Non-Violent Beekeeping for the Natural Beekeeper
- May 12, 2017
- Posted by: marlenedubois
- Category: CPR Training
Our first encounters with honeybees were long ago, most likely in Africa. Someone discovered – probably simultaneously – in which these tree-dwelling insects produced a sweet, sticky substance unlike any different, as well as in which they had stings in their tails.
When fire became portable, someone else discovered in which smoke caused bees to become more amenable to robbing.
Some time later, a more settled tribe found in which they could house bees in baskets or pots, which saved them the trouble of climbing trees to get the honey, as well as the craft of beekeeping was born. Pots, baskets as well as logs continued in use for many centuries, as well as while proficient beekeepers would likely have understood a Great deal of the behaviour of their charges, the inner secrets of the hive remained closed by observers until the end of the 18th century, when a blind Swiss by the name of François Huber found them out through the medium of his faithful – as well as sighted – servant, Burnens. Huber’s fresh Observations on the Natural History of Bees remains a classic to in which day.
Some 30 years later, Jan Dzieraon developed Huber’s experimental hive further to create the first truly practical, movable-frame beehive, as well as shortly afterwards in 1852, Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth publicized as well as patented his own edition. Such was his talent for publicity as well as marketing in which the ‘Langstroth’ became as well as remains the standard hive within the USA as well as the type upon which most different variants are based.
However, in which type of hive is usually expensive to buy, very difficult for amateur woodworkers to build – due to the precise dimensions as well as many smaller parts needed for frames – requires constant maintenance, causes great disturbance to the lives of bees, as well as is usually heavy as well as cumbersome in use. Many women, especially, have been put off beekeeping by the weight-lifting needed to harvest honey by a Langstroth-type hive, as well as hernias are commonplace among commercial beekeepers.
In Nepal, honey-hunting is usually still practised by men descending cliffs on ropes as well as using long poles to dislodge chunks of comb. Elsewhere, bees are kept in skeps, baskets, pots, cavities in walls as well as different containers devised by local materials as well as – we can deduce by their longevity – more-or-less suitable both for bees as well as for their keepers. In Africa, probably the original home of the honeybee, the top bar hive was developed as an ‘intermediate technology’ solution, capable of being constructed using local skills as well as materials as well as being, in essence, a beekeeper-friendly hollow log, having the advantages of movable combs although without the need for machine-made parts.
Whatever the accommodation we offer them, our meetings with bees have always been a process of negotiation, albeit somewhat one-sided. We can protect ourselves by them, although they ultimately have no protection by us. The encroachment of chemical agriculture, deforestation as well as urbanization have reduced their natural habitat, while toxic cocktails of insecticides have poisoned their flowers.
The honeybee has come to be seen as the ‘canary within the coal mine’ of our civilization as well as she is usually showing early warning signs of her imminent demise, to which we must pay urgent attention.
Our challenge at in which point is usually to re-negotiate our relationship with bees: we must learn to protect as well as nurture them, rather than simply exploit them, as well as we need to learn to listen to what they need by us. The process of discovering how we can most effectively do in which is usually the project in which myself as well as others have set ourselves, as well as we expect in which many more will join us as well as carry in which work forward.
We acknowledge the paradox inherent within the phrase ‘natural beekeeping’: as soon as we consider ‘keeping’ bees, we begin to stray by what is usually truly ‘natural’. In nature, only bees keep bees.
To be considered ‘natural’, our beekeeping practice must take into account:
- the natural impulses as well as behaviour of bees, including – foraging, swarming, storing food as well as defending their nest
- how hive design affects bees
- the suitability of materials used in hive construction, including considerations of sustainability
- the nature as well as frequency of our interventions
- the impact of a localized increase in honeybee population on different species of pollinators
- the balance between honey harvesting as well as the bees’ own needs
- the nature of any added inputs – medications, feeding
We are engaged in a process of working towards the ultimately unattainable notion of completely ‘natural’ beekeeping, while acknowledging in which the bees will go their own way regardless of our wishes. Our relationship with them is usually in which of facilitator or minder rather than ‘keeper’. We could say in which the role of the natural beekeeper is usually to enable our bees to attain the fullest possible expression of their bee-ness while in our care.
