And, in fact, some beekeepers would probably not even be familiar with the term. But among those who practice beekeeping using what they consider to be natural techniques, I think there would be one item of shared philosophy. So let’s use that common ground as the starting point in defining natural beekeeping.
But the fact is that bees are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, and a number of chemical treatments and preventatives have been developed to combat these enemies of the honey bee.
It’s safe to say that proponents of using natural techniques in beekeeping have a common goal of producing natural honey (not necessarily the same as organic honey) and all other hive products in their most natural form, free of any chemical contaminants.
And all beekeepers that are proponents of natural techniques would agree that eliminating the treatment of colonies with synthetic chemicals would be one aspect of natural beekeeping.
Even on this topic, though, the word ‘synthetic’ would be the only point of universal agreement.
There are a number of natural chemicals that are used to duplicate the benefits of the synthetic chemicals. Some would say that using natural chemicals in the hive is perfectly acceptable. Others would argue that introducing anything into a hive that the bees themselves would not bring into the hive is completely unnatural.
Some believe that the cell sizes that have been used in foundation for decades is unnatural, and that using smaller cell foundation, or even no foundation at all, eliminates some of the problems faced by modern beekeeping.
And many natural beekeepers believe that hive inspections should be kept to an absolute minimum – but that’s probably good advice for all beekeepers. Some even believe that using a bee smoker when inspecting a hive is unnatural and should be avoided. (Can’t say that I agree with that one. After all, getting stung is perfectly natural; but quite naturally, I prefer to keep that natural experience to an absolute minimum!)
I do know this: strictly speaking, any form of beekeeping is unnatural. As with everything in life and in nature, it’s all a matter of balance. And if you examine any debate with extremely opposing viewpoints, there is usually some truth on both sides.
So who’s right? What exactly is natural beekeeping? That’s an argument that is likely to rage on for many years.
Choose a side and join the debate!
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