honey bee management

Do-nothing beekeeping will no longer work

Bees, like this honey bee, are both insects and animals. In fact, all insects are animals. David Cappaert.

Gone are the days when you could open your hives once a year to harvest honey. These days, we must actually do things to keep our bees alive.

I frequently hear this argument for the “do-nothing” form of beekeeping: “Bees did fine without us for millions of years.” Unfortunately, that is not logical. For starters, bees did manage just fine without us for millions of years, but now they have “us” and that’s the problem.

With “us” came pesticides, air pollution, contaminated water, habitat destruction, climate change, freeways, monocultures, lawnmowers, genetically modified organisms, introduced parasites and pathogens, and high-fructose corn syrup. Yet you expect honey bees to still do “just fine?” Come on.

The world continues to change

It is a known fact that feral honey bee hives have virtually disappeared from the North American continent, probably due to some or all of the above. These feral hives, in which beekeepers “do nothing,” cannot survive in the environment we provided for them. This world has no resemblance to the world in which they evolved and thrived. It is very sad, but not liking it doesn’t change anything.

Even the so-called natural beekeepers—those who use no man-made chemicals or artificial products—must do many things. They need to protect their bees from environmental hazards and keep the pathogens and parasites in check.

Their manipulations may include anything from breeding resistant queens, to using essential oils, to mechanical separation of mites, beetles, and moths. These people—some of our most creative beekeepers—go to extraordinary lengths to find ways to help the bees survive in our world. They do way more than “nothing.”

If you own bees, you must do something

Newbies who plan on do-nothing beekeeping should find a different hobby—one that doesn’t involve living things. If you have animals, you have a moral obligation to care for them—whether they are horses or ants makes no difference. Someone once said, “You can judge a society by the way it treats its animals.” Think about that the next time you open a hive.

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1 Comment

  • Thanks for this blogpost, Rusty.
    Unfortunately, lot of beekeepers do less than nothing, and act as ‘honey thieves’ without much respect for the bees.