I picked up the kindle edition of The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives by Christy Hemenway last week and read it. I was able to get it for 9.99 and I needed something to read on a trip out of town so I figured it would be a good choice. This is the third Top Bar Hive book that has come out since late summer. The other two, Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell, and Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping Wisdom & Pleasure Combined by Wyatt Mangum have been out for a while now. This is a short comparison of the three books.

First, Top-Bar Hive Beekeeping Wisdom & Pleasure Combined by Wyatt Mangum is a full size book with a ton of pictures. It cost more than the other two combined (I think it was $50). I'm sure this is partly due to the number of photos and the size and binding of the book. And the font size is not too small, which seems to be a problem for me on some of the newer books I've looked at. For me this is a good book since Dr. Mangum keeps his bees in Virginia and I also live in Virginia. This book is partially a biography of Dr. Mangum, so there is a lot background on his experience. Rarely will he mention something in the book were he doesn't go in to detail of how he learned of something. I would have preferred if the book would have been edited to include only information on Top Bar hives, but it is his book and that was his decision. I'm married to an editor, and I'm used to seeing great volumes of words being chucked out the window on a daily basis. I think this book could be edited down in a second edition and make it much more readable (the same could be said of this mini-review!) On the other hand this book goes into more detail of building a hive, and has great photos throughout. Dr. Mangum keeps around 200 Top Bar hives for regional migratory pollination, which is a bit unusual, and he has been doing it for over 25 years. He does treat his bees, so if you are purely treatment free you may want to know ahead of time. If you can afford it, pick up this book, if for nothing but the photos. There are a lot of practical lessons from someone who has kept a lot of Top Bar hives for a long time. I don’t want to compare Wyatt’s book to the other books as it is much larger and has a lot of photos. On the other hand his book costs a lot more.

The second book I picked up was Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Les Crowder and Heather Harrell ($16.47). Les is located in New Mexico, so his climate is a bit different than mine. He is also a long time Top Bar Hive beek and bee inspector. This is more of the no non-sense book. I really like this book. I think I may be a bit biased on my liking as I've made my hive bodies almost the same as Les does, but this was more by accident than plan though. He doesn't spend a lot of time on hive construction, but it is probably enough. I do think that for a first time top bar hive beek it never hurts to have more detail on construction, as I imagine a lot of first time Top Bar hive beeks haven't built anything since 7th grade shop class. There are a bunch of pages with diagrams on comb management that I find particularly helpful. And he also talks about queen rearing, which I may look into next year (same goes for Wyatt's book). The one thing I don't like about this book is the small type face. Les is a treatment free beekeeper, so keep that in mind when considering this book. I did look at the reviews on Amazon to see what other folks were saying about it. I did think that it was funny that that last review (from "A Reader", with no other books reviewed) gave it five stars but had a link to "The Thinking Beekeeper" book. It does cover all the normal pests and diseases that every other bee book talks about.

The final book, Top-Bar Beekeeping: Organic Practices for Honeybee Health by Christy Hemenway was purchased as an e-book, so font size isn't an issue for me. Christy is in Maine, so she has tough winters to contend with. She is also the owner of Gold Star Honeybees. She is also treatment free and she lists Phil Chandler as her mentor (The Barefoot Beekeeper). She didn't have much information on hive construction, but she did provide a drawing with dimensions of a hive and also recommended that you could purchase a hive from Gold Star or other commercial hive builders. I hate to compare an e-book with a real book as some of the art in making a book is the layout. The photos are all black and white in my Kindle app, I assume they are in color in the book. Over 25 percent of the book is end-notes, glossary, appendices, and the index. I read this book in no time flat, it seems pretty light. After reading these books as well as the other "regular" bee books it gets pretty repetitive. Mites, beetles, foul brood, bears, etc. To me I didn't get anything out of this book that I didn't get already from Les Crowder's book. I may have said the same thing about Les's book if I had read his second. Part of this may be my bias on end entrances versus middle entrances though. Not a bad book, but between Christy's and Les's book I prefer Les's.