Saturday, July 5, 2008

Clarifying Issues: Part III, An Example

My experience beekeeping is minimal, however, I have raised tropical fish off and on pretty much my whole life. One of the keys in the successful husbandry of "domesticated" fish is the creation of an aquatic environment where aerobic bacteria can thrive. Aerobic bacteria feed on fish waste and turn it into harmless compounds. The difficulty for any aquarist is that aerobic bacteria need some waste in which to grow and multiply in the first place but placing too much waste into a tank initially may overwhelm the system and may only produce nasty, smelly, and deadly anaerobic bacteria which will kill the fish and the aerobic bacteria as well. Setting up a tank at the beginning is an art I've found. It demands slowly raising the fish population in a tank so as not to overwhelm the environment with too much fish waste, providing a great deal of surface area in the tank (thus the gravel) on which aerobic bacteria can grow, and assuring that enough oxygen dissolves in the water through its constant circulation.

In the natural world, the production of aerobic bacteria is usually not a problem unless chemicals are introduced into the water that kill off aerobic bacteria. (Some aquarists are quite familiar with the havoc medicines can cause in their tank once their fish have been "cured"; the biological balance was destroyed since the same medicine that killed the fish's disease also killed the aerobic bacteria.) In the artificial world of an aquarium, the aquarists resorts to various mechanical "treatments" to assure that aerobic bacteria can thrive in the closed environment. They circulate the water, provide more surface area for bacteria, and syphoning/replacing 25% of the water each week so that aerobic bacteria aren't overwhelmed by too much waste. These techniques are hardly natural in any sense of the term but they do try to work with natural biological systems without the use of chemicals.

I am pondering what all this means for my beekeeping. How much of this type of thinking is transferable? What type of aquarium management might we call this? The fish may not survive in an artificial unnatural environment without such non-chemical management. Isn't their dependency on the aquarist, therefore, interfering with their genetic adaptability? Will my Italian bees of California origin be able to survive the artificial unnatural environment of Winona Minnesota without the beekeeper working with the biological systems as well? Or is the problem in both cases trying to keep creatures in environments where they shouldn't be?

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