Jak obnovit rovnováhu ve včelařství?
Včely medonosné nejsou domestikované stejně jako krávy, prasata nebo ovce. Navzdory mnoha pokusům vyšlechtit je pro naše potřeby se v podstatě od člověka nezměnily. Jejich jedinečné chování při páření a reprodukční cyklus zajišťují, že rozmanitost a přizpůsobivost zůstanou dominantními tématy jejich evoluce.
My view is that our primary job as beekeepers, bee guardians or beeherders, is to observe and understand our bees to their fullest. Although we cannot enter their world fully, we can gain a better understanding of it. Once we understand how deeply they are embedded in the natural world and the sensitive indicators they have of disturbances in it, we may be unable to imagine a functioning planet without them.
Types of Beekeeping
Before you jump into beekeeping, I urge you to take a deep breathe and think about what you are most interested in. This will help you decide how to proceed. A few hours of careful thought at this stage can save you weeks, months, and even years of trouble, time, money, and effort.
This is an intensive, production-oriented management of honeybees to maximize honey yield and migratory pollination. This involves routine sugar feeding and prophylactic medication, including antibiotics or miticides. Artificial insemination is used to raise queens and they are replaced often.
Drones are suppressed and swarming prevented by excision of queen cells and splitting colonies. This involves the movement of hives over long distances. Although this business is run for profit, there will be bad years as well. Sideline beekeeping is a part-time, smaller-scale version of honey farming. While the main goal is profit, your livelihood may not be entirely dependent on it.
Association beekeeping is a smaller version of commercial or sideline honeykeeping. It is taught and promoted by most beekeepers’ associations. The intention is to produce the most honey possible, but with fewer hives. This is not necessarily for financial gain. The queens are often marked and cut, and the methods used in all other respects mirror those of the honey farmer.
The emphasis is on bee health and facilitating natural behaviours of bees. This creates conditions where bees can find their own solutions. Only take honey and other bee products when it is available and appropriate. While mite treatment or medication may be used by beekeepers, it is not mandatory. However, they use natural, non-toxic substances that support bee health, and not specific disorders. Splits are not required and queens can be open-mated. Swarming can or may not also be managed.
Similar to ‘balanced’ beekeeping, but with the emphasis on a ‘do nothing’ approach. There is little or no management and queen-rearing or splits are rarely done beyond what the bees do. Routine inspections are discouraged. Hives are rarely opened. Honey is rarely taken. Other hive products are barely ever taken.
Bees are kept for their own good; no honey is taken, and there are no treatments, inspections or feedings. The bees are free to do what they want and can take advantage of the weather and forage. A conservation-style plan may include bee-friendly plants, which could also include other pollinator species.
A continuous spectrum
While I have shown these as distinct categories, they should really be thought of as segments of a continuous spectrum, from most to least invasive and from most to least ‘production-focused’. It is possible, at least theoretically, for honey producers to operate apiaries according to ‘Darwinian” lines. This means that they do not need any medication and rely on survivors stock. Thus, the circle is closed. You might notice that I haven’t mentioned any particular types in the above list. Although certain designs are better suited for certain applications, it is possible for a ‘balanced’ beekeeper to use a conventional frame hive.
In France, honey farmers use Warre hives, which are a vertical version of the top-bar hive that was specifically designed for honey production. It is also possible to be an invasive beekeeper in top bar hives. Therefore, I don’t believe it is necessary to categorize beekeepers solely by their hives’ shapes or personality traits. It is their attitude and intent toward their bees.
In 2009, the term “natural beekeeping” was discussed for the first time by a group of interested people at the Monmouth offices of Bees for Development. We were trying to find a common term to describe what we were all trying to do, in slightly different ways. Also, to distinguish ourselves from the more conventional methods taught in the UK. We recognized the paradox inherent in the term, but we felt it encouraged discussion and brought attention to the distinctions that we wanted to make.
