What can WE do?Beginners
- Fall in Love
Beekeeping, especially ecological beekeeping, cannot be learned from the books, but first and foremost, from the bees. If you are planning on becoming a beekeeper, don’t haste. Find a good mentor and hang out with him/her and the bees as much as possible. Observe them, listen to them and… fall in love with them.
- Find a good location
When you feel like you have spent enough time to understand the behaviour of the bees, their social life and how to deal with the obstacles (diseases, pests, agricultural spraying in the area etc.), you can move on to become a beekeeper. Before you get a colony or a hive, make sure that you find a good location for the bees. A good location would be protected from the wind, direct sun, predators, and would be in close proximity to nectar sources and away from agricultural/industrial pollution.
You also need to make sure to understand the zoning rules of your district for beekeeping. Keeping colonies in populated areas can be forbidden or could cause potential problems.
- Catching a Swarm or Buying a Colony?
There is not one right answer to this. You can always put a hive and wait for a swarming colony to pick it as their next home. Swarming is accepted and even encouraged by some ecological beekeepers who say that it’s the natural instinct of the bees. However, catching a swarm takes some of the control from the beekeeper – the age of the queen, the type of the colony, health of the bees are unknown. Therefore, some ecological beekeepers may choose to buy the colony. If you should choose to buy a colony, you should do so from a trusted source and choose the right species for your location. You can read more here
- Choosing a Hive
Modern or traditional? Wooden or straw? Or maybe one of each?
- Don’t be a Helicopter Beekeeper
Just like helicopter parents, there are helicopter beekeepers who practice extreme intervention on their hives. Intervention leads to more intervention. If you have a strong colony, they will be naturally resistant to pests and diseases which reduces the need for intervention. Keep your colony strong and happy. They know how to protect themselves.
- Fight Pests and Diseases Naturally
Excessive and preventative intervention can render your colony weak. First understand pests and diseases well so you can find the best way to fight them. Read here for detailed description of bee diseases and ecological ways to fight them.
- Learn To Share
Would you be healthy if you ate fast food and drank soda every day? No. So how can we expect bees to feed on sugar and processed food instead of honey, and be healthy? We can’t.
The recommended approach in ecological beekeeping is to leave enough honey for the colony to winter and take out the rest of the honey for selling and consumption. If that is not financially viable, at least find a medium.
Ps: This is not the case for pine honey, as bees can’t digest pine honey very well and become vulnerable to nosema. If you are in a pine honey area, and pine is the last harvest of your colony, you may want to take out all of the pine honey and replace it with another alternative food source.
- Explore Bee Products Other Than Honey
There are many bee products other than honey and the market is growing fast. Explore them and see if they are viable for your bees and location
- Share and Spread Ecological Beekeeping Knowledge
Make friendly connections and share the ecological knowledge and practices with conventional beekeepers.
- Connect with Neighbouring Farmers and Talk to Them About Organic Farming
Agricultural chemicals are one the worst enemies of bees. Talk to your neighbouring farmers and find out how they are fighting with pests. If they are using agricultural chemicals, try talking to them about ecological alternatives and benefits of organic farming. If they do not agree to switch (which typically takes a while), kindly ask them to notify you before they spray so you can take precautions (such as temporarily moving your hives or keeping them in the hive during the spray).
- Start Small
Starting small and learning from your mistakes is a great idea in beekeeping – as it is in almost everything else in life. Expand organically if you can, that is instead of buying new queens and colonies from outside, keep a healthy colony which will grow in numbers.
Live and Let Bee 2017. All rights reserved.