Letters to a Beekeeper

By Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow

A beautifully illustrated story of friendship, passion and useful insects

Nature
162% funded
720 supporters
Published

Publication date: July 2017

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Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc.

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Party

1st edition hardback, ebook edition, etc. + 2 tickets to the launch party with homebrew (we might make some mead or elderflower or blackberry champagne.)

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Garden day

1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc + a day gardening with Alys at your garden/community garden/allotment/guerilla patch/ school garden.

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Bee trip

1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc + a visit to see Steve's bees on his rooftop or visit BEE HQ and taste honey, a seasonal forage around a bit of London and some lunch.

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Bees in gardens day

1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc + a day gardening and beekeeping with both of us: learn how to site your bees, what to plant where, composting or solve any other gardening problems.

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Every person who pledges to help to make a book gets their name included in a supporter section as a thank you. If you want to add a different name, this can be changed in your account after you have completed your pledge.

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Neither of us fit our particular mould. I am a gardener, but I am quite the laziest, rule-breaking sort: if I can get away with letting nature get on with it so I can go dancing, then I do. I’ve given up digging, straight lines, lawns, weeds (I think of them more as compost ingredients), spraying and squishing. The thing I like about my garden most is eating it.

It’s true Steve is a commercial bee farmer, but his financial gains amount to a leaky roof, a tent so he can sleep next to his bees and the keys to many of London’s rooftops.

So yes, this is a book about gardening and it’s true that the honeybee crawls over every page, but this story is about more than beekeeping or how we fell in love with the bees’ sweet, sticky world.

It’s about the bigger picture, about all our forgotten insects, whether they are predator or prey, pollinator or pest. Of how they not only make our world run, but why you should care to take a closer look.

Over the seasons, our letters, emails, texts, recipes, notes and photos (Steve, in a former life was a travel photographer) explore each other’s world. We hope you’ll be swept along on our journey, with us helping out the pollinators and along the way picking up a wealth of advice, tips and ideas for growing food and keeping the pollinators well fed.

It’s about celebrating the great outdoors, even if that outdoors starts on a windowsill or rooftop.

It’s also a story about friendship and a passion for work that has meaning and respect for the world around it.

Why fund the book this way?

OK, so it’s not the obvious publishing route, we could have gone the traditional way, but it would have meant writing a book about garden craft, or a book about bees, but not midges, or a book about rules but as neither of us are particularly good at sticking to those, that didn’t seem like a good idea either. It all felt like a bit of a compromise and some ideas just don’t want to be boxed up like that. This is one of them.

We think it has wings and this seemed like the best way to see if that can happen. Why not let you, our community, decide? If you don’t like the idea, we’ll go back to garden craft and rule creating. But if you think otherwise, we’ll do everything we can to make it the best rule-breaking, wildlife, guerilla, urban gardening (with a little craft), insect-identifying, honey-tasting, wax-dripping, bee-keeping, recipe-including, beautifully photographed, epistolary how-to book you've ever seen. In short, we promise to try and make the world a sweeter, richer place to be.

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$30  + shipping
588 pledges

Hardback

1st edition illustrated hardback, and ebook edition.

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71 pledges

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Ebook edition.

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  • Alys Fowler avatar

    Alys Fowler

    Steve Benbow avatar

    Steve Benbow

    Steve Benbow (@Londonhoneyman) likes fish and bees. He is a nomadic beekeeper and spends most of the summer moving his bees away from monocultures, citing them on flint beaches or purple moorland. Random House published his first book The Urban Beekeeper last June.

    Alys Fowler (@AlysFowler) likes growing food and flowers. Her flowers are a bit too far away for Steve’s bees, so she’s keeping the pollinators of Birmingham happy instead. She has written four books, presents gardening programmes on TV (including her own show The Edible Garden) and writes for the Guardian. She likes wild swimming, riding bikes and cooking.

  • It is hard to imagine that a poppy flower just recently unfurled with its delicate wrinkled petals swaying in the sun is not there to please us, nor that a rose so heady in scent has not opened just to entice us, but someone much, much smaller.

    Any flower that takes your breath away with beauty and complexity has done so to entice an insect, not you to take a closer look. The floral structures, those pretty petals in pleasing colours, the lures of sweet scent, are an evolutionary response to attract a pollinator to cross-fertilise and set seed.

