With urban organic gardeners discovering the benefit of having bees in the garden, many are joining the trend of raising bees in the backyard. But does natural beekeeping follow the same principals as organic gardening? Not exactly. Whereas the organic gardener will interfere with what is going on naturally with their plants by applying natural, non-chemical, pesticides and fertilizers, natural beekeeping means stepping back and not interfering with the bees even if they get sick.
How can backyard beekeeping succeed if a beekeeper doesn’t help the bees along? Do natural beekeepers know secrets that scientists don’t about how to keep bees healthy and thriving with no human interference? Traditional beekeepers regularly treat their hives for parasites. Natural beekeeping methods do not engage in this practice.
Backyard beekeeping usually involves supplemental feeding of the hive during winter, times of disease or mite infestation, or establishment of a new colony. When natural beekeepers advise on how to keep bees, they discourage supplemental feeding of the hive.
So, what’s a novice to do about potential problems with their bees? Whose advice should they follow? If a new beekeeper is a committed organic gardener should they naturally fall in line with the natural beekeeping approach? Well, each beekeeper will have to decide for themselves.
Backyard beekeepers need to understand exactly what the potential problems are. They should also understand the traditional and organic methods available to deal with these problems. It is also important to know if these methods are having any kind of negative impact on the environment. And then there are the success stories of natural beekeepers who have testimonies and experience that prove that no interference may be how to keep bees the healthiest, happiest and most productive, allowing natural selection to weed out the weak and let only the strong survive. This will ensure the survival of an insect that is at a fragile state at this time in mankind’s story.
Traditional beekeeping methods are practices that are part of modern man’s industrial agricultural system that has proven to be a failure. One symptom of this failure is the shortage of bees in the world that are necessary for the pollination of crops. For decades they have been declining because man has continued to expose them to more and more toxic substances. Natural beekeeping practices say a resounding “No” to the use of chemicals in the management of bee hives. Period.
Backyard beekeepers who follow traditional beekeeping methods often are filling their hives with bee hybrids that have no genetic history to prove that they are a hardy and adaptable breed. When hives fail, traditional methods do not look at the stock as the source of failure. Rather they blame the weather or pests or a mystery disease or anything other than the possibility that they made a bad choice from the beginning. How, then, how to keep bees alive and thriving if everything learned over the past centuries has turned out to be all wrong?
Let’s take a look at the effect of modern diseases on today’s bees. Now, because of worldwide bee loss, today’s beekeepers are working with a limited genetic pool. When a situation like that occurs, it takes time for genetics to recover and rebuild a species that is strong and disease resistant. And if we interfere, it will never happen.
In addition to worldwide bee loss affecting the gene pool is the fact that queens are the largest part of the genetic equation. If you go online and search for bee suppliers that are breeding queens and selling them commercially, you suddenly realize that you can probably count on your fingers and toes how many of them there are, supplying the entire world with queens. That creates a significantly limited gene pool.
In the old days backyard beekeepers would make up for this lack by capturing wild bees or breeding their own queen. However, true to man’s nature to prefer the easiest route, the trend is to buy a queen rather than go to the trouble of breeding your own.
So, deficient genetics results in stock that is more vulnerable to disease and pests. So, how to keep bees healthy that are genetically prone to disease and pests? You plan to administer routine medical treatment if you are NOT a natural beekeeper and continue the death spiral of weakening bees by making them dependent on outside intervention for their survival.
Natural beekeeping says, “For the love of bees STOP medically treating bees.” Backyard beekeeping should be about sustainability. That is how to keep bees not only alive in your hive but alive around the world. Let the weak bees die and from the stronger, surviving stock breed a stronger queen. And that is the essence of natural beekeeping.