First Lessons in Beekeeping – C.P. Dadant, Published 1917

“Camille Pierre Dadant (1851–1938) was the son of Charles Dadant, one of the fathers of modern beekeeping techniques, inventor of the Dadant beehive, and founder of one of the first beekeeping equipment manufacturers. The business is still extant and run by the family, as is their publication, American Bee Journal” – publisher review.

I’ve chosen this classical work of American beekeeping as a required text for the Sawgrass Marriott Honey Bee and Garden Program for two reasons. The first reason is accessibility. This book is still reprinted in paperback and can be found for less than $10.00. The second reason is relevance. There are amazing modern works detailing the biology, behavior and husbandry of honey bees. However, most of them do not read in a way that is succinct for the beginner. This book was written in a direct manner and as a bonus, it was written by a legendary beekeeper. I find it interesting that C.P. Dadant casually talks about other beekeepers of the time, all of which either invented the techniques or equipment that we still use in the year, 2018. That said, there still is a lot that has changed since 1917 – in terms of what we humans have done with the environment, our advances in technology and how globally accessible the world has become (for better and worse, i.e. non-native species that have become pests due to importing plants etc). However, one thing that hasn’t changed much is the fundamentals of beekeeping and bee biology. In that regard, this work has stood the test of time. It is a great jumping off point for new beekeepers and a great “return to center” for those advance beekeepers among us.

I’ve gone through this book – page by page and have identified how the information will apply to you directly, in the current environment that you keep bees. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s most beekeeping was done in northern states. Florida was still largely undeveloped and wild. That said, there are chapters that deal with snow / long winters. These chapters will still be covered; however, in a way that will contrast with the local weather that we experience. Remember, the entire population of honey bees currently in the United States is here and no new bees are allowed to be imported under the “Honey Bee Act” of 1921 (federally enacted legislation by congress that explicitly forbids the importing of honey bees and honey bee germ plasm to the United States). This law was enacted to help prevent massive outbreaks of disease. So, in many ways, our sisters to the north are closer to us than we realize. We hope that it never happens, however, there could be a huge die off in the south.. or north over winter. It is important to have an idea of what is going on with our neighbor’s bees. One day, we might be knocking on their door for help to replace colony losses.

* Note: Our northern neighbors typically come knocking on our doors every year for package bees and queens since commercial apiary bee production / overwintering is typically done in the south.
* Note: Surveys are sent out each season by the BIP (Bee Informed Partnership) to beekeepers. BIP scientists analyze the data and chart the information to show colony loss and hive health spanning the entire United States. This helps to ensure best practices and identify any possible cause of illness.
* Note: The Honey Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, accepts samples by mail. They test for American Foul Brood, etc. It is a free testing program for all beekeepers. It was created to help track and mitigate any possible issues with disease outbreaks affecting honey bees.

Beekeeping is “Hyper” local. Your bees will fly a maximum of 3 miles out to forage and come back to their colony. For all intents and purposes, this 6 mile circle (or 3 mile radius) is the environment that directly pertains to your bees. If you travel 10 miles up the road, a person keeping bees there will deal with a completely different forage map and some days, a completely different weather pattern. This is what it means to be “Hyper Local”. When I talk about hyper local, this is what I mean – within, a 3 mile radius.

* Note: Our USDA Agricultural Growing Zone is Zone 8b & Zone 9a.

In this section, I will take excerpts of “First Lessons in Beekeeping” with notes. This information is kept here for your convenience to reference things that I’ve explained in class lectures or in the field. You are still responsible for keeping you own notes and a copy of this book.

– Matt

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