Since that meeting, there has been a constant discussion about what “natural beekeeping” actually means. Given that beekeeping is not entirely natural, we have discussed how natural we should be and what is wrong with conventional methods. This conversation has led to further distinctions. It has become apparent to me that some “natural” beekeepers have fallen, at least tentatively, on the ‘no intervention’ side of beekeeping. They prefer to observe bees and keep them inside containers that are not meant to be opened very often. Others want to maintain some degree of swarm control, inspection compliance, and allow for the possibility of taking out some honey if necessary.
A Book of Rules?
The ‘natural’ beekeeping movement seems to have moved towards the conservation’ side of the spectrum, creating a gap between it and the ‘amateur’ beekeeping promoted by traditional beekeeping associations. This is where ‘balanced’ beekeeping happily sits. Balanced beekeeping allows for the use a wide variety of equipment and methods while preferring the ‘natural” over the ‘conventional. This is for people who want more than just to observe bees. They want to be bee “keepers” rather than just bee “havers”. They want to have a closer relationship with their bees.
However, they understand that this should be done carefully and not too often. They want healthy bees and don’t need to resort to medication. However, they are willing for the inspector to visit their hives to check for any signs of disease. If a hive becomes disruptive or has a bad temper, they will be willing to replace the queen or move it to another location. They can remove combs that have become blackened by age and propolis. They can also fix honey-bound hives. The point of balance is somewhere in between being too busy and not doing enough; being too controlled and letting nature do its thing; being a bee farmer and bee-watcher.
There is no need for a “book of rules” – everyone can determine the right balance for them. Balanced beekeeping means that you respect the natural instincts and habits of your bees, leave enough honey for winter, and arrange things so that they are as stress-free as possible. You also have to be willing and able intervene if the bees are having a problem.
The more honey-focused approaches require more time to observe the bees. Some operations may need to performed more frequently. For example, honey harvesting is likely to be done in smaller quantities over a longer period of time than the traditional smash-and-grab raid that honey farmers and most amateurs use. We don’t aim to extract every drop of honey from a beehive. We understand that bees need to eat their own honey, especially in winter, and sugar syrup should only be given to bees when they are starving due to prolonged bad weather or other reasons.
Bee Farmer or Bee Watcher
Our natural allies include smallholders, gardeners, and those who understand and apply the principles and principles of permaculture. We need to understand how our bees interact with each other and with the environment. This holistic approach is essential for a mutually beneficial and sustainable relationship.
Too many times we have stuck to an unbalanced, old-fashioned and reductionist approach to bees. We treat them as machines that we have created for our benefit instead of as wild, highly-evolved creatures with whom we are privileged. I believe honeybeekeeping should be small-scale and local. It should also be done with respect for bees and an appreciation for their vital role in agriculture and the natural world. I don’t approve of commercial beekeeping on a large scale because it leads to a monopoly-style approach to beekeeping. Honey should be considered a medicine and not a food. It is not normal to expect to see honey jars from all over the globe on supermarket shelves.
Honey should be appreciated as the result of many bee-miles, and the assimilation priceless nectar from myriad flower species. Balance is the ability to ensure that beekeepers have no negative impact on other species. Honeybees evolved to live in colonies that are distributed throughout the land according to food and shelter availability. Concentrations of parasites and diseases will result if more than one colony is forced to share the same territory. Unnaturally high honeybee numbers can also endanger the forage and therefore the existence of other important pollinating insect species, such as mason bees, bumblebees and many others that benefit wild and cultivated plants. This means that we don’t over-stock any area and we create habitats for other species. This could be in the form of ‘beehotels’ or piles of old wood or leaves.
Any effort to improve the environment of honeybees is also beneficial for other pollinators. Understanding the interconnectedness and importance of all living things and a deep appreciation for their impact leads us to conclude that we share a responsibility with everything that walks, crawls, or slithers on the ground or under it, as well as anything that flies in or swims in the ocean. We have a special responsibility as beekeepers to be ‘earth-keepers.