Our overall goal in natural beekeeping is usually to achieve a state of sustainability: balancing inputs as well as outputs such in which our activities enhance rather than damage the health of our bees, different species as well as the planet.
To be truly sustainable, a system must be as close to carbon-neutral as in which can be, requiring no synthetic inputs as well as having no detrimental impact on the natural environment. So if we are to continue to have a relationship with honeybees, we have to consider what impact current beekeeping practices have as well as how our ‘natural’ approach seeks to improve on in which state of affairs.
A typical commercial beekeeping operation is usually a real energy hog. Lumber – which may or may not come by sustainable sources – is usually sliced as well as milled by powered machinery prior to assembly into hive boxes, which are transported by road, sea or rail to be further distributed by road to their apiary sites. Regular visits by beekeepers require oil-derived fuel, as well as more is usually needed to fire the boilers to heat the considerable quantities of water needed for sterilizing woodwork as well as washing down de-cappers, extractors, tanks as well as floors. More power is usually needed to retrieve the crop, to extract in which as well as to mix as well as distribute the sugar syrup needed for the bees’ survival following the removal of their stores. Honey must then be filtered, bottled as well as distributed to wholesalers as well as thence to retail outlets. Meanwhile, beeswax is usually recovered by means of steam or boiling water, cleaned as well as filtered as well as sent off to be re-melted as well as turned into sheets of foundation, which are then sold back to the beekeepers for insertion into frames for next season.
Migratory beekeepers within the USA truck hives by the thousands clear across the country for the almond pollination, while within the UK in which type of activity is usually nowadays largely restricted to taking hives up to the moors in August for the heather crop, as well as some orchard pollination work.
Due to what might be called the Langstroth hegemony, in which whole scenario is usually also enacted in miniature by amateur beekeepers, who largely mimic the activities of their commercial brethren. They may only have a few hives at the bottom of their gardens, although in most cases they have not considered any alternative to the expensive, energy-hungry equipment available by the glossy catalogues of the beekeepers’ suppliers.
We know in which bees need nothing much more than a dry, ventilated cavity in which to build their nest. Instead, ‘modern’ beekeepers insist on supplying them using a box full of wooden frames, in which are mounted sheets of wax, helpfully imprinted with oversized ‘worker-bee’ hexagonal cell bases. A newly-hived swarm of bees must be surprised indeed to find so much done for them: ready-made comb bases hung in neat rows, with spaces all around them for access – what a boon for a busy colony!
although what may at first sight appear to be a great convenience, also has some significant drawbacks. All these imprinted cells are the same size, yet anyone who has observed natural comb knows in which cell sizes vary considerably, as well as not just between workers as well as drones: worker cells themselves vary in diameter according to rules only bees are aware of. All those dead-straight frames may look neat, although bees don’t build dead-straight comb – they like a gentle curve here as well as there. as well as if you watch bees building natural comb in an unrestricted space, they hang in chains, legs linked, as if laying out the dimensions of the comb in space as they work above their own heads – something they cannot do on foundation.
So a Great deal of so-called ‘modern’ beekeeping – in fact, virtually unchanged since the mid-19th century – is usually unsustainable by our point of view, as well as being a nuisance to bees. In terms of honey yield, in which is usually clearly an improvement on logs as well as skeps, although in terms of bee health as well as energy efficiency, in which has turned out to be a disaster.
The job of the natural beekeeper is usually to find ways of interacting with bees in which are truly sustainable, both for the bees themselves as well as for the planet.
within the Barefoot Beekeeper, I proposed the following three, simple principles for the ‘natural’ beekeeper to consider:
- Interference within the natural lives of the bees is usually kept to a minimum.
