'The keeping of bees is like the
direction of sunbeams.'
Henry David Thoreau
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|NATURAL BEEKEEPING AUSTRALIA - NATURAL BEEKEEPING
|What is Natural Beekeeping?|
|Natural Beekeeping aims to provide for the needs of the bee colony above that of
It is a holistic approach based on respect and love for the bee colony.
Of course, the term Natural Beekeeping itself is somewhat problematic, as the keeping of bees is never truly natural; bees exist and thrive naturally, and have done for millions of years without the aid of a keeper, often living high up
in a tree hollow.
However, despite confusion over the term itself, the concept of an alternative style of apiculture that is bee-friendly
(or ‘api-centric’) and ethical is one that resonates with any person wanting to keep bees for reasons other than
intensive honey production.
The Australian Warré Hive
© Natural Beekeeping Australia
|Honeybees offer a rare opportunity to glimpse a ‘mirror world’, where humans may gain wisdom and insight not only into the world of bees, which is defiantly wild, but also glean knowledge of how our actions impact on this world.
Honeybees are a highly resilient, beautiful and ancient species. The primary reason for the long-lived success of Honeybees around the world is their incredibly complex and vast array of behavioural and social abilities.
In recent years the term ‘superorganism’ has been used to describe the bee colony, most memorably in
‘The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism’ by Jürgen Tautz. Natural Beekeepers embrace this way of thinking, and tend to regard each bee as part of the greater whole, rather than merely an individual insect.
Using this new understanding and knowledge of the bee colony, Natural Beekeeping attempts to mimic the
natural nest structure of the wild bee colony and give every opportunity for the superorganism to thrive,
communicate effectively, and become resilient to disease and changing environmental conditions, whilst still
retaining an element of the ‘keeping’ of bees – that of human involvement.
Natural Beekeeping often leads to a complete re-thinking of conventional beekeeping management and hive design.
Two popular hive designs for aspiring Natural Beekeepers are the Warré hive and the Kenyan Top Bar Hive,
although hundreds of different types of bee friendly hives are used throughout the world from different
cultures and using a wide variety of materials. Even the conventional Langstroth hive may be modified
to incorporate Natural Beekeeping principles.
In these hives, bees are allowed to construct natural comb, thereby determining their own cell size,
population mix, colony size and rear their own queens.
A less intrusive style of beekeeping is also practiced in the knowledge that bees are creatures of solitude,
and great harm may be done to the colony by frequently inspecting the hive.
Various key components of this new, holistic approach to keeping bees are already supported by
scientific research into colony life, not to mention the fact that it is a far more gentle, enjoyable way to keep bees.
Some of the Hallmarks of Natural Beekeeping include:
1. NATURAL COMB
Allowing the bees to build their own comb has a multitude of benefits for both the bees and the beekeeper.
For more information, please head to the Resources page or attend one of our Natural Beekeeping courses.
2. NATURAL REPRODUCTION
Swarming is not only the ultimate goal of the honeybee colony, but allowing bees to reproduce naturally
also has many benefits for the beekeeper. Natural beekeepers in urban areas may wish to preempt swarming
by‘shook swarming’ or splitting their colony. For more information, please head to the Resources page or
attend one of our Natural Beekeeping courses.
3. NATURAL FOOD
Nectar and pollen gathered by the bees from the surrounding environment and transformed into honey
and bee bread inside the hive is the only essential food for bees.
4. NO CHEMICALS
No chemicals are necessary to keep honeybees healthy. In fact, any use of chemicals to control pests
and/or diseases can have highly detrimental effects on the colony.
5. MINIMAL INTERVENTION
Honeybees colonies are creatures of solitude and benefit from being left alone most of the time.
The opening of hives to inspect colonies should be done gently and swiftly during warm, sunny weather.
Interestingly, the Warré hive is the only hive that allows beekeepers to check colonies from beneath the
cluster and also from above, by removing individual combs.
To find out more about this style of beekeeping, please see our Resources for extensive readings, links,
|How to Help the Bees|
If you would like to help the plight of our honeybees, native bees and pollinators,
and guarantee our future health and food security, please consider:
~ Becoming a natural beekeeper (this alone will not necessarily ‘help the bees’,
however, as a beekeeper you will become acutely aware of the issues surrounding
bees, and this will enable you to educate others)
~ Planting bee and pollinator friendly gardens
~ Providing habitat for native bees and pollinators
~ Supporting local organic and biodynamic farmers, or becoming one yourself!
~ Becoming a bee activist! Many of the problems facing honeybees and pollinators
are due to a combination of synergistic factors, including but not limited to pests
and diseases, the high level of toxic chemical use by humans, loss of diversity and
quantity of forage, loss of habitat due to urbanisation and industrial farming
practices, industrialised beekeeping practices and beekeeper applied chemicals.
Please follow the links on our Resources page under the Pollination Crisis heading
to become informed, and act.
'Natural beekeeping aims to
raise awareness that we need to
re-establish our connection
with bees on the widest basis –
a connection we have lost in
the wake of our growing disregard
for the integrity of nature.'
Natural Beekeeping Trust UK
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