Organic beekeeping, starting from the bee herself
If we want to save the bees for the lifeprocesses in our landscape, we need to learn the language of the bees and to understand the essence of the bee herself. The bee will tell then her own story. If we listen carefully we can gain insights which lead to a practical way of beekeeping.
This led for example to the following insights for keeping bees, which differ from conventional beekeeping practices:
· Natural swarming is the best way for the birth of a new colony. This in contrast with artificial swarms, artificial insemination and other practices whereby the beekeeper interferes with the bee colony
·Bees are allowed to build comb instead of being giving frames with wax foundations: natural honeycomb. By looking closely at natural honeycomb we see many irregularities. Every colony builds comb in its own unique manner. When beekeepers use wax foundation a bee colony is forced to adapt its comb to a shape that is not its own
·Consideration is given to natural bee space (35mm from mid rib to mid rib). Hence the preferred size is 11 frame or better still 9 frame hive. Conventionally the distance between frames in a standard ten frame hive is 38.5mm. The objective of this larger space is to increase honey production not the development of healthy and strong colonies. Furthermore wax foundations (melted and pressed honey comb from all over the world) contain residues of all the chemicals beekeepers have used to treat bees against parasites and diseases in the past 20 years.
·In hives with deep frames (eg combi-frames) the brood chamber develops as a sphere. The development of this shape is disrupted in standard hives, which create a cold open space in the brood chamber, which the colony needs to overcome by expending additional energy and comes at the expense of the vitality of the colony.
·In response to the unique role of the drones in a bee colony, each colony is free to determine the number of drones it raises. Little is known of the importance and role of the drones and this is still one of the greatest mysteries of the bee colony.
·If bees require feeding to survive the winter then feeding their own honey is preferred. If bees are feed a sugar solution this can be enriched with honey and/or herbal tea (such as chamomile) and perhaps a little salt. Enriching the sugar solution in this manner makes it easier for the bees to transform sugar into ‘honey’.
·The hive is made out of straw (rye or hairgrass) and/or glue free timber. Minimize the use of metal hive components. Inside the hive too the use of metal is kept to a minimum: division strips, wire in the artificial foundations. Also avoid glued multiplex hives.
·Build a respectful relationship between the beekeeper and the colony. Unless a beekeeper is overly sensitive to beestings avoid wearing gloves. This allows the colony to let the beekeeper know if he or she is too rough. Bees don’t sting for the fun of it as they die as a consequence, hence there has to be a good reason for them to do so. It is up to the beekeeper to reflect on why bees sting in those particular instances.
“Beekeeping practices based on the nature/essence of the bee” continuous to evolve. The BD beekeepers working group does not set down general rules, but promotes individual beekeeping practices informed by this principle. There is no standard method or certification, no commercial objectives, no BD beekeeping prescriptions. Instead we ask questions about the origins and nature/essence of the bee and her importance for the future so we are in a position to guide and protect bees through these times in the best possible way.