More causes of honeybee declines
PJ Chandler argued that the
Langstroth hive is the root of many of the problems currently facing
Michael Bush agrees that honeybees are in trouble, but instead traces
the ills to:
- Raising sickly bees.
Bush argues that the modern methods of pouring chemicals into the hive
to keep pests at bay ends up selecting for resistant super-pests...and
for wimpy bees that wouldn't be able to survive without
chemicals. In addition, since most honeybees now come from only a
few beekeeping companies, we've restricted the gene pool so much that
we're raising only a few inbred strains of bees, none or few of which
have the ability to live in a chemical-free hive. These bees have
also been bred to use less propolis, which might make it easier for the
beekeeper to pry the hive apart, but also makes allows viruses
to thrive among the bees.
- Using foundation that makes
I've written before that using foundation in
your hive makes your bees
create larger celled comb than they naturally would, which helps out
varroa mites. But did you know that the foundation you put in
your hive is processed beeswax from someone else's hive...who almost
certainly treated with lots of chemicals? The wax is impregnated
with pesticides, which causes drones raised on that foundation to be
less fertile and queens who mate with those drones to fail nine times
faster than a healthy queen would.
- Upsetting the natural ecology of
A healthy hive isn't just a couple of thousand bees; it also
includes beneficial fungi, bacteria, yeasts, mites, and insects.
It's helpful to think of a bee hive as a bit like our stomachs --- the
beneficial critters help "digest" (ferment) pollen while keeping the
hive from getting sick by crowding out pathogens. Using chemicals
in the hive is like taking antibiotics every day --- you kill the good
microorganisms along with the bad, so the system doesn't work as
well. In addition, feeding sugar water (pH 6.0) instead of
leaving bees enough honey (pH 3.2 to 4.5) creates an enironment that
helps the pathogens thrive.
Michael Bush's solutions --- while they can be hard to implement ---
are very simple. He says we have to stop using chemicals in our
hives, even if that means many of our colonies die and only the strong
remain. Deleting foundation allows bees to build clean wax at a
natural cell size. And we must make sure that our bees always
have enough honey rather than stealing too much and then feeding sugar
water. More on the specifics of his beekeeping method in
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