WHAT BEES WANT: Beekeeping As Nature Intended

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Susan Knilans & Jacqueline Freeman
“An informative, captivating look at natural beekeeping useful for backyard beekeepers and anyone fascinated by bees...”

Bee populations are struggling. The solution? Give them what they need to live naturally, and they can handle the rest.

What Bees Want: Beekeeping as Nature Intended

Susan Knilans and Jacqueline Freeman show their love of bees and how they learned to understand their work, communication, seasonal activities, and more.

With observation came this realization: when bees are allowed to live as they would in nature (with smaller hives, no chemicals, freedom to swarm, and little-to-no human interference), they thrive. Susan and Jacqueline have spent decades perfecting the revolutionary practice of preservation beekeeping, guided by the simple question, “What do the bees want?”

Honeybees were brought to the Americas by European pioneers and are stunningly effective pollinators. How can we ensure honeybees share the resources with our native bees? What are the dangers and benefits of honeybees in our landscape?

Beyond observation, preservation beekeeping is grounded on the most recent science about how bees live when left to their own agency. Professor Tom Seeley of Cornell University and German researcher Torben Schiffer have paved the way for a new kind of “beeing.” Preservation beekeeping combines the findings of all this surprising research in its methods.

Susan and Jacqueline ensure honeybees do not out-compete native bees and other pollinators. They encourage common sense and good relationships with other pollinators, keeping honeybee populations at non-competitive levels and controlling the size of their apiaries and the amount of forage available to all pollinators. A fair balance of numbers permits all pollinators the opportunity to reduce stressors as they develop resiliency to pests and diseases.

A surprising page-turner, this instructional book tells the story of their successes and failures, demonstrating what was learned along the way. Sharing preservation beekeeping’s 12 key tenets, the authors provide concrete, simple ways to implement their approach, from finding the right hive location to honing observation skills. This preservation manifesto is a vital addition to any beekeeper’s library, imparting all the joys of a beekeeper’s life.


Susan Knilans (who also writes under the name Susan Chernak McElroy) writes and teaches about Preservation Beekeeping both at home and abroad. She is the author of NYT bestseller Animals as Teachers and Healers, and a number of other books about our relationships with the natural world. She lives in Washington, where she keeps her bees in an urban neighborhood in a small town.

Jacqueline Freeman teaches and speaks internationally at workshops and conferences about tending bees and the sacredness of Nature. She is the author of Song of Increase: Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World. Jacqueline drew the  interior illustrations for What Bees Want. She and her husband live on their organic biodynamic farm in Washington.

What Bees Want: Beekeeping as Nature Intended

AUTHOR: Susan Knilans and Jacqueline Freeman

PUBLICATION DATE:  February 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-68268-673-7

$25 Hardcover, also available on Audible and Kindle

256 pages