What Part Of The Flower Do Bees Get Nectar From The Future of Natural Beekeeping

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The Future of Natural Beekeeping

What is ‘natural beekeeping’?

The question should rather be ‘is beekeeping natural?’ and the answer must be that in nature only bees keep bees.

As humans, our interest in them was primarily selfish: we saw them as a source of a uniquely delicious, sweet substance and paid little attention to their ubiquitous presence in the natural world, where they went about their business of growing flowers, largely unnoticed.

Cultivation? In the same way that horticulturists choose plant varieties to grow, bees and other pollinators have over millions of years chosen the plants that provide them with food in the form of pollen and nectar, and thus have greatly influenced the colors and patterns of our landscapes, as well as the smells and tastes of plants and fruits. the hedges we took and further developed into the food we eat.

In this sense, bees can truly be considered farmers. They have been carefully and skillfully selecting plants from available mutations and crosses for over 100 million years, while we may have been breeding for only 10,000 or so. Whether they did their work ‘consciously’ or whether it simply happened as a side effect of their foraging activities is an open question that we may never have a satisfactory answer to. Such is the case with many of the most innocuous questions about bees.

In terms of practical understanding of nature, compared to bees we are but infants. Before we came along, they had flowers to themselves – more or less dinosaurs – and they did a magnificent job of helping to create a universal, wildly diverse biodiversity: never allowing one species to dominate and always ensuring that it would exist, to countries in which they considered pleasant to live in, something in bloom that would provide them with sustenance at every possible moment.

In colder regions, bees learned to live indoors, where they could control temperature and humidity and protect their young from airborne diseases with the help of resinous substances produced by trees. They learned that by growing certain plants, they can collect sufficient amounts of nectar in the warm season so that they can store it in a concentrated form in closed containers, where it would not spoil and thus provide them with food that will last until the air. it became warm again and new flowers appeared.

They realized that nectar is a watery substance and therefore the containers for it must be watertight, so they learned to make beeswax – the most resistant substance in the entire natural world – from glands in their own bodies. They realized the energy cost of wax production, so they devised a cell building system that used it in the most efficient way possible, so it became a pantry, a nursery, and a thermal reservoir all in one.

They learned about the evaporation and condensation of water inside the hive, learned to turn their living space into an efficient condenser to improve the recycling of water and heat contained in the steam.

Honey bees have learned to defend themselves against predators by working together, the same way they work together to bring in food and nurse their young. They learned that the key to success in their world is cooperation and coordination with the seasons. They had no need to claim territory for themselves at the expense of other species and therefore had no need to waste energy on aggression: there was enough for everyone.

Their cousins, the bumblebees, could fly in cooler temperatures because of their bulkier bodies and thicker fur, and could use their longer antennae to reach nectar in certain flowers that bees left alone. Other species adapted to a certain range of flowers that were in season just as they decided to become active, while some became carnivorous, so within the order Hymenoptera bees, ants and wasps separated and adapted, each to their own ecological niche.

Bees have focused on their numerical advantage and unique ability to reach the surrounding landscape, concentrating and processing its products within the space of their carefully placed nest. This made them more attractive to cute predators, so they chose homes in hollow trees, far from the ground, guarding their entrance with small and well-protected guards, who were about to switch from domestic duties to foraging.

When the humans finally appeared, they were just another minor nuisance, though they soon came armed with smoke and fire for their reward. Millions of years ago, bees learned that smoke is often a harbinger of doom and that the only real defense is to fill up with honey and evacuate their home. People mistook this behavior for passivity and thus began to smoke the bees before robbing them.

For tens of thousands of years, human interference in the lives of bees was limited to stealing honey from them once or twice a year. Most of the colonies escaped such attention, because they were inaccessible to these naked monkeys, who were not as clever at climbing trees as their hairy ancestors.

Early attempts to keep bees close at hand to make them easier to rob involved placing containers similar to sections of hollow wood, more or less at ground level and making them attractive to passing swarms. Variations on this theme were used in many cultures, according to locally available materials: straw skeps were used in places where cereal agriculture was developed; reeds in swamps; clay pots and pipes where there was plenty of sun and little rainfall; logs and cork bark where such things grew freely, and volcanic rocks were hollowed out in more geologically unstable areas. The bees were left to manage their own affairs until some of their stores were profitably looted.

It wasn’t until the advent of mobile frame beehives and the subsequent invention of the motor vehicle, followed by the introduction of toxic chemicals into what was until then what we would now call a fully ‘organic’ agricultural system, that created real bee problems with humans.

