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.