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‘The Bad Beekeeper’s Club’ by Bill Turnbull : a review


Photo: The Bad Beekeeper's Club

Photo: The Bad Beekeeper's Club

Bill Turnbull’s interest in honey bees was tweaked when a swarm arrived in his garden and was removed by a local beekeeper. A few years later he took a local beekeeping course and was not daunted by his first painful stings. He had arrived for a practical beekeeping session straight from a TV studio. Unaware that bees have an aversion to hair gel, he was stung twice on the head.

When he finally managed to get into his bee suit he found that a bee was trapped inside the veil. But even this horror didn’t put him off beekeeping. In fact he’s been keeping bees for over ten years.

I was sent this book a few weeks ago. It quickly got to the point when I couldn’t put this book down and I spent many happy hours in the swing seat devouring this book.

I rarely watch TV so I hadn’t heard of Bill Turnbull. His self depreciating charming style of writing is seductive. Reading this book was like spending days catching up with an old friend.

Being a beekeeper myself his antics had me weeping with laughter. This is not just a book for beekeepers – although all the beekeepers that I know would love a copy. He cleverly introduces the world of the hive and the complexities of the bee colony in a witty and informative way. He also traces the history of beekeeping through the ages and underlines the impact and the importance of these creatures in the production of food. Without wind and bees pollination wouldn’t take place and crops would fail.

Bill clearly adores his bees. He is not a bad beekeeper just a beekeeper that has tried some rather edgy shortcuts and has been unlucky. Such as accidentally squashing a queen on a few occasions – as the queen is the heart of the entire colony it’s rather a big a blunder.

His fervour for beekeeping extends to a penchant for collecting equipment too. Bill’s long suffering wife lived with a honey spinner in the dining room for months and has extraordinary patience when the honey is harvested in the kitchen each year. Harvesting honey is a messy sticky business. Honey seems to get everywhere. His dog loves honey – need I say more. 

This book details Bill’s mishaps and triumphs. He accepts that enthusiasm outweighs his abilities. All that set aside I reckon that Bill is in fact a good beekeeper. He loves his bees and relishes time spent with his colonies. Above all he has managed to write an amusing book about beekeeping that has taught me quite a lot more than the rather dry beekeeping tomes on my bookshelves.

The Bad Beekeeper’s Club is both a brilliant introduction to the world of beekeeping and a must read for anyone who enjoys a well written memoir.

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  1. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Thanks for an excellent recommendation! As we embark on our beekeeping venture, it sounds like something we need to read. We’re in the hoping-to-learn-from-other-people’s-mistakes mode.

  2. Toffeeapple

    I forgot to say that I am very allergic to honey bee stings so am unable to even think of keeping them, as much as I would like to.

  3. freerangegirl

    I’m really looking forward to reading this. My Dad keeps bees and I know how messy spinning honey can be – but totally worth it!

  4. Cookie Girl

    That sounds like a great read – I’m going to see if they have it in the library on Saturday.

  5. He has done some excellent short videos on bees too. You can find them on if you are interested.

  6. Toffeeapple

    I’ve never heard of him either, but his book sounds interesting, I shall put it on my Amazon wish list.

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