Chop Wood Carry Water Plant Seeds is a blog about Self-Sufficient Homesteading. How can we live by creating a sustainable bio-diverse world, instead of by consuming and destroying the only one we have? What kind of teaching have you got if you exclude nature?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sustainable Treatment-free Beekeeping

One of the heroes of the bee world is a Buddhist beekeeper in Vermont, Kirk Webster. “When the mites hit the bees big-time in the nineties, and people started putting chemicals in the hives, Webster decided that wