Here are some key principles of Natural Beekeeping, however, please note
that the degree to which they are applied may vary between beekeepers.
For example, Warré beekeeping traditionally advocates the least interference of all, and is a more hands-off approach than some Natural Beekeepers are comfortable with.
1. Synthetic chemicals are kept out of the hive. Instead, naturally
derived treatments – such as treatments derived from plants - are used
against diseases such as
(or Varroa Destructor), or bees are allowed to adapt and evolve their own methods for dealing with Varroa, for example, see these Varroa resistant bees.
2. Natural Beekeeping favours minimal interference with the hive, and 'Api-centric beekeeping'. It is assumed that the bees know what they are doing. Read Q&As with modern day authors - Dr David Heaf and Phil Chandler.
Conventional beekeepers use pre-formed sheet foundations (or combs for
honey) with identical egg cells. However, Natural Beekeeping uses
hives which allow bees to create their own combs, constructing
individual egg cells to the size the bees prefer.
interesting note is that some Natural Beekeepers say that bees
constructing their own combs, naturally make smaller cells than are
evident in pre-formed, purchased combs, and that these smaller cells
seem less favourable to Varroa Destructor.
4. Some (but
not all) traditional beekeepers cull drones (the male honey bees) by
culling drone brood, as they believe they are, in a sense, draining
resources by consuming the honey (whilst at the same time, performing
few functions other than mating). However, Natural Beekeepers believe
this activity reduces the gene pool, and that ultimately, if the bees
have a desire to rear drones, they must know what they are doing, and
should be allowed to rear them.
5. The hives used by
Natural Beekeepers are different from those using conventional methods.
Hives used by conventional beekeepers include the WBC hive, Langstroth
hive, the National Hive, Commercial hive, Dadant hive and the Smith
Natural beekeepers favour various styles of Top Bar hives. Please see my page about honey bee hives for more information (opens a new window).
It’s interesting that conventional beekeeping requires quite a significant financial outlay. A whole industry exists around beekeeping. Yet Natural Beekeeping shows you how to start beekeeping at a relatively low cost. It dispenses with the unnecessary, which saves not only on money, but also on storage, and reduces the risk that you end up with loads of ‘stuff’ that takes up space and serves little purpose.
Emile Warré invented what he called 'The People's Hive'. But what did Emile Warré say about what were then deemed modern methods of beekeeping? In his book 'Beekeeping For All'
Emile pointed out ways in which the natural behaviour of honey bees could be observed, in order to avoid unnecessary interference. For example, rather than opening a hive in spring to check for the presence of a queen, Emile describes how bees bringing pollen back to the hive, along with steady hive activity (bees going in and out of the hive for foraging etc) is a sure sign that a queen honey bee is indeed present. Some may find Emile's way a little too hands off. Nevertheless, it is possible with Natural Beekeeping practices to engage in varying degrees of human interaction with the bees.
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