    Plants have evolved to lure and attract anyone and everyone who could do this job for them, so some flowers choose hummingbirds, a few choose rats or mice but most have done a deal with insects, preferably flying ones, who can take pollen from one plant and deposit it on another miles away if necessary.

    To lure in these pollinators they have created ever more complex and extraordinary floral architecture: flowers with flags, triggers and tubes to attract specific pollinators, with lures such as heady perfume (some males bees use this to create their own unique aftershave) or certain enticing colours and patterns. And finally, to keep the pollinator coming back again and again, a reward: delicate nectars rich in complex sugars or protein-fuelled pollen.

    A wildflower meadow is no longer a pretty picture but a market full of stallholders shouting their wares, ‘come here, try this’. The pollinator drops in, drinks up the nectar, steals some pollen and then is off onto the next stall. The plant has done its job satisfactorily only if the pollinator visits another of its kin and directly transfers the pollen. If this happens then the plant has out-crossed increasing its genetic pool and ensuring its future.

    Or put another way, only if another party is involved can they get it on. Otherwise they are left self-pollinating, which has its place, but sure isn’t as much fun as sharing.

    Read more...
  • Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow have written 3 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    22nd August 2016 August 2016 update

    In case anyone missed the update about the book that was sent to all subscribers from John Mitchinson, the book's publisher, on 22nd August 2016, you can read it again here:

    ---

    Dear Subscriber,

    I am writing to apologise for the ridiculous length of time we have taken to produce Letters to a Beekeeper



    I can’t think of any other book that I’ve been involved in that has had such a complicated…

    13th January 2016 A progress update

    Dear supporters,

    It’s been a long time since we updated you and we’re sure many of you are keen to know what is happening with Letters to a Beekeeper



    Without going into all the details, various personal and professional commitments mean we’ve fallen a long way behind our schedule in 2015. It’s been really frustrating. More than anything else, we want this book finished and on our shelves. …

    15th January 2015 The bees are alive

    Dear All,

    My bees are alive. Each day I wander up to the allotment and nervously glance in their direction. ‘Are you still there?’ I whisper. Sometimes I see a few flying and my heart leaps; other times I peek under the mesh floor and see the dead littered and my heart sinks.

    After badgering Steve with tales of dead bees, he appeared between flurries of weather to douse them with medicine to…

    6th January 2015 Dear Steve,

    I took it upon me to make us a 

     

     

    Hope you're having fun writing in Marrakesh, 

     

    Love

    A

     

    20th November 2014 The mower is dead; long live the flowers

     

    Never mow around your beehives in shorts!

    In fact never mow around your bee hives at all - they really don't like that noise and the disturbance.

    I use an old sickle around the legs and entrances of hives in the summer months to keep the flight path clear. Then again on London rooftops, grass and lawns are not really a problem.

    Steve B

     

     

     

     

     

    'Gardeners should…

    4th July 2014 This book is growing

    In the beginning, there was Steve and a tractor. 

    Then Steve met Alys and they met John

    Who brought along Isobel and an idea was hatched.

    Shortly after people pledged, ideas became words and then pictures and more ideas 

    Seed was sown, things grew, 

    But Alys got lost.

     

    Luck brought Lucy,

    Who wanted a garden, but got a book in the bargain.

    Lucy brought Ian, who has a lovely…

    26th February 2014 An update on a blackboard

    Since I last wrote I have:

    - Consumed 1.5kg of wood sage honey

    - Read one book on plant pollinator interactions

    - Started two books on British bees

    - Re-read three books by Derek Jarman

    - Lost six hours to Rightmove looking for my 'Prospect Cottage'

    - Planted 1000 pollinator friendly bulbs

    - Spotted my first bumblebee queen of the season

    - Germinated 11 bee bee tree…

    29th October 2013 Fully funded

    Dear all,

    You believed in us and oh boy does that feel great. We’ve been walking so tall from this experience and that is all thanks to you. We’d kind of like to knock on each and every door and say thanks in person, but we have a book to write and meadow to grow. Take this as a great big hug. We still can’t quite believe it happened so fast. It’s been a lovely, life-affirming three weeks.

