There are many facets of beekeeping. Some are fun, exciting and rewarding while others are tedious and boring. This year I have assembled and wired hundreds of frames already and need to do about a hundred more. It makes me a little stir crazy. While doing this necessary (tedious) work I often times listen to podcasts about various subjects that interest me.
This week I finally got another installment from The Barefoot Beekeper Podcast by Phil Chandler. This episode was audio from a talk he gave earlier this month, What can we learn from bees? Talk at Trill Farm, Dorset May 11 2012. Mr. Chandler is a champion of the top bar hive. I don’t run that system, but hope to give it a try some day.
At one point in his presentation (~23:45) he begins to talk about natural selection in bees and how honeybees over time adapt to certain geographical regions. He continues about the British Black Bee a native race that was highly adapted to the weather and climate of Britain . He speaks of the shortcomings of importation of bees and goes on to say “local bees are the best bees by and large. The bees are adapted to the local climate.”
I agree with the statement put forward by Mr. Chandler. It is well documented that bees have only been in the US since the 1600’s, but feral genetics play by the rules of natural selection. This is yet another reason to be putting up swarm traps in your area. I am aware that some people are nervous about swarming bees, but we really need to find a way to educate them so that we can allow them to reproduce naturally. Langstroth writes about production hives and swarming hives in – On the Hive and the Honeybee.
My hive may be used as a non-swarmer, and may be made more effectually to prevent swarming, than any with which I am acquainted: as in the Spring, (See No. 34. p. 104,) ample accommodations may be given to the bees, below their main works, and when this is seasonably done, swarming will never take place.
There are certain objections however, which must always prevent the non-swarming plan from being the most successful mode of managing bees. To say nothing of the loss to the bee-keeper, who has, after some years, only one stock, when if the natural mode of increase had been allowed, he ought to have a number, it is usually found that after bees have been kept in a non-swarming hive for several seasons, they seem to work with much less vigor than usual. Of this, any one may convince himself, who will compare the industrious working of a new swarm, with that of a much more powerful stock in a non-swarming hive. The former will work with such astonishing zeal, that to one unacquainted with the facts, it would be taken to be by far the more powerful stock.
I know that I am lucky in that I live in a rural area where the largest potential problem I could have from swarming bees would be a colony choosing a hive site in someone’s home or other structure. I will deal with that problem when and if it comes up. I feel the benefit of genetics that overwintered in my area, with the unique challenges presented here are worth the risk. Packaged bees from Georgia will not have endured the same selective pressures and thus will be ill suited for survival here. Not only is it not fair to the beekeeper spending $100 bucks on the package, what of the unfortunate colony made to live in a climate it may be unable to cope with.
With all of the press that honeybees are getting today we at least have the ear of a large section of general public. We need to take the opportunity to educate them on the importance of allowing bees to be bees before they forget and return to watching Survivor and Dancing with the Stars. Agricultural chemicals and loss of forage are undoubtedly playing a part in bee losses. What if swarm prevention as well as other common beekeeping practices are contributing as much or more? I don’t know this to be the case, but we cannot look for reasons elsewhere unless we are looking at our own practices with scrutiny.
Get some traps out!!!! 🙂
P.S. – Interestingly enough please note what the reverend suggested. It is different than the common practice of reversing hive bodies promoted today “to prevent swarming”. I will elaborate further on that in a future post. I followed his advice this year with 14 hives, all of which are in people’s yards. Guess what….. No swarms as of yet. I will keep you posted.