A precise synthesis of the scientific evidence, an edifying gathering of real-world experience and practical wisdom, and a humbling lesson on how to communicate about a heated and at times divisive topic – David Heaf has achieved all this and more in just over a 100 exceptionally engaging pages that manage to be personal, authoritative, snappy and dry all at once. This slim book is overflowing with sound information, neatly organised and interspersed with just the right photos. The first three chapters outline the reasons for keeping bees without the use of chemicals and for working with rather than against natural selection. Chapter 4 lays out the ethical dilemmas and what beekeepers need to consider deciding where they stand in relation to them. The fifth chapter summarises the Gwynedd experience, the Welsh county home to the author in the UK, where about two-thirds of the colonies went untreated for several years and had a higher survival rate over winter than treated colonies. Chapter 6 reports on a wide range of experiences from 30 treatment-free beekeeping projects across Europe and North America. Chapter 7 discusses various bio-technical treatments against Varroa, none of which emerge as a viable alternative to letting the bees develop resistance to the mite and the viruses it carries through processes of natural selection. Yet of course beekeepers want to minimise their losses and do what is in their power to give their bees a fighting chance, so the book concludes with practical advice to that effect. No hesitation in calling this a seminal work and essential reading for both beekeepers and researchers.
David Heaf 2021, 120 pages