- Nothing is usually put into the hive in which is usually known to be, or likely to be harmful either to the bees, to us or to the wider environment as well as nothing is usually taken out in which the bees cannot afford to lose.
- The bees know what they are doing: our job is usually to listen to them as well as provide the optimum conditions for their well-being, both inside as well as outside the hive.
These principles seem to me to form a solid foundation for our thinking about how we approach bees as well as beekeeping. As soon as we step beyond those basic principles as well as attempt further to define the parameters, we find ourselves in danger of beginning to create a ‘book of rules’. as well as in which doesn’t take much looking around the entire world today to see how divisive as well as destructive different ‘books of rules’ have been.
‘Natural’, ‘balanced’ or ‘sustainable’ beekeeping – whatever name we give in which – is usually a process, not a destination. We have to remain flexible as well as always be on the lookout for ways to improve our techniques, so everything in in which book is usually offered in in which spirit: indications of what seems to work, always with the possibility in which there are even better ways yet to be discovered, or – more likely – re-discovered, as there is usually definitely nothing fresh in beekeeping.
Historically, we began our relationship with bees when somebody discovered in which the taste of honey was worth the pain in which cost to harvest. We became honey-hunters, as well as while there were few of us as well as many of them, in which was sustainable.
When somebody discovered in which in which was possible to offer shelter to honeybees while they made their honey, as well as then kill them off to raid their stores, we became bee keepers, as well as while there were few bee keepers as well as many honeybees, in which too was sustainable.
Then someone invented a way to house bees in which did not require them to be killed, although instead allowed people to manage as well as control them to some extent, arranging things so as to trick them into producing more honey for their masters than for themselves, as well as we became bee farmers. as well as in which was sustainable for a while because there were still many of them as well as although there were also many of us, we could manipulate their reproduction so as to make more of them as we needed.
at in which point in which has become clear in which we have gone too far, for bees have begun to suffer by diseases in which were virtually unknown within the old days, as well as they have to be given medicines in order to keep them alive. as well as because a whole industry has grown up around the farming of these bees, as well as there is usually a lot of money at stake, beekeepers have been slow to change their ways as well as many could not do so for fear of bankruptcy, as well as so the health of the honeybees has become worse as well as they are subject to parasites as well as viruses in which never troubled them within the past.
Meanwhile, we forgot how to grow food within the way in which we once had done because we were no longer inclined to labour within the fields, as well as instead devised clever ways to make the soil support more crops. We poured fertilizers onto our fields as well as killed off inconvenient creatures with ‘pesticides’ – defining a whole class of living organisms as our enemies as well as therefore dispensable. in which was never sustainable, as well as never can be.
as well as in which is usually where we find ourselves today, as well as in which is usually the problem we face: bees have become weakened through exploitation as well as a toxic agricultural system, allied to the impossible expectation of continuous economic growth.
As ‘natural beekeepers’, our most pressing work is usually to restore bees to their original, healthy state. We think of ourselves as ‘keepers’ within the sense of ‘nurturing as well as supporting’ rather than ‘enslaving’. We must seek to protect as well as conserve the honeybee by working within their natural capacity, not constantly urging them towards ever greater production. We must challenge the whole agricultural as well as economic system in which has caused us to arrive at in which point, because without change at in which level, the future for both us as well as the bees is usually bleak.
We can make a start by re-establishing more natural, non-violent ways of working with bees: neither we nor they have any need of routine or prophylactic ‘treatments’ with synthetic antibiotics, fungicides or miticides. We don’t need to operate ‘honey factories’ – we can content ourselves with providing accommodation for bees in return for whatever they can afford to give us. In some years, in which may be nothing at all, while in others there may be an abundant harvest.
Such is usually nature: bees depend on honey for their survival; we do not.
If the cost of returning bees to a state of natural, robust health is usually a little less honey on our toast, is usually in which not a worthwhile sacrifice?