This week on the Organic Beekeeping List, a heated discussion developed between a more conventional beekeeper, Jim Fischer, and members of this "no chemical" beekeeping list. The debate centered around the efficacy of Dee Lusby's "no dope" approach in saving hives from the threat of CCD. Fischer, a devotee of "scientism", claims that a good portion of Lusby's bees succumbed to CCD like symptoms this spring, and that she has hid this fact from her own "true believers" on the email list. I'm a new beekeeper, still learning, still critically digesting the vast amounts of beekeeping information available, so I will not presume to weigh in on the issues. However, this discussion was important for me in that it helped me clarify a few issues about my own apicultural "philosophy" and the importance of fairness, honesty, and compassion.
Firstly, the debate only highlighted for me why I call myself a sustainable beekeeper and not organic or natural, since my chief concern has always been the long-term survivability of bees and not being right, or ideologically "orthodox". If something doesn't work apiculturally in my locale in the long-term, I have to be willing to critically question my approach, whether it be a chemical treatment, or a method of "organic" orthodoxy. I have to be willing to even give up beekeeping if I find that I serve as a detriment to the bees. I know this might mean admitting I'm wrong, or ignorant, or, worse yet, incompetent, but my objective is not to be right; my objective is to sustain bees in the long-term. I need honesty and humility to be a sustainable beekeeper, remembering "I Could Be Wrong!"
Secondly, the debate showed me the need for compassion. When a beekeeper loses his/her bees, no matter what methods s/he uses, I hope we might all show some empathy for the loss and not glee. Before you organic beekeepers think I am only wagging my finger at Mr. Fischer, you might consider why he got such a kick at rubbing your face into Dee's losses. Isn't there often a certain self-righteous glee taken on this list when reports of conventional beekeepers' losses appear on the 'net? Most beekeepers I know are looking into the "glass darkly". We are all sorting through a complex array of interacting factors that impact our bees. No one has all the answers, and while I may not agree with other beekeepers' choices, I do not rejoice anytime a hive dies.
I do not rejoice in writing this. I feel very presumptious and hypocritical.