The beehive with movable frames, which was introduced by Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth in the USA, was the first really successful attempt to keep honey separate from the brood, so that honey can be harvested in bulk without fear of ‘corruption’ by eggs and developing larvae. This marked the beginning of a new relationship between man and bees: the relationship of master and servant.

Langstroth’s beehive, which, in keeping with the Victorian zeitgeist, he saw as the fulfillment of ‘God’s purpose’ in giving man dominion over nature, became the model upon which almost every subsequent beehive design created with the intention of giving the beekeeper the maximum yield of honey was based. Commercial beekeeping was thus born in 1852, and matured with the introduction of self-propelled trucks thirty or forty years later. By the early 20th century, it became possible to transport hives in large numbers quickly to where crops were flourishing, allowing beekeepers (as they became known) to offer a mobile pollination service as well as take advantage of large harvests. from honey.

Throughout the twentieth century, the scope of operations became significantly larger. In the US, beekeepers controlling thousands – even tens of thousands – of hives became common, and the methods of the commercial honey producer were taught and imitated by domestic beekeepers, who had no reason to question the methods of ‘experienced’ people. So to this day we see beginners being taught to check their hives every week for queens and to cut them out to prevent swarming; to color mark the queens and clip their wings and perform a number of other ‘management’ operations to exercise their ‘God given’ right to control the lives of these wild insects.

Meanwhile, a German conglomerate called IGFarben branched out from its core paint industry into agricultural chemicals, derived from the development of chemical warfare products during World War I, and began making huge profits selling insecticides and fertilizers. “Fast” industrial agriculture was born, and it was quickly followed by industrial beekeeping.

However, with the increase in scale came a corresponding increase in disease. From a minor nuisance in the nineteenth century, the vile brood has become a serious threat, destroying vast numbers of colonies and resisting eradication. In Britain, during the Second World War, Winston Churchill – himself a beekeeper – appointed the first inspectors of rotten brood, in an effort to bring the epidemic under control with the simple strategy of destroying affected colonies, on the sound principle of removing susceptibility to disease. from the breeding stock will tend to strengthen the survivors. The success of this approach is demonstrated by the relative rarity of AFB outbreaks in Britain some 70 years later.

Another dreaded disease – the unrelated and slightly less virulent European blight (EFB) – has proved easier to deal with and has actually become somewhat more common in recent years.

Other diseases, such as Nosema apis and the more recent Nosema cerana are endemic, and the now almost ubiquitous parasitic mite Varroa destructor, with its selection of vector viruses, has taken a heavy toll on honey bee populations over the past half century, despite the onslaught of ‘cures’ that most likely exacerbated the problems.

The tendency of the conventional beekeeping fraternity is to throw more chemicals at the problem, hoping that one day a ‘magic bullet’ will be found that will solve all their problems. In my opinion, this is exactly the opposite of what needs to be done, because – as Einstein himself pointed out – we will never solve such problems using the mindset that created them. If, when Varroa was first discovered in Britain in 1992, we had done nothing but stopped all bee imports, banned all drugs and allowed the bees to find their own way to cope with the challenge, we would have lost a large number of colonies – perhaps 90% or more – but by now, 20 years later, we would almost certainly have a growing population of locally adapted mite-resistant bees. Instead, we were convinced that we should put pyrethroid-based miticides in our hives to kill the foreign invaders. Within a few years – probably exacerbated by the simultaneous use of pyrethroids on much of Britain’s farmland – Varroa had become immune to such treatment and we realized that, far from solving the problem, we had made the problem worse by selecting for pyrethroid-resistant mites and the drug dealers were well earned on the exercise.

It seems clear to me that as we continue to support our toxic food production system for the benefit of the agri-chemical-biotech industry, we will simply be repeating the same ill-conceived, destructive cycles until we succeed in causing irreparable damage to our soil, our food supply, and our planet. Given humans’ apparent resistance to learning long-term lessons, I am not optimistic about the future of the fearless but vulnerable Apis mellifera or that misnamed biped mired in superstition, greed, and self-interest: Homo sapiens.

‘Natural beekeepers’, by themselves, cannot hope to solve the larger problem of a dysfunctional agricultural system, but we can play our part. We have natural allies in the permaculture movement, where looking at depth is at the heart of its guiding philosophy. We are naturally grouped with organic growers and all those for whom nurturing healthy soil is the foundation. We have a huge and largely untapped potential support among the general population, who need to hear the truth about what is being done to our country in the name of ‘progress’.

If we and the bees are to have a future together, we have a responsibility to help future generations rediscover their deep connection with the natural world – perhaps in some form of ‘farm and forest school’ – and thereby redeem our collective failure to wrest control of our food production system from the hands of a power-hungry few.

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