Natural beekeeping

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Honeybees entering hive. Author: Björn Appel
Honeybees entering hive. Author: Björn Appel

Natural beekeeping is a method of keeping bees that aims to reduce the stress on bee colonies and provide a local source of honey.

Natural bee keeping can result in bee hives (colonies) that are not subjected to the same stress that commercial bees are. Less honey is harvested, the hives are not moved around to follow plant flowering periods and a more bee-friendly hive design such as a Kenyan or Warre hives is used. These hives can be made out of timber for a reasonable cost.


Becoming a beekeeper

Some steps for becoming a beekeeper include:

  • Doing some research about bees and beekeeping, online and/or via books
  • Do a beekeeping course
  • Get the required equipment
  • Get a beekeeping licence
  • Buy or make a hive
  • Get some bees

Honey bees and world food production at risk

The world's honey bee population is now at great risk due to a combination of factors - including Varroa mites, commercial "over production" and problems with pesticides and herbicides.

The Varroa mite was spread from Asian Honey bees (which are resistant to it) to European and North American bees in recent times. This has resulted in deaths of 70% or more bee hives (colonies), and the use of chemicals to try and "manage" the mite. Bee colonies now only last 3 years in countries afflicted by the mite.

Australia is the last major honey producing country to be free of the mite.

70 percent of the world's food results from bee pollination of plants, so huge reductions in bee numbers puts the world's food supplies at great risk.

Pesticides impact bee populations

Recently, over half of the world's bee populations have vanished. Bees pollinate scores of fruit and vegetable crops, a natural process estimated to be worth $15 billion to the agriculture industry. Unfortunately, this pollination is threatened by neonicotinoid pesticides, a popular bug deterrent that has now been linked to killing off entire bee colonies. Studies show that the chemicals disorient bees, causing them to never find their way back to the hive, and ultimately lead to less production of honey and beeswax.

Regulatory steps are required to make chemical companies responsible for the safety of their pesticides and protect the environment from the destructive effects of pollination decline.

In a study led by the French National Institute of Agricultural Research, researchers glued special radio frequency tags to bees and then fed them low doses of neonicotinoid, a popular pesticide that is supposed to kill crop pests without harming the bees that pollinate them.

The research team discovered that the "intoxicated" bees were about twice as likely as unexposed bees to die because they couldn’t find their way home, causing their hive populations to collapse in a matter of weeks. It is now believed that the pesticide plays a supporting role in the "colony collapse disorder" that has been decimating the bee population since 2006.


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