I was initially introduced to bee-keeping via the most common routes and soon discovered some practices I did not agree with. This discovery inspired me to find a more natural approach.
Most bee-keepers keep bees for their honey. and their practices are more about them than the bees. Quite scary when you consider that bees are intrinsic to our survival. They are the biggest pollinators of our food and with current declines in their numbers, we are also at risk.
Natural bee-keeping practices allow for chemical free treatments, respect for the colony as a whole, and that the bees need their honey more than we do. Honey is the bees medicine and give them all the nutrients necessary for good health and growth.
When bees are exploited for their honey, they are given a sugar syrup/fondant replacement. It is said that the bees can digest this easier, however it is nutrient deficient and has not value to them. It can be likened to our love of fast foods, chocolate and fatty foods; they make us fat and have no nutritional value.
There are big debates between the natural beekeepers and the conventional ones around the practices of taking their honey and feeding them alternatives. Research was carried out that showed that a bee lived longer when fed sugar syrup. However, what was not considered is the colony as a whole and whether they functioned productively.
Similarly, as a nation we are living longer, however all be in with some impairments to health and well-being. We perhaps do not function as well as we could and make allowances for what we are able to do.
Another issue between natural beekeepers (guardians) and conventional beekeepers is the treatment of varroa and other disease in the hive. The conventional approach involves the use of chemicals being put in the hive. This not only kills the varroa mite, it also contaminates the hive and the bees honey stores.
A more natural approach could involve dusting the bees with icing sugar. I tried this and found it to be very effective. Although the icing sugar does not kill the varroa mite, it makes the bees body slippery so the mite cannot stay attached to the bee so it falls off.
The natural way allows time for the bees to build a natural immunity to the mite rather than keep medicating against it. We are seeing a similar pattern with our use of antibiotics, rather than building our immune system to fight, we are creating more resilient bugs that the antibiotics do not touch.
I suppose both views can be compared to the difference between visiting a doctor or seeing a homeopath. The homeopath will take a more holistic approach while the doctor will think in terms of chemicals and medicines.
While moving my bees from my back garden to a farm, I was stung several times and had a reaction to the stings. I was encouraged to visit the doctor or at least go to the pharmacist. The pharmacist recommended steroids and antibiotics, while the health store recommended the homeopathic remedy Apis and colloidal silver. I followed the alternative route and the stings were reduced in a day or two.
For me natural is the way forward, and whatever it takes to ensure the health of the bees needs to be considered as the utmost of importance.