"Depopulating" bees
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  1. #1
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    Default "Depopulating" bees

    Hello! I recently attended a beekeeping workshop and the facilitator (an beek who uses mostly organic methods), explained that one way he avoid using harmful chemicals and keeps his bees from getting terrible diseases is by killing them all each year (and, certainly, without the need to leave wintering bees with honey, he's able to process and sell that much more).

    I'm interested in hearing what folks' thoughts are on this subject. Moreover, I'm interested in learning about your personal beekeeping ethical guidelines (okay to depopulate? fine to medicate them? do no harm? et al.).

    Thanks for your time!

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  3. #2
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    He sounds like an idiot to me.
    Dulcius ex asperis

  4. #3
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    There are some Canadian beekeepers who routinely kill all of their bees to avoid having to overwinter them. It sounds expensive to me and not very kind.
    Banjos and bees... how sweet it is!

  5. #4
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    Default

    BeeGee, I had read that also, about some of the Canadian Beekeepers killing their bees. I understand harsh conditions, but heck, move them to the south or give them away to someone who would move them to the south. I would try anything to ensure their survival, like most of us here on this forum...
    Last edited by Jeffzhear; 03-22-2007 at 05:42 PM. Reason: responded to the wrong person, sorry

  6. #5
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    I think it's horrible. It's like slaughtering your slaves when they are no longer productive. To me, beekeeping is more of a partnership with the bees.
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

  7. #6
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    From a business perspective, it makes sense...
    Chemical free honey for top dollar, an extra 100lbs of [email protected]$3/lb = $300, a package cost $60 right now. Less swarming problems. Although I'd imagine that there is some loss of honey production, I don't know.

    What you lose is the life of the bees, the excitement of the spring and seeing the first pollen, the self-sufficiency, the love of the life of the bees, etc etc.

    A wellknown beek here in MI does that, and I think it is pretty common. But for most of us here, we do this for the love of the bees, not the almighty dollar. We see them as more than just bugs. Most people don't.

    It is the oldest way of beekeeping. And we do have to do the same thing for our steaks, chicken wings, etc.

    Most forum users will only dare ask the question once.....

    Rick
    Last edited by ScadsOBees; 03-22-2007 at 11:53 AM.

  8. #7
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    Default

    Depends on if you think of them as pets, part of the ecosystem, or livestock. When the hen quits laying she goes in the fry pan, though I'm not about to eat the dog (though I have eaten dog while living in Asia).

  9. #8
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    Thumbs down

    "keeps his bees from getting terrible diseases is by killing them all each year"

    I know there is more to it that this, but this statement struck me as, well, really silly.



    Keith
    Bee Sting Honey - So Good, It Hurts!

  10. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobie View Post
    I think it's horrible. It's like slaughtering your slaves when they are no longer productive. To me, beekeeping is more of a partnership with the bees.
    So when you sell bees in NUCs... I guess you are then selling your slaves....

    Don't sound very nice to me at all. ...........I mean with that partnership and all.... Aren't you kinda selling out your end of the bargain?

  11. #10
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    What I meant was, it seems like it is treating the bees like they have no purpose other than to make honey for humans. If you don't treat your bees like slaves, then you have no slaves to sell.
    “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” -Henry David Thoreau

  12. #11
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    Default silly indeed

    "Keep bees from terrible disease by killing them" -- yeah, I agree. I felt it was less an argument on the side of compassion and more about getting the most honey for your buck.

    In studying to keep bees, I read about medieval keeps who would kill the bees each year and was pleased modern beekeeping didn't resort to such things. The more I learn about modern beekeeping though, the more I learn about curious and unkind keeping practices.

    I understand many vegans and PETA aren't fans of beekeeping b/c of potentially cruel practices like depopulating. While neither a vegan nor a PETA member, the issue reminded me that organic keeping (neither using harsh chemicals nor antibiotics) is one thing and "cruelty free" keeping yet another step.

  13. #12
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    In the days of keeping bees in skeps, it was indeed common practice to kill off some of the colonies before winter over a sulphur pit. I doubt that anyone does that anymore - certainly not the only skeppists I know of in Germany - and nobody would kill off all their bees if they then had to rely on swarm collection to replace stocks.

    I saw a video presentation a year or two ago by our local bee inspector, who trained in Canada and showed us how they used to kill off colonies by the thousand with cyanide gas (I think) because it was not economically viable to overwinter them in the harsh Canadian climate. Unfortunately, that's the sort of thing that happens when you try to turn a wild creature into a business plan.
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  14. #13
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    Wink Killing Bees

    You have to remember Canada is a semi socialist country. The government probobly pays for their new bees. Hmm - make note to call local Ag rep. maybe they can find a way to pay for my bees? Or better yet pay me to not do bees.

