Beekeeping myths, half-truths, and rumors
I found the following quote in a newspaper article this morning. It was attributed to the president of a large beekeeping club in the southern U.S.—someone who ought to know better.
Backyard beekeepers are offering a glimmer of hope for bee populations because every swarm that outgrows the hive and leaves to start a feral colony in the wild increases the health and survival of all bees.
I find not a glimmer of truth in this statement. Not only do swarms from managed hives hardly ever survive for more than a year or two, they are the very thing that contributed to the downfall of feral populations in the first place.
Bees escaping from managed stock took their parasites and diseases with them and ended up decimating feral colonies all across the continent. In addition, there is evidence that diseased bees are spreading their ailments to certain species of wild bees as well. In truth, escaping stock does just the opposite of increasing the “health and survival of all bees.”
I often skim the headlines for bee news and not a day goes by when I don’t find false or misleading statements about honey bees and beekeeping. With all the interest, with all the investigation, with all the money being poured into bee research, you would think there would be more “common knowledge” than there is.
Sadly, these erroneous statements often come from trusted sources. The beekeeping president quoted above is probably a really nice guy who knows how to run a meeting and get the dues collected. He’s probably an experienced beekeeper too. But honestly, his statement (assuming it was accurately reported) makes me wonder how much he knows about any aspect of beekeeping.
The statement reminded me of a beekeeper who taught a class of newbees to keep their syrup feeders full at all times, even with honey supers in place. Her heart was in the right place I’m sure, but she truly believed her bees stored nectar, ate sugar syrup, and never confused the two. She fed syrup all summer long and harvested it in the fall . . . while mentoring others to do the same. So sad.
But what’s a beginner to do? When all the really good information is hopelessly entangled with myths, half-truths, and unfounded rumors, how is a newbee supposed to figure it out? Truth is, I don’t have an answer; I’m just obsessing at the keyboard. Perhaps if I didn’t read the papers, I wouldn’t get so upset.