My Natural Beekeeping Philosophy
It is my firm belief that there is no such thing as a domesticated honey-bee. That all bees, be they in trees and walls or in manufactured hives, are wild. It is this belief that shapes my philosophy about keeping bees.
We humans love to tamper with what we have, trying to find some way to get more out of it. For a lot of what we’ve done, it hasn’t ended up too badly. Tomatoes used to be tiny red berries and now some of them are juicy monsters. Corn used to be regular ol’ grass and now they’re heavy producing ears. However – nearly everything we’ve tampered with end up depending on us in one way or another to survive, perhaps with a few exceptions circumstances depending. In most Southern areas, tomatoes can semi-naturalize around our compost piles, but sooner or later even those will fail. The bombyx mori silkworm moth cannot survive in the wild anymore, it has been so domesticated that defenses have been bred right out of them. However – honeybees are a different story altogether.
In all the time humans have been keeping bees, they have remained independent on us – completely wild even when in our care. We try to select for docility and production however that hasn’t changed the independent nature of the bee. As a result, virtually everywhere we have taken these bees, they have naturalized out in the wild without any help from man – and they flourish independent of our care once the weak are weeded out.
It is my opinion that artificial breeding of bees damages the bee population as a whole. Rather than using the methods nature has set in place to ensure that the strong breed and weak do not, artificial insemination of bees puts man in charge of what is right for bees – and for the most part, man can’t even take care of the things of man, much less the things of bees. The results of man’s manipulations are evident in dogs, for instance, where the pure-breeds are often wracked with genetic maladies. Not everything man does ends up in failure, of course, but there are some things that should be left in their current state of perfection rather than attempting to “fix what ain’t broke.”
Bees “ain’t broke.” Virtually every cutout I’ve done here – even tho we’re supposed to be Africanized Honeybee hot – have resulted in hives with very docile bees and just tons of honey. That’s what we want, right? Since there’s no honeybee industry in this area, these feral colonies are decades old and have naturally selected themselves to survival and production. It is these bees, in their most natural state – already having the traits that I’m looking for – that I seek to keep in my apiary.
As a result, I treat my bees as if they were still in a bee-tree or wall, with the difference of collecting honey from them. If they didn’t need treatments in the wall or tree, then they don’t need it in my hives. If they do need treatments in my hives, then they wouldn’t survive in a tree or wall and nature culls them out there, so I cull them in the apiary rather than treat them. This supports natures way of ensuring the survival of the species, and also continues to develop and maintain the traits I look for in my bees – robust survivability, docility and high production. For every colony that gets culled, I gain woodenware to multiply strong bees into. For me, it’s a win all the way around.
In the course of writing this site, I’ll expound further on my philosophy on beekeeping and hopefully help influence other beekeepers who are interested in escaping the rut of treatments and tampering. This can all be boiled down to a basic saying – work smarter and not harder.