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I like that it is online and easy to read. I find it interesting that the author says "Natural beekeepers tend to be small-scale and non-commercial." While this is true in the majority of the cases, I think there is a growing trend among commercial beeks to take a more natural approach. While I may not agree with many of the authors conclusions I always like reading about the many approaches to beekeeping. In my thoughts if you can walk away with just one good idea from a source then it is well worth the read. If you have time (it isn't long) take a read.

Thanks for posting it.
 

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Thanks, very nice..great for passing information on to people who may be interested in beekeeping too. I'll keep this link at close at hand.
 

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Very nice Phil, Thanks for the work you are doing. I certainly hope your nay sayers don't wake up too late. There will be no joy at all in saying I told you so.
 

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Phil so grateful you are out there. I keep bees largely thanks to your influence. I wish you all success.

cheers
Laura
 

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I'm on page 5 and I have not found much to disagree with.

One thing, though, the book says, "Experienced beekeepers will tell you that preventing swarming is very difficult and time-consuming and – as often as not - unsuccessful". As a commercial beekeeper, I never spent any time at all preventing swarming, and I can't say that my commercial friends do either, and none of us have had a problem with a great number of swarms.

...Okay, carrying on from there, and reading on, I am finding more statements which are to greater and lesser degrees debatable.

I realise that it is very hard to make general statements which are universally true, and to make black and white distinctions in an activity which is a continuum from the most exploitive to the most idealist and "pure", so I won't be too hard on the essay. If I have time and motivation, I will, however, take on some of the contentions point by point at some future date, and at the same time agree with and expand on others.

At present, though, I will say that there are many good points made that will resonate with even the most migratory of commercial beekeepers.

Many may find it interesting that quite a few commercial beekeepers as well as running their commercial bees keep some 'pet' colonies in various less managed ways, including a few colonies which may be more 'natural' than hives kept by many who fancy themselves to be 'natural'.

The divide is not always as wide as some might like to think, and I don't think it is particularly helpful to try to make it wider. Attempting to define a difference with language can sometimes do so and polarize issues inadvertently.
 

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Well, right off the bat, I have something for discussion.

In most discussions Ihave ever been involved in, the term 'natural beekeeping' is typically used to describe the 'how' bees are maintained or managed. the decisions made regarding hive style, what and how to provide food, etc...

Your document jumps right into natural beekeeping to answer 'why' one is a beekeeper or working with bees. the motivation for doing it as well.

I would say you are compounding the issues just a bit. Not that it is a major issue, but might still cause some difference of opinion.

You suggest 'natural beekeeping' is keeping bees for the bees sake. Specifically stating that honey production, etc... is secondary or further down the list.

I myself use the term to describe why I do it, or my motivation, as a 'conservation' beekeeper. To place the primary focus of beekeeping on the bees health and welfare.

As in, I keep bees to help build and sustain healthy colonies and to ensure that those bees will be able to continue to propagate the species.

To me, the way you word 'for the bees sake' is more of a laissez-faire hobbyist rationale. Not to say it is a bad or wrong reason, but that it is a specifically different reason or motivation than my 'conservation' beekeeping and likely other motivations.

Lumping the generalized 'for the sake of the bees' as 'natural beekeeping' in terms of motivation is stretching that a bit too far I would think.

One could have the motivation to simply have bees on their property, not seeking honey or wax or pollination, etc... and still use the 'non-natural' or 'artificial' or whatever you want to call the use of today's 'popular' management styles and methods.

My 'conservationist' motivation and your 'for the sake o the bees' motivation might both use similar or even identical management styles or methods and resources.

for that matter, there may be a honey producer out there or pollinator who wants to use 'natural beekeeping' methods, practices ,etc.. in the way they keep bees.

All of the above is to say that I think you pigeonhole 'natural beekeeping' a bit much to try to identify both motivation and methodology under one label.

Your point number three in your Principles of Natural Beekeeping" is something I have seen referred to and referred to myself as 'facilitated', meaning to let the bees determine their activities and behaviors and by observation we do that which allows them, encourages them, enables them, to continue doing that. As opposed to 'dictated' which is the practice of using methods and practices that generally make those decisions and determinations for the bees.


but, that's just my opinion.