    We wanted to say a little bit more about where your money has gone. The money you raised pays for the photography, the editing, the layout, for some PR once it’s written, and for it to be bound and printed in a marvelous way. If we raise extra money, we’d like to put a bit more into photography, but mostly, the profit gets split between Unbound and us. Thus, if there’s any spare we get to buy cake and biscuits to fuel our writing. What we’re trying to say is that the money raised doesn’t go straight into our bank account; it goes into your book. If you upgrade your pledge, can persuade your friends to buy it and continue to share the …

    19th October 2013 Some sample page spreads

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  • deb ikin
    deb ikin asked:

    Hi :) not to rush you but I wondered when this book is going to be published? I just realised it's almost exactly a year since I pledged :) Cheers Deb

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Deb, Thanks for getting in touch. Alys and Steve are still hard at work writing the book and we are working on the design and layout. It's currently looking like we'll have books ready for subscribers in autumn 2015, but we promise it will be worth the wait! Best wishes, Caitlin - Unbound Support

    Rose Creeser
    Rose Creeser asked:

    Hi, Please can you let me know when the book is expected to be available? I was hoping to give it to my sister as a present. I pledged money about 6-9 months ago. Best wishes, Rose

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Rose, Thanks for getting in touch. Alys and Steve are in the finishing stages of writing the book and we are also designing the interior. Once we receive the finished manuscript the book will go into editorial and then into production. It's currently looking like we'll have books ready for subscribers in autumn 2015, but we promise it will be worth the wait! Best wishes, Caitlin - Unbound Community Coordinator

    Nicky Marshall
    Nicky Marshall asked:

    It looks from the replies above as though the book will be ready about 2 years after I pledged money - is this the usual timescale or is there an exceptional reason for this length of wait?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Nicky, The length of time taken to create a book can depend on a number of factors. Letters to a Beekeeper wasn't written in advance to us putting this up on the site, and the writing of the book over the last year explains the time taken in getting this book out to subscribers. We have been promised the finished manuscript from Alice and Steve by the end of this month and if we get this, then we're on track to get the book out in time for Autumn 2015. I hope this helps and if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to get in touch via http://unbound.co.uk/support. Best wishes, Caitlin - Unbound Community Coordinator

    J Mattern
    J Mattern asked:

    Is this really going to happen?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi, Thanks for getting in touch. We're hard at work on Letters to the Beekeeper and it's currently in the design/editorial stages. We're on the brink of sending an update for this book and as soon as we have a clearer idea of when we'll have copies we'll be sure to let everyone know. Thanks so much for your patience while we make this into a beautiful book. Best wishes, Caitlin - Community Coordinator

    Ryan George
    Ryan George asked:

    Hello, Is it too late to pledge AND get a name in the back of the book? It is for a present. Thank you, Ryan

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Ryan, Thanks for getting in touch. No, it's not too late to pledge and get your name in the back of the book as it hasn't yet moved past that point in production. If you need to know how to change the name in the back just head over to our FAQ page: unbound.co.uk/faq. If there's anything else we can help you with please do get in touch via unbound.co.uk/support. Best wishes, Caitlin - Community Coordinator

    Sharon Gant
    Sharon Gant asked:

    Hello, just wondering if there is any news on when I can hope for Letters to a Beekeeper to arrive? We are past Autumn 2015 now which is when you had hoped it would be ready. Also I see you are still taking sponsors for it so is it quite delayed? This is the first book I have ever sponsored so am not sure if there is normally such a delay? Many thanks.

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Sharon, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    adrianne HLAVENKA
    adrianne HLAVENKA asked:

    Please let me know the updated date of when this book will be published and when I might be receiving it please. Adrianne

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Adrianne, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Kenneth Wright
    Kenneth Wright asked:

    I was wondering if the book was published at this time? I have heard that it was released in September. I pledged around a year ago and was just wondering when I might receive this delightful book?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Kenneth, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Mark Owen-Ward
    Mark Owen-Ward asked:

    So Autumn 2015 has been and gone and still no book and more to the point, no update. Can you unfund a book if you get fed up waiting for any information from the "authors"

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Mark, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. If you would prefer not to continue with your pledge please email us on support@unbound.co.uk and we can sort this out for you. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Susan Lacey
    Susan Lacey asked:

    Hello, any update on when we might be able to delight in holding your book in our hands?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Susan, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    ian callaghan
    ian callaghan asked:

    I pledged to this book on 21/10/2013 and have had no updates or information regarding it other than the Q&A on here, we are now 16 months since the pledge can we please have a definitive answer on publication.

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Ian, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    laura McCann
    laura McCann asked:

    Can you update us as to when we may expect our coveted book? Will be notified when it has shipped? thanks, Laura thanks, Laura

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Laura, We sent out an update for the project last week, but you can also read it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Gordon Bell
    Gordon Bell asked:

    So the promised on track delivery time of Autumn 2015 has come and gone, as has the 2nd anniversary of my pledge, but still no sign of the book. Any progress update as to when we can realistically expect publication?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Gordon, We sent out an update for the projects last week but you can also ready it again here if you like: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Many thanks for your continued support and patience while we turn this into a book. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Kenneth Wright
    Kenneth Wright asked:

    So all indications were that the book would be ready by fall, 2015...and we are now in the spring of 2016. I am sure we are all just anxious to read it, but do we have a status on the completion of the book and when it will be sent to supporters?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Kenneth, Thanks for getting in touch. You can read the latest update on the book here: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. As soon as we have more news we'll send out another update. Best wishes, Unbound Support

    Katja Jassey
    Katja Jassey asked:

    I think I've tried to ask this before but it seems my question never made it on-line. Is this the same book that I've found on Amazon to be released April 7? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Letters-Beekeeper-Alys-Fowler/dp/1783521155/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459238570&sr=1-1&keywords=letters+to+a+beekeeper

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Katja, Thanks for getting in touch. The information that Amazon have for the Letters to a Beekeeper book is incorrect. We have updated them and asked them to take the book down until we have a clearer delivery date, but this hasn't happened yet. Sorry for any confusion caused by this error. You can read the latest update on the book here: https://unbound.co.uk/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/a-progress-update. Best wishes, Unbound Support

    Stephanie Wells
    Stephanie Wells asked:

    Hello, Curious when the book is scheduled to be published? I think I donated in 2013...and now live in the US. Still really looking forward to reading it - especially in my sunny California garden! Thanks! Stephanie

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Stephanie, Apologies for the delayed reply. The book isn't published yet so there's still time to change your address. If you like you can read the latest update for the book here: https://unbound.com/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/august-2016-update.

    Lisa Rodgers
    Lisa Rodgers asked:

    Hi! Has this been finished and delivered yet? I recently moved house & updating addresses realized I forgot this one!

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Lisa, Apologies for the delayed reply. The book isn't published yet so there's still time to change your address in your account here: unbound.com/account. Also, if you like you can read the latest update for the book here: https://unbound.com/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/august-2016-update. Unbound Support

    Victoria Johnson
    Victoria Johnson asked:

    I join a number of rather disgruntled people who pledged money to support the publication of this book. There was some mention of publication in Autumn 2015 - obviously this is now well over due. I realise books can slip, but it's pretty poor show not to even let the people know who have supported this book what the status is. No update for a very long time about the delay, and when we might expect it. Come on. Show some professionalism please.

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Victoria, Apologies for the delayed reply. An update was sent out to subscribers from John Mitchinson, the book's publisher, today so please do check your inbox. If for whatever reason you didn;t receive the update, you can also read it here: https://unbound.com/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/august-2016-update. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Jo Lambkin
    Jo Lambkin asked:

    Please please please when will i have my book?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Jo, An update was sent out to subscribers from John Mitchinson, the book's publisher, today so please do check your inbox. If for whatever reason you didn't receive the update, you can also read it here: https://unbound.com/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/august-2016-update. Best wishes, Unbound support

    Nancy Morris
    Nancy Morris asked:

    Any updates on the book. It is summer 2016 now. Can I unfund and put it towards something else ?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Nancy, An update was sent out to subscribers from John Mitchinson, the book's publisher, today so please do check your inbox. If for whatever reason you didn't receive the update, you can also read it here: https://unbound.com/books/letters-to-a-beekeeper/updates/august-2016-update. If you would still prefer to support another project instead, then please get in touch via support@unbound.com and we can sort this for you. Best wishes, Unbound support

    kate donohoe
    kate donohoe asked:

    Hi there I supported this book Aug 2014 and just noticed on amazon that it is due for general release on the 15th of this month any idea when I am likely to receive my copy regards Kate donohoe x

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Kate, Thanks for getting in touch. I'm happy to say that the books are currently at the printer and we're expecting to have finished copies for subscribers in late July so the wait is almost over. Thanks for your patience. Best wishes, Caitlin - Community Manager