Mainstream Beekeeping Going Natural?

Sure looks like it to me! A recent visit to Bee-L had a thread entitled “Honeybee Health Strategies in Century 21“. There, Peter Borst writes:

More from the Evans/Spivak paper, in which they cover the work done on bee pathology over the past 50 years:

> We will discuss how human efforts to maintain healthy colonies intersect with similar efforts by the bees, and how bee management and breeding protocols can affect disease traits in the short and long term.

* So, they cover pretty much all the pathogens and all the current theories about the honey bee immune system. Most interesting are their conclusions:

> Beekeeping practices rely on using antibiotic and pesticide treatments to control pathogens and parasites. This approach is not sustainable and leads to contamination of hive equipment.

> While beekeepers engage in many management tactics to reduce disease in their colonies, recent research and emerging risks indicate three management tools that are underutilized in beekeeping and are perhaps especially relevant.

> First, the design of modern bee boxes could be modified to allow the construction of a propolis envelope.

> Second, it would be beneficial to allow colonies to construct new wax brood combs yearly to prevent the build up of pathogens and pesticides in the wax.

> Finally, rates of horizontal transmission of pathogens are likely to be at an all-time high in modern beekeeping, presenting great challenges.

* This last item is where they recommend — “where feasible” — staying home. Actually, they don’t come right out and say it, preferring terminology as this:

> The movement of colonies across regions or countries should be carried out with great caution, and only when critical for the honey bee industry. Lucrative pollination contracts have in many ways sustained beekeeping in North America and elsewhere. Nevertheless, wide ranging transport of bees, favors the sharing of parasites and pathogens.

* They don’t say, move bees only when critical to Big Ag! Nothing in the paper about probiotics or RNA interference. Minimize hive inputs, instead. You could boil it down to a return to an earlier type of beekeeping, which doesn’t involve high tech solutions and avoids large scale movement of colonies. Not sure how useful such a message would be to commercial beekeepers.

Is mainstream beekeeping going natural? Looks like the precursor for natural beekeeping to me! What I find most interesting in the shift in focus. I suspect that when those scientist apply their talents and modern equipment to the task, they will find the best, most healthy beekeeping will look alot like natural beekeeping does today. And all of us, both natural and mainstream beekeepers, will have a better understanding of why natural is so important.

They can tell us why. And we can show them how. And bee health will be better off for it.

I suspect it won’t be long before probiotics and RNA interference will be common threads of discussion among beekeepers. Even with one who still can’t get the white cow, black cow, whitey/blacky cow thing down pat. 🙂

Be sure to read the other posts on this Bee-L thread. Maybe we natural beekeepers need a more natural finish to the insides of our boxes? What do you think?


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5 responses to “Mainstream Beekeeping Going Natural?”

  1. scry42 says:

    A quick math lesson from history shows that bees got along quite nicely without humans at all – having been ’round for roughly 65,000,000 years give or take a million, compared with our 220,000.
    Seems “we” could stand to be a bit more in awe of nature and her workings!
    I allude to this subject here in what’s called a “Pecha Kucha*” presentation, if you’ve got 6:40 for a bee-related smile:
    — Christy Hemenway
    (*Pecha Kucha means “chit chat” in Japanese)

  2. scry42 says:

    Hmmm. My crude attempt at using html tags doesn’t seem to have worked…
    Here’s the link in plain URL letters:
    — Christy

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