A short post here, an addendum to my last (Bees: Our Problems in Miniature). I just read another book about natural beekeeping, “The Thinking Beekeeper”, by Christy Hemenway, and was struck by how some of her ideas matched those of this blog, particularly this passage—
“In the U.S., we’ve grown tired of expecting that the government will take charge, behave responsibly, and do the right thing. But—we don’t need to wait for the government to make the right move! We can make the needed changes, and the government, well, they can catch up. We can insist on organic food, and we can shop at the farmer’s market, and we can choose never to put anything in a beehive but bees… these are all viable options, and thinking people are doing them, and they are making a difference.
“That’s why I believe that the paradigm truly has begun to shift. In fact, I think we’re close to the tipping point. And I also believe we don’t have to find a cure—a new treatment, pesticide, or antibiotic—for Colony Collapse Disorder—we just have to quit causing it. . . What you do matters. Never doubt it.”
I couldn’t agree more about the part about demand—it’s the mechanism that will change the system on all fronts, and it will precede political change, and it will be enacted by millions and millions of individuals, voting with their dollars. (See posts “A Potential Path Forward“, and “Me and Ma and Globalism“.)
But beyond this note about demand, her book is a great introduction to the philosophy and mechanics of raising bees using treatment-free beekeeping methods in top-bar hives, and she presents her case eloquently and passionately. In one passage she expresses a thought that I was trying to express the other day, but she did it far better, so I’d like to add that quote here, too—
“For industrial beekeepers, especially large-scale migratory pollinators, Colony Collapse Disorder has been a devastating fiscal tragedy, not to be wished on anyone. And I have never, ever, met a beekeeper—commercial, backyard, or otherwise—who did not love their bees, so there is personal heartbreak as well in every vanished colony.”
This was so clear to me in the interviews with industrial beekeepers in the “Vanishing of the Bees” documentary—they may treat their bees, but they love them too.
So, inspired by all my bee-reading, I set out the other day to buy some bees. Some treatment-free bees. This was harder than I thought, and I wasn’t having much success. A fair number of people keep treatment-free bees, but not all that many appear to sell them. An added difficulty was that it seems that nearly all people who sell nucleus colonies (“nucs”) do so in Langstroth hive frames, which don’t fit into a top-bar system. So, almost on a lark, I went to Christy’s website (Gold Star Honeybees), and, ta da, she now sells packages of treatment-free bees that have been raised on small-cell foundation (a more natural-sized bee). They seemed to be more expensive than industrial packages, but worth every penny to me. Now, with three pounds of bees on the way, I just need to get to work on a top-bar hive. I’m a good woodworker, that part will be a snap. Learning about bees—well, like gardening, that one might take a lifetime.