Tuesday, October 25, 2011

LESSON 110: Top 7 Myths of Natural Beekeeping (Long Lane Honey Bee Farms 217-427-2678)

LESSON 110: Top 7 Myths of Natural Beekeeping
What does natural beekeeping really mean? Simply put, it means to keep bees naturally. Hobby beekeepers are quickly moving over to more natural beekeeping and to most this means little to no chemicals in the hive. Larger operations such as commercial and migratory beekeepers find that chemicals are essential to the success of their operations.
Years ago, we made a commitment to not use chemicals on our bees and instead focus our attention on raising queens that tend to be better survivors. It’s painful at first, but eventually pays off.
I’m a little bothered by saying I’m a natural beekeeper even though I do not use chemicals. Why? Because a truly natural hive is one that is in a hollow tree in the middle of a forest, or a hive in a tropical climate. Certainly we have learned to take really good care of bees in our boxes in our environment and in some cases we have saved colonies that may have died out on their own, from various pests and diseases. My point is that there are various levels of natural beekeeping.
An important part of natural beekeeping is natural comb, that is, allowing the bees to build their own comb without foundation. Ultimately, regressing bees (aka smaller bees) enter into the discussion and I promise to address this in a future lesson but not today.
Sheri and I have a beekeeping philosophy that we’ve embraced:
What we are doing is leaving the bees alone to a great extent, to do their own thing, in their own time, in their own way—as much as possible while we ask them to stay in OUR environment, in OUR boxes, and to share their resources with US. This is about as natural as we can get. You may choose to be even more natural or you may choose to be less natural, maybe using some mite treatments here or there.
To help explain what natural beekeeping is or isn’t, we’d like to share our Top 7 Myths of Natural Beekeeping:
1. All natural beekeeping can only be done in a top bar hive. This is not true. Especially if you are wanting your bees to make their own wax without foundation. This can be accomplished in any type of hive. In a Langstorth hive, let the bees build their foundation simply by not putting foundation in the frames. Police their growth carefully to prevent the combs from being built in the wrong directions, through the frames instead of on the frames. 2. When bees are allowed to make their own beeswax, it is and remains chemical free. True and false. Studies have shown that at first new comb is chemical free, but over time, wax may have slight traces of beekeeper’s chemicals, carried in by drifting bees from hives where beekeepers are using chemicals or just from the environment. We recommend replacing your oldest comb. Each year remove 3 of your oldest frames of comb and let them build new comb. 3. Organic means that the final product (honey) from a top bar hive is more pure than honey from a Langstroth hive. 4. Natural, sustainable beekeeping means I will not have pests and diseases in my hives. Pests and diseases are part of nature. However, preventing, reducing and getting rid of pests and diseases is workable in any type of beekeeping operation. 5. You can’t harvest honey from a top bar hive. It is very easy to harvest honey from either a TBH or a Warre hive. Certainly not as easy as a Langstorth, but still not difficult. 6. You can’t overwinter in a top bar hive. Healthy bees overwinter well provided they have enough pollen and honey in store for winter. 7. You can make money on a commercial level from natural beekeeping. Certainly money can be made from a top bar or Warre hive, but not on a commercial level. Langstroth’s hives transport and stack nicely and the ability to change boxes is a big plus. However, most people do not keep TBH for commercial reasons but for enjoyment, pollination and a little honey on the table. There are so many ways to keep a strong colony by using Integrated Pest Management techniques and holding off on chemicals.
See you next time!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Fairmount, Illinois
217-427-2678
www.honeybeesonline.com















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