Holistic Beekeeping

HoneybeeA bee blog is always good for a bit of a punch up, so time for a quick thought before I start to go through all my spare frames as the snow starts to fall again.
Late last year I went to a lecture from a holistic beekeeper, hosted by my local Association. I went feeling antagonistic but left in contemplative mood. It turns out my approach is intuitively more “holistic” than I’d thought.
By way of background for non apiarists, there is of course a great deal of research going on (not least at the excellent Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at Sussex) and speculation in bee circles about the well-publicised declines in honeybee numbers. One argument is that a contributory factor to hive mortality has been the over-commercialisation of bee keeping. Current practices can be pretty aggressive and interventionist, particularly in some places in the world, so no surprise, the theory goes, that these parts are where problems like Colony Collapse Disorder have become such an issue. The holistic camp see these apiaries as the equivalent of battery chicken farms; the parallel is alluring as they have been created by similar commercial pressures.
Personally I think that’s going a bit far, but I do sympathise. This isn’t going to get technical – I’m absolutely not qualified to do that – but there are some things I do which just make sense to me personally and which “natural beekeepers” would approve of. Whenever possible I use mechanical rather than chemical intervention (although this is tricky for proper disease control), and keep it to a minimum.
The BBKA has been giving alternative beekeeping some airplay recently – hats off to them – and beekeepers can follow the link to find out more about holistic beekeeping and the Warre hive. As for honey consumers rather than producers the message is simpler – as usual, if you can, buy local.
Related posts: Honeybees LASI