There are some self-declared purists of natural beekeeping who claim that the only way to practice natural beekeeping is to keep the bees in real tree logs rather than in man-made beehives. There are also a few of conventional beekeepers who deride the very term “Natural Beekeeping” as oxymoron. Those who confine the meaning of “natural” to a 1-liner definition remind me of a person who once ranted on social media against the “Submit” button because he “refused to submit to anyone”…
Other names for Natural beekeeping include (1) Wilderness beekeeping (2) Darwinian beekeeping (3) Apicentric Beekeeping and (4) treatment-free beekeeping with the caveat that no supplemental sugar-feeding is allowed.
So, for the definition of natural beekeeping, we’ll go with the modern Bible on natural beekeeping “Keeping Bees with a smile” by Lazutin and discuss 3 main practices of natural beekeeping.
There are 3 Main Pillars of Natural Beekeeping:
Pillar #1, the cornerstone of Natural Beekeeping, is having “The Right Natural Habitat”
“Keeping bees with a smile” states that the Right Natural Habitat is the most important factor for successful natural beekeeping. It means having clean unpolluted land and water, forests and meadows far from agrochemical pollutants, the habitat that would provide the bees with rich Spring-to-Fall nectar and pollen resources.
Each bee colony would need at least 1 acre of such unpolluted natural habitat for foraging nectar and pollen.
Even a weak bee colony, regardless of hive design can prosper in the Right Natural Habitat, while the strongest bees would still fail in a nectar/pollen -poor region.
If any prehistoric tree log beehive happens to be located outside the Right Natural Habitat such as anywhere close to conventional agricultural fields with their modern agrochemicals, such beekeeping quickly becomes very unnatural.
Agrochemicals are often applied to conventional agriculture fields by workers wearing hazmat suits and masks because these chemicals are dangerous not only to bugs. Conventional beekeeping close to agricultural fields & agrochemicals lowers the bees’ immunity, increases the bees’ susceptibility to diseases & parasites and results in honey inundated with agrochemicals. Multiple studies are cited at forestbeehive.com
It is exactly the Pillar #1 The Right Habitat that is essential for natural beekeepers to successfully use the rest of the established practices of natural beekeeping such as the remaining 2 main Pillars of natural beekeeping:
Pillar #2 Never Feed Sugar to Bees!
Sugar only contains carbs. In addition to carbs, bees need vitamins and micronutrients from nectar, honey and pollen. Natural beekeepers make sure to never take too much honey from the bees; they never exchange honey for sugar and they always save extra honey to feed bees if necessary.
To stop sugar-feeding, natural beekeepers absolutely need to have in place Pillar #1 — The Right Natural Habitat.
Pillar #3 Never Medicate Bees!
Natural beekeepers never use any chemical or acid or oil treatments, no antibiotics, no fungicides, no acids. Strong locally adapted survivor bee colonies have already learned on their own how to naturally coexist with parasites such as Varroa mites, and survive and prosper without human intervention.
Quoting “Keeping Bees with a smile”: “Strong bee colonies will give offspring that are likely to be disease-resistant. Conversely, treatments create all of the conditions for negative selection (the weak propagating the weak)”.
Medicating the bees is problematic in the long term as mites and similar parasites will eventually build up resistance to any new treatments while the medicated and “overly coddled” bees would only learn to rely on constant human intervention and would thereby be denied their primary defense mechanism of natural selection.
Natural beekeepers can implement Pillar #3 ONLY IF both Pillar #1 The Right Habitat and Pillar #2 No Sugar Feedings are already in place.