Natural Beekeeping

Top Bar ApiRevolution has begun! Lets make some inexpensive Top Bar Hives and let them be pesticide free on their own natural comb! Che Guebee is a rebel bee fighting for the survival of the Biodiversity we all depend on and which is seriously endangered by deforestation and mono-crop agriculture! What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Honey Robbing vs Honorable Harvest

The same way there is cattle-ranching there is also Honeybee-ranching. Honeybee-ranching is also known as Conventional Beekeeping. Such beekeeping method is focused primarily on the profit side of beekeeping though honey/pollen/propolis/royal jelly production, migratory pollination, production of young Queens and nucleus hives as well as package bees (which are simply bees shaken from various colonies into one package and given an unrelated Queen).
This dairy cow can be compared to a conventional beehive
honeybee colony, created to produce profit
I will be talking mostly about honey and pollination. The truth is that Honeybees do pollinate huge varieties of plants throughout the season. The truth is also that bees DO NOT make large amounts of surplus honey!

What do you mean by bees don't make surplus honey (you might ask) since all beekeepers make much honey throughout the season, up to 70 kg per colony?!
Prof. Seeley's study on Swarm Behaviour clearly indicates that new swarms seek for cavities no bigger than approximately 40 liters. In such volume bees simply can't make any surplus honey for us to take. One can see what happens to the cow in the pic above which is forced to be bigger than nature has designed her. She can't walk. It's unnatural and it is a product of human green and ignorance (resulting in non-compassion).
The cavity is the colonies "body size" and in conventional beekeeping this body is forced to be large up to over 200 liters!!!

Yet bees still seem to fill those 200 liters with huge amounts of honey and wax. Bees dont want it, they dont need so much honey but they do it for one reason only and that is to fill that empty space with wax comb. Bees dislike having empty space over their heads since condensation can easily form in that empty space and drip down onto the colony chilling them to death in the winter. Comb also acts as a thermo-regulator, as a radiator if you like. Bees produce heat which accumulates in the wax comb and in turn radiates the heat back onto the bees. Smart :)

Conventional beekeepers have realized the fact that bees dislike empty space above their heads and have used this trick to fool bees into production rather than allowing the bees to reproduce via natural swarming. One can control swarming by placing empty super boxes onto the existing hive to fool the bees into thinking they aren't ready for swarming just yet.
If bees swarm there will be less bees in the hive to produce honey for the Honey Producer (I mean conventional beekeeper). Profit orientated mind simply cant let that happen hence creating such large cows, oops I mean bee colonies.

Control over nature is within human nature for a longtime now. Most of us seem to have it as a norm. There is no other way but to control it! Or is there another way?

Bees benefit if allowed to swarm every year in the late Spring or early Summer. That is their perfect time to reproduce via new daughter colonies. Once swarmed they have the whole summer to build up for the winter but no time to build surplus honey, at least not in huge amounts as mentioned above. This is the main reason Honey Producers (who call them selves conventional beekeepers) do not allow their bees to behave naturally but instead suppress swarming by supering their hives with empty boxes.

When bees swarm the colonies also go through a very important bio-rhythm called Brood Break. During brood breaks there are no new eggs and hence no new brood where their pest the Varroa mite can breed. Varroa needs bee brood to breed and without brood no new Varroa :) sweet!
But in conventional hives bees dont get a brood break. Instead they are forced to labor, to produce huge amounts of honey for the so called "beekeeper". The saddest is when conventional beekeepers are surprised when they loose colonies due Varroa mites even though they treat religiously their colonies with all sorts of anti-Varroa products.

Bees in conventional hives are the same as the cow in the picture above; they can't behave naturally and hence they are not in a healthy state.
Ok, so if bees don't make surplus honey we don't get any honey, is that right? you might ask :)
Well not really. All this honey stuff depends a lot on the season and how developed a bee colony is. For instance the Summer of 2012 was extremely rainy and bees could hardly get out of the hive to forage, also flowers do not produce much nectar if the weather is cold. Some Summers can be too hot with way too little rain. Without rain flowers can't make nectar. So the balance between the rain and Sunshine is crucial to the flower's nectar production.

New colony is not yet developed and needs to build lots of wax and increase number of bees. All this work need large amounts of Honey and Pollen. One can not expect much if any honey that year. Next year the bees have ready wax comb to just keep on filling with honey. No need for building many wax combs meaning more honey stored.

I like land-race cows :) actually all sorts of land-race animals. Such land-race cows, lets say from Sweden do not produce much milk but they sure can run and they sure can survive in the forest only eating what they find. Less milk for me but also less money spent on food for the cow and not to forget such cows are almost never sick :) so less money for the vet! Sweet!
Land-race cows created by nature
I also like naturally behaving honeybees. Such bees sure have more vigor than those controlled in conventional beekeeping.

If we let the bees show us their actual nature, to show us what they do when not restricted and controlled we just might realize that bees dont make large surplus of honey. But a naturally developed colony in a balanced season (not too rainy and not too dry) might reward us with 10 kg of honey. Now this is called an Honorable Harvest and not Honey Robbing :)
Conventional beekeepers take all the honey from their bees and then feed them with refined white sugar (sugar syrup). This sure must be the worst insult to the honey maker Honeybee!


  1. Thank you for his wonderful article. Sometimes I feel alone here in California promoting natural chemical free honeybee care. I am a new beekeeper following the organic practices for honeybee health as prescribed by author teacher and my mentor Les Crowder. Having connections with knowledgeable experienced apiarsts is helping me influence the way I care for bees and how I can help influence my neighbours and local government to not use chemicals or other unnatural practices.
    Thank you.

    1. You are welcome Susan :) Im glad you resonate well with my thoughts/heart.
      As you can see in one of my previous posts natural beekeeping is starting to be considered dangerous for the bees. I was to hold a 2 days course in Sweden and the local conventional beekeeping group sabotaged it saying that top bar beekeeping will spread disease and varroa into their hives. The organizers believed them and the course was canceled. Very sad indeed that ignorance fights back at the educational level :( but that is the way of conservative minds.

      I too felt very much alone in this but now I am changing the tactic. I will be organizing with a friend the first ever Bee Guardian Association of Denmark promoting bee friendly natural beekeeping practices in top bar hives.

      People react differently once you come up as an organization rather than just one "tree huger" :)

      Connect with others in your area and form groups. Only together can we make an actual change. The power of communities is not to be underestimated :)

      Thank you and keep on keeping on!

    2. I happen to feel the same way, Dusko. Most people in my bee club are into maximum honey production. That takes them down a different path than me. They will be spraying with fumigillin (is it allowed in your area?) for nosema, building up the brood for the early nectar flow, hanging miticides for varroa, and supering like crazy to see how much honey they can get. One of the bee club 'heavies' boasts that he works as hard as he can. If the queen slows down her egg laying, he will pinch her head off and replace her. It's the old idea that animals are meant to serve us. EXPLOITATION of animals on a grand scale.