    PS - its a joke folks
    Steven Lechner<br />[email protected]<br />303.657.5360

  15. #14
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    >There are some Canadian beekeepers who routinely kill all of their bees<

    Hasn't happened for a couple of decades. During the 1970's many felt there was an economic advantage to repopulate apiaries with cheap packages from the US. Mites and the border closure in 1987 changed all that. At the current price of packages in Canada ($125) no beekeeper could stay in business.

    As far as moving south for winter, border restrictions don't permit this. Many in Canada don't mind having a time lag for having to deal with diseases if they have appeared in the US first (as most have). Selfish or not, it gives us time to study US management practices (for better or worse)>

  16. #15
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    Default Organic, antibiotic and cruelty free

    I feel lik there's a wide spectrum of beekeepers and many different and equally valid reasons for having bees. As my partner reminds me, our society has come to expect certain things of bees (pollinating on a large scale and lots of available honey) and, unfortunately, certain lamentable practices are used to keep up with those expectations (like chemical & antibiotic use and perhaps depopulation). I do believe that depopulating is less an argument on the side of compassion and more on the side of increased income from honey sales. But, I have to also say that as a honey consumer, I'll want to know if a beekeeper depopulates. If so, I'll be more inclined to buy from someone local who uses organic methods, doesn't employ antibiotics and doesn't depopulate annually.

  17. #16
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    "I understand many vegans and PETA aren't fans of beekeeping b/c of potentially cruel practices like depopulating"

    Actually they think it is slavery. The depopulation isn't what bugs them, it is merely their proximity to mankind, and the fact that we "use" them for our own selfish ends.

    Keith
    Last edited by Keith Benson; 03-23-2007 at 08:17 AM. Reason: spelling
    Bee Sting Honey - So Good, It Hurts!

  18. #17
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    >Actually they think it is slavery.

    Thanks for making that clear Keith, I was about to point that out myself

    I suppose I should clariify my stance on this matter and substantiate my first post to this thread now that I'm home from work and have more time. What I initially said was "He sounds like an idiot to me." What I really meant to say was "He sounds like an idiot to me."

    What did it for me was the remark about how they avoided using harmful chemicals and keeping the bees from getting "terrible diseases" by killing them all each year. Oh Pulleez. Give me a break!

    I'm well aware of the practice of "depopulating" hives. Smart beekeepers take their losses in the fall. That is not depopulating your hives, that's beekeeping. Many commercial beekeepers routinely clean out some percentage of their hives in the fall, the weaker ones, in order to have equipment to make splits into. That is not really depopulating your hives either, that's commercial beekeeping. Killing perfectly good bees to save them the anguish and hardship of having to spend 6 months cooped up in a box? Eh? That's not beekeeping. Maybe this guy kills his bees off each fall because he hasn't figured out how to winter them successfully? Maybe he does it because he's lazy?

    If he came right out and said "Hey, I kill my bees in the fall, harvest all the honey, and start over in spring with packages because for me, it's easier than trying to over-winter them", well I'd still think he was an idiot but at least an *honest* idiot.

    I also react strongly and negatively to the use of the term "depopulate". The use of that term is an attempt to obfuscate the real meaning of your actions. You're killing bees. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don't feed people a line of crap about using "mostly organic methods" and "avoiding harmful chemicals". I find it insulting.
    Dulcius ex asperis

  19. #18
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    Such practices are not unique to beekeeping. During the avian influenze epidemic of the 90's, large Pennsylvanian chicken houses were depopulated due to concerns over public health and spread of the disease. In the past, skeppists killed small colonies in the fall (unable to overwinter well) as well as the very large ones (more honey to harvest).
    I do not keep bees for any financial gain or agricultural purpose. I do believe that combining weak, sickly hives with strong ones is a poor practice in the autumn. Because most disease is in the comb or brood, I do not think that it is necessary to kill the bees, just to evict them from their home. Combining multiple weak hives together might be another approach.
    I have a soft spot for my bees, and would probably keep them for no reason other than the joy of beekeeping. Still, I think that it is unreasonable and potentially harmful to anthropomorphise a colony of invertabrates.

  20. #19
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    So, which part of the term "Keeping Bees" might have been unclear
    to this presumptuous poser?

    I'd like to hear a name and an affiliation, as there is no reason to
    "depopulate" anywhere, now that even the Albertans have figured
    out the right combination of hive wrap and insulation required to
    let them overwinter bees in Northern Alberta.

  21. #20
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    Default not just semantic quibbling

    I totally agree, George. "Depopulating" is a terrible euphemism. I understand natural losses occur each year (absolutely necessary to the life of the super organism that is the colony, right?).
    Last edited by unJeff; 03-23-2007 at 12:11 AM.

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