All the hoopla surrounding the difference between a bee-“keeper” and a bee-“haver” is laid to rest by the proponents of biodynamic beekeeping. According to an article in the Green Guide, the aim of biodynamic beekeeping is “to minimize stress factors and allow bees to develop in accordance with their true nature.”
Proponents of biodynamic beekeeping, such as practical-crafts teacher Keith Gelber of Chico, insist that biodynamic beekeepers neither “have” nor “keep” bees but simply provide them with “a clean place to live.” Gelber likes to think of himself as a bee “steward.”
Gelber keeps bees in accordance with the Demeter International Bee Standards. This group maintains a strict set of rules that must be followed in order for honey to bear their seal of approval. All types of standards are spelled out including how bees are raised, how honey is processed, and what containers may be used . . . interesting reading if you have a few minutes.
A few points:
- Natural combs are used, rather than foundation.
- Swarming is recognized as the natural form of colony reproduction.
- Clipping of queen’s wings is prohibited.
- Regular and systematic queen replacement is prohibited.
- Pollen substitutes are prohibited.
- Beehives must be made of all natural materials, such as wood, straw, or clay.
- Artificial insemination is not used. Instead queens are allowed to fly free to mate.
- Grafting of larvae to produce queens is prohibited.
- No pesticides or antibiotics are allowed, although the use of natural organic acids such as formic and oxalic acid may be used for mite control.
- Honey may be transported in containers made of artificial materials but must be decanted into containers of glass or metal for retail sale.
Gelber takes surplus honey from the hive only in the spring after the bees use what they need—an idea that makes a lot of sense but requires a world of self-discipline. And since I am not fond of storing food in plastic, I found the bit about honey containers fascinating.
An eight-page .pdf of the “Demeter International Standards for Beekeeping and Hive Products” can be downloaded from the biodynamic.org.uk website. Even though I don’t agree with everything they advocate, the document is succinct and casts a different hue on the subject of natural beekeeping.