Beekeeping is an incredible hobby for anyone who wants to boost the bee population and has the capacity to provide a safe space for these creatures to thrive. Whether you're a backyard beekeeper, a small farmer, or a rooftop beekeeper, it's relatively simple to learn the best practices. Although modern beekeeping methods are the most common, here's everything you need to know about natural beekeeping.
Modern Beekeeping Methods
In the United States and Europe, beekeepers use modern methods to farm or manage their bees. These practices include several management techniques to keep the bees alive and under control. Follow along to take a better look at standard procedures.
- Suppressing the colony from swarming to avoid losing your bees
- Using antibiotics and fungicides to kill infections within the hive
- Using pesticide treatments to rid the colony of Varroa mites and other pests
- Supplementing with sugar water during the winter months after taking too much honey from the hive
Although these methods may work to keep a colony alive, they have many downsides. These practices are extremely expensive and time-consuming, but they may also result in diminished bee health and health consequences for those that consume their honey. For instance, all the chemicals to treat diseases and kill pests compromise the honey quality.
Furthermore, feeding the bees sugar water or corn syrup in place of honey is a common way to keep the colony moving during the winter, but bees shouldn't feed off of refined sugar. Additionally, this practice can also influence honey quality.
Ultimately, all these modern practices put stress on the bees and cause damage in the long run. Although these methods aim to help the colony survive, they create weaker bees that’re unable to fight pests or survive without supplemental feedings. With that in mind, this approach helps weaker colonies persist by propping up poor genetics that probably wouldn't have survived otherwise.
Essential Reminder: If you use chemicals in the hive and consume the honey, whatever you put in the hive will eventually end up in your body.
Natural Beekeeping: A Hands-Off Approach
While modern beekeeping methods are the most common, there are many benefits of the holistic, hands-off approach of natural beekeeping. Rather than farming or managing bees, natural beekeepers act as a guardian.
Natural beekeepers still host bees on their properties but only check in on them periodically and add more space to their hive to fit their needs. The best way to respect your bees is to have the least amount of intervention possible; therefore, these central elements of the holistic approach are essential.
Avoid Synthetic Chemicals
Keeping synthetic chemicals out of the hive is one of the best things you can do for your bees' health and honey quality. Modern beekeeping methods call for intense chemical treatments for pests and diseases, but they can actually cause weaker bees that are unable to fight infections and pests on their own. Fortunately, there are some natural methods of fighting issues within the hive, but you should also keep this use to a minimum.
Don't Treat for Varroa Mites
It may seem harsh to avoid treatment for Varroa mites, but colonies that are able to combat mites will survive naturally. A mite infestation may cause the colony to collapse, but that's better than boosting a weak gene pool with treatments. By letting nature take its course, you encourage bee genetics that are Varroa-resistant.
Stop Propping Up Weak Genetics
Many modern beekeepers do anything and everything they can to keep their colonies alive, but that's not always the best approach. For instance, supplementing with sugar water or corn syrup during the winter months is a common practice to boost the colony. However, this method only props up weak genetics.
If your colony isn't strong enough to make it through the winter on its own, don't supplement its food supply. Only the strongest colonies should make it through to reproduce the following spring; this ensures hardy bees with the best possible genetics. By letting the weak die off, you can help improve the bee gene pool.
Swarming is the natural method of bee reproduction; therefore, it's crucial for proper population growth. Because it's a natural process, you shouldn't hinder it. However, modern beekeepers suppress swarming to avoid losing their bees.
Use Foundationless Hives
Many beekeepers use pre-formed plastic foundations within their hives to force bees to build their honey in a specific space and pattern. On the other hand, the holistic approach uses foundationless frames to allow bees to build their honeycombs in the shape and size they please without using plastic materials in the hive.
Modern beekeeping best practices include conducting regular hive inspections, but the natural approach calls for minimal check-ins. You should check on them monthly, but it doesn't have to be in-depth. Simply check that they have enough room to continue growing, and add more space if necessary.
Although natural beekeepers avoid frequent check-ins and constant intervention, they do still harvest their bees' honey. With that in mind, there are circumstances that must occur, and the timing must be right.
Beekeepers should never remove honey from the hive unless their bees have an abundance, meaning they have more than enough to feed themselves. Additionally, you should only harvest during the late spring or summer; collecting honey in the fall puts the colony at risk of starving during the winter months.
Learn More About Bees and Connect With Local Beekeepers
Beekeeping is an incredible thing to do, and it's an excellent hobby for those who want to help the bee population. Before you look for bee nucs for sale online, take your time diving into all things bee-related, including becoming familiar with their biology, natural behaviors, and honey-making processes. Understanding the interworkings of bee colonies will help you be the best beekeeper possible, and you'll gain a deeper appreciation of these hardworking insects.
If you're on the fence about beekeeping, you should consider connecting with other beekeepers in your area for tips and inspiration. Talking with someone who has experience can help you decide if it's a suitable adventure for you.
After learning everything you need to know about natural beekeeping, you're ready to take on a new adventure and boost your local bee population. Even if you don't want to try your hand at beekeeping, you can do many other things to support and advocate for bees in your community. Those of us at The B Farm are here to help you get started and make sure you have the supplies you need. If you’re not sure which bee nucs are right for you, call us at (978) 667-2337!