What Is Organic Beekeeping?
Are you about to start beekeeping, and looking for further information?
If you’re an organic gardener, and if you prefer to purchase organic food, then you may be keen to ensure you engage in organic beekeeping practices too.
On the other hand, you may simply be concerned about chemical usage – such as pesticides in hives (i.e. the kinds of veterinary treatments which are essentially pesticides to treat pests on honey bees, such as Varroa mites).
Standards may vary across countries, and standards may evolve and change, but generally, organic beekeeping practice tends to advocate:
For those unfamiliar with the range of bee hives available, they include Polystyrene bee hives and plastic beehives – these may or may not be permitted in organic beekeeping in some countries.
For beekeepers following the 'Natural Beekeeping' movement, there is a preference for wooden hives, with caution applied as to how that wood has been treated.
Update 2017: Please note, this article was written some years ago and is somewhat out of date. Please check with your local governing body for information about standards for organic beekeeping.
Some beekeepers like to build their own hives - specifically Top Bar Hives.
To read more about how to build a bee hive, and also to view and download some free plans, go to Bee Hive Construction.
Again, there are variations in standards, and standards can go further than this too, which may pose real obstacles to beekeepers wishing to sell organic honey, where in some countries, rules are particularly strict, and certification is expensive and difficult, as well as being tightly monitored. Other countries may not have such strict rules in reality.
In the UK, for example, regulatory requirements put many small scale beekeepers in a very difficult situation with regard to producing certified organic honey, yet many small scale beekeepers are following organic beekeeping practice to the very best of their ability – and who knows, to a higher standard than in some other countries. No doubt beekeepers in countries with similar strict standards feel similar frustrations.
Standards include (at the time of writing - but please check for latest regs):
practice, many beekeepers may take it upon themselves simply to follow
organic beekeeping principles as far as they can, without the added
complications of gaining certification, and the various hoops they would
be required to jump through. They may simply focus on the bees, the
health of the bees, and taking only some honey as and if
appropriate/possible, for themselves.
Other beekeepers may incorporate organic beekeeping practices to various degrees into their natural beekeeping methods, a practice which also promotes the building of comb by the honey bees themselves, keeps chemicals out of hives, and uses top bar hives.
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