About Bees

Bees were held sacred in ancient cultures around the globe, and hence they have been tended to and nurtured by humans for millennia.  But in less than 150 years the quality of this care-taking has changed dramatically.  Bee populations are plummeting world-wide, but especially in the United States. 

Opening the inert cover of a hive

Much of modern beekeeping, like all forms of intensive farming, is geared at maximum production, which inevitably results in disregarding the creatures’ needs. The systematic suppression of bees’ natural reproduction (by swarming) in favor of artificial breeding, which has been practiced for more than a hundred years, has resulted in impoverished genetics and disease resistance.  International trading with queen bees has also shifted diseases and pests around the world, and they are proving difficult to control.  Forage conditions for bees are compromised in many parts of the US where “plant protection substances” of the class known as neonicotinoids, thought to confuse bees so that they cannot find their way back to the hive, are used. There are indications that the neonicotinoids also make bees less resistant to disease.  These systemic insecticides, introduced in the nineties, are water-soluble and mobile in soil. According to latest research they will, in time, spread throughout nature, causing irreversible damage to non-target insects, and are already affecting bird populations.  Consequently their use has been banned in some European countries.

a look inside a hive

In response to the critical situation of the honeybee and the natural world as a whole, some beekeepers are questioning conventional beekeeping practice which relies – not unlike conventional agriculture – on chemical solutions to man-made problems. Efforts towards establishing more holistic practices in raising and caring for bees are slowly gaining ground. 

Sustainable agriculture may be considered one of the core solutions as there are no insecticides or pesticides that are safe for bees.

Organic Backyard Beekeeping and the Natural Beekeeping Movement

As the beekeeping industry, concerned for its survival, calls for ever more scientific research to provide answers to the bee crisis, the fact that many of the bees’ health problems are caused by beekeepers themselves remains largely unaddressed.  The stresses put upon bees in hives can only be remedied by beekeepers willing to put the needs of the bees first. 

beezy ...

Natural beekeeping seeks to understand the nature of bees and to maintain an attitude of respect for this unique life form. When bees are cared for with due regard for their intrinsic needs, and when their natural life expressions are supported in all possible ways, caring for bees becomes a source of joy and wonder.

There are encouraging indications that colonies are strengthened as a result of husbandry that is mindful, first and foremost, of the bees’ needs, as winter survival rates are far better in colonies that have swarmed and overwintered on their own honey as opposed to sugar water.   Mounting evidence of feral colonies faring better than those kept by beekeepers further supports less interventionist styles of beekeeping.  Bee colonies foraging on predominantly organically cultivated land, and subject to husbandry orientated by the species-specific needs also exhibit better resistance to viruses and parasites. We are confident that when the true gifts of the bee, together with the benefits of bee-friendly husbandry are appreciated more widely, we will all – bee keepers and honey consumers alike – begin to see honeybees as ‘sustainers of life on earth’ rather than ‘producers of honey’.