Over the last two years or so, the beekeeping movement had been getting considerable press about the plight of bees. Between pesticides, the varroa mite, and weather issues, beekeepers are seeing far more loss than they have ever seen. However, there is a silver lining in all of this in that more and more people are becoming aware of the problems facing the honey bee and they are more than willing to play a part in saving the pollinator.
Leave Them Be
Oddly enough, one of the ways some beekeeping experts believe bees will be able to thrive is if they are taken out of the managed hive system. Heide Herman, who is the co-founder and trustee of the Natural Beekeeping Trust, stated, “It’s [beekeeping] an assertion that’s often made in beekeeping circles, but I would disagree. When left to their own devices, bees, if given the right conditions, live very well without us. Keeping bees in the traditional sense is not the way forward.”
Technically, Heidi keeps bees, but she does not control their movements or harvest their honey. She provides a safe area for them, but that is where her intervention ends. The bees come and go as they want, and their honey is exactly that, theirs.
Heidi is not actually very fond of beekeepers or their tools. She is adamantly against the practice of beekeepers clipping the wings of the Queen as well as the fancy protective suits and using smoke to calm the bees. She stated, “It’s time to stop the honeybee men in white suits with their smokers. We want everyone to help bees without taking anything from them. We’ve taken everything from them. We’ve poisoned most of the flowers, chopped down so many trees and stolen their honey.”
Her approach is obviously far different from what a traditional beekeeper would do, but it is hard to argue with her results. There is always going to be a need to harvest honey but incorporating some of Heidi’s techniques could serve to make local beekeepers far more effective. For instance, she recommends not putting hives on the ground out of convenience to the beekeeper but to have them 12 to 18 feet off the ground, which would mimic their natural habitat.
With any luck, we will be able to find a happy medium here that will allow the honey industry to continue to thrive as well as promoting healthier and more active hives.