Monday, April 25, 2011

Sustainable Beekeeping in an Unsustainable World

Every year about this time I make beekeeping resolutions for the coming season. After listening to Marla Spivak's talks at both Saint Mary's and Winona State, and reading Randy Oliver's series of articles in the American Bee Journal, I have decided to recast my apicultural practices somewhat. I would really like to be totally natural in my approach but I must recognize that my bees forage in an un-natural world. They live in a world of suburban development, city ordinances against 'noxious' weeds, conspicuous consumption and leisure, growing monoculture, the casual use of pesticides and herbicides, and globalization. All these social problems impact the nutrition, and health of honeybees. While a 'social apiculturalist' should also be working to fight these economic/political problems, in the present, I need to be concerned about some of my bees' immediate problems. With this is in mind, I resolve to do the following practices this bee season:

  1. Culling three year old comb-  Comb retains many of the noxious chemicals and diseases bees come in contact with while foraging. This season I have already removed comb that is three years or older.
  2. Supplement Nutrition- I will be more disciplined in supplementing the bees' nutritional needs with pollen supplements when called for. This grates against my 'natural' tendencies but I am convinced now that my neighbor's on the west side of Winona are not providing my bees with a diverse enough diet.
  3. Monitor and Manage Varroa Better- I will be monitoring the varroa count of each hive regularly, removing drone comb, and using essential oil based miticides if the mite count calls for it. 
  4. Carrying Capacity-  I may have been pushing the number of beehives in the neighborhood to its limits, especially given the rainy and cold spring/summer we had. I will try to stay within a 4 hive limit (with nucs) in the future.

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