The Natural Beekeeping movement has blossomed in recent years as a reaction to some ‘orthodox’ modern beekeeping practices. The logical first step if you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper is to join a local group. Traditionally these groups shared knowledge, equipment and helped each other with moving hives etc. Newcomers were given support to set themselves up and spare swarms were passed their way. The British Beekeeper’s Association (BBKA) became the umbrella body of the many local groups.
Nowadays the situation isn’t so different but there maybe a few sticking points for the idealistic newcomer. Swarms may still be passed on to new beekeeper but you are likely to have to pay. Beekeeping is taught as if there were no choice in the way to treat your bees, for example giving them medications for Varroa, inspecting hives regularly in order to prevent/control disease. Generally practices have evolved for the convenience of the beekeeper rather than the bee. In the past the BBKA has taken funding from chemical companies that make pesticides.
A growing awareness of the honey bee’s plight in the modern environment has lead to many orthodox beekeeping practices being challenged including medicating for Varroa and inspecting hives routinely. Some BBKA groups manage the shift in perspective better than others and you may be lucky and join such a group.
The new beekeeper’s motivation to become a beekeeper is often heartfelt and he/she brings fresh eyes to the group. Is this naive enthusiasm to be quashed by ‘knowledge’ or can it be incorporated into a kinder beekeeping?
It’s very much a personal decision whether to go with the orthodox or alternative approach. I just want to make you aware that there is a choice and there are supportive groups out there. There’s nothing to stop you joining both and to begin with I would say that’s a good idea – hear what both sides have to say.
The Natural Beekeeping groups are fewer and there’s further between them so the distance you have to travel to get to a meeting are greater but, at least in our group, the consensus is: it’s well worth it.
Our group includes Wiltshire, Dorset and a committed Surrey-ite (I Googled ‘What do you call a person from Surrey?’ Answer: ‘Posh’).
For other groups click here