeper on these pages – but if I am going to review your book or movie, you should send me a free copy, else my basal ganglia’s inertia may prevent me from ever buying your Tolstoyesque tome. If you do send me a review copy, I’ll remind you that I am a slow reader and an honest critic. But if I like the work, I’ll gush the truth, as I will do here with James Tew’s new book.

The Beekeeper’s Problem Solver, was sent to me by Quarto Publishing of Minneapolis (USA). It was written by James Tew, a veteran beekeeper (over 40 years behind the veil). Tew sports an entomology PhD and a way with words (see his semi-eponymous blog, His new book is very nicely arranged. Each left-hand page lists a Problem, followed immediately by the Cause (as Tew perceives it), and then a lengthy Solution. These are supported by colour photographs, inset boxes with side-issues, and enough detail in the text to resolve the problem. It’s a friendly format.

I could try to convince you to buy a copy for every beekeeper you know (especially a NewBie). I could easily persuade you, simply by referring to Dr Tew’s willingly dispersed largesse of experience and his commitment to bees and beekeepers. Instead, I will show you what his book offers. Tew tackles issues as diverse as the serious (My apiary has flooded), the practical (My hive equipment doesn’t match), and the unusual (My neighbour has found bee droppings on their car). You will have to buy Professor Tew’s book to get his answers to these.

I will, however, give one example from among his hundred problems:

The Problem: “I’m unsure how to guarantee varietal sources”

The Cause: “Honey is frequently promoted by varietal source, such as orange blossom, blueberry, or basswood. In reality, it is difficult to guarantee what percent of the extracted crop is specifically from the source listed in the name. Normally it is not an issue, so long as the source is not a popular type of honey such as Melaleuca or Sourwood.”

The Solution: I’ll paraphrase part of Dr Tew’s answer. He points out that a conclusive guarantee is usually not possible. Large packers may send samples off for pollen and ‘DNA profiling’. For average beekeepers’ needs, Tew gives advice on timing of supering and harvesting. He points out that not all honey can perfectly match the label, just as “from similar areas there are good and not-so-good varieties of wine, yet they are all from the same area. The consumer is the final judge.”

As James Tew says about honey varieties, I will likewise say about bee books. “The consumer is the final judge.” You will have to decide if this book is worthwhile. I think it is. The book is very good and quite attractive, but not perfect. For example, in the example just given, Dr Tew refers to Melaleuca honey as ‘popular’ – it is if you like vile honey that looks, smells, and tastes like motor oil. I suspect that Tew intended to write Manuka, not Melaleuca. Manuka is touted as an antioxidant honey from New Zealand and its pedigree is important to justify its high price. However, such slips are rare in this book. If you’d like a copy, you’ll find a place to order it at the end of this sentence.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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