Monday, 16 March 2009

Spring and the Natural way

Outside my front door the cherry tree is in blossom - spring has sprung at last. Yesterday and today, London bathed in glorious sunshine. I spent some time in the garden just sitting and taking things in. I watched two honey bees buzzing around, flying from plant to plant and wondered whose bees were they? Our resident bumble bee was also out and about.

With the beekeeping hardware taken care of I am starting to concentrate a bit more on other aspects of beekeeping: hive management. This, of course, is the important bit. As with all hobbies there are different approaches to hive management - different schools of thought. These can be broadly classified as 'Traditional' and 'Natural'. 

Traditionalists, by definition, manage their hives very much as it has always been done. They focus much more on honey production. Honey is the raison d'etre of healthy bees. The Naturalists, on the other hand, take a more holistic, even empathic, approach: bees first, honey second.  As bees face the crisis of population decline these different approaches matter a great deal. 

The Naturalists are arguing for a more empathic way of beekeeping: caring, rather than managing the bees in order that they are better equipped in dealing with diseases. Natural beekeepers oppose the use of chemicals in the management of hives. "Listen to the bees" is the key issue here. From what I have read so far the natural beekeepers' arguments are persuasive, and to my mind has certain environmental logic. "The jury is still out", as one natural beekeeper said, but what we know is that modern beekeeping methods may be causing some of the problems we are facing, so we must look for better ways to do things in order to arrest the decline of bees.


  1. There is a daunting amount of info on beekeeping these days. I'm very much a "Naturalist" and so far that approach is working very well for me. If you didn't see my comment on Linda's Bees, you might enjoy reading Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad. I'll look forward to following your London bees.

  2. Hi Lynn

    Thanks for the comment. Yes I have heard about the book (from your blog) and am trying to get a copy. It seems that there is a bit of problem getting hold of a copy in the UK.