Big Bear
 

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Good - something to chew on ;)

I think the key distinction here is actually in the word 'beekeeping' rather than the word 'natural': if we call ourselves 'beekeepers', I think that brings with it certain responsibilities, to do with some sort of 'management' - or at least some kind of 'input' - as distinct from just non-interventionist conservation.

So simply providing bees with a hollow log hoisted into a tree (or some other kind of conservation-only, un-managed hive) cannot, I suggest, be labeled as 'beekeeping' - natural or otherwise. It is the same as putting up nest boxes for birds or bats: you provide them with a home, but you don't interfere with them.

So IMO 'natural beekeeping' only applies when bees are hived with the intention of 'managing' or in some way manipulating them, whether one's motivation is an end product such as honey, or for the purpose of raising queens or creating nucs, or something else beyond just leaving them to do their thing.
 

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In contrast, I personally refer to myself as a 'bee technician" becasue as a technician, one is maintaining and carrying out tasks that support the situation. ie.. as a computer network technician, I do those tasks that maintain network and server uptime and intended operation.

Same for bees, as a bee technician, I do those tasks as needed to facilitate the bees healthy development.

Big Bear
 

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Discussion Starter #13
One thing, though, the book says, "Experienced beekeepers will tell you that preventing swarming is very difficult and time-consuming and – as often as not - unsuccessful". As a commercial beekeeper, I never spent any time at all preventing swarming, and I can't say that my commercial friends do either, and none of us have had a problem with a great number of swarms.
Thanks for your comments, Allen.

What I was getting at there is the time spent going through hives to cut out queen cells, only to have bees build more. I don't know about your management practices, but I did a lot of that during my year of commercial beekeeping. There was also a lot of box-swapping and other manipulations supposedly to prevent swarming, none of which seemed to work very well, but they took a lot of time and energy and caused much disturbance to the bees.

The divide is not always as wide as some might like to think, and I don't think it is particularly helpful to try to make it wider. Attempting to define a difference with language can sometimes do so and polarize issues inadvertently.
For sure. I often find myself having a 'polarity response' to situations I find shocking, unpleasant or distasteful, and undoubtedly this comes out in my writing - I would be disappointed if it didn't! While that may not always be the ideal way to arrange things, it does attract attention to the issue and forces people to think about what they are doing, which is my intention.
 

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> There was also a lot of box-swapping and other manipulations supposedly to prevent swarming, none of which seemed to work very well, but they took a lot of time and energy and caused much disturbance to the bees.

I don't know what commercial outfit that would be. I know that some smaller operators and some specialized operations may do that, but I really do not know anyone who does anything except keep young queens in the hives and super higher and earlier than some might think necessary.

As for terminology, a lot of what is being discussed could probably be better described as "primitive" beekeeping. That is not a pejorative IMO, but an accurate description of beekeeping which uses low inputs and sustainable materials (as much as I hate that scatter gun word, "sustainable").
 

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Phil, I am a middle child, hate conflict of all kinds, even heated discussion (though I enjoy reading the back and forth of others). Or maybe I have been in academia too long. Plus, this time of year I don't have time to argue. Next December we can duke it out. :) Lucky for you there are plenty of others to throw down the gauntlet.

cheers
Laura
 

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You go to great lengths to discuss natural clean materials (not necessarily those words but implied none the least) but there is no mention of glues? Why go to great length to preserve materials and then glue them together (reference your free hive building book) seems like a conflict of whats said and whats actually done.

You also point out less intrusion and more control left to the bees but it is widely known through nothing more than common sense 2 follower boards creat more intrusion than necessary and that in itself is managing the hive environment for them, another conflict.

I am on the third page now.
 

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I have made 5 hives with Phil’s plans. I used glue and screws and will stick to my belief that these hives are quite natural indeed. I would also like to point out that I think followers are a marvelous way to help the bees manage an area in keeping with their resources as opposed to trying to start them in a space the size of an arc. Rather you build Phil’s hive or Gary’s hive or Michael’s hive there are many personal decisions you can make; such as entrance size, shape, and location. You can build the hive with legs or not. You can change the length, width, or depth. The cover is entirely up to you. And you can certainly decide for yourself if you would like to use a follower or two in any of those hives. For you natural beeks out there; no one has the right to tell you what to do to be considered natural. If you’re doing the best you can that is good enough for me. Really, arguing about followers is time better spent arguing about all the toxic chemicals that are saturating our environment….now that is not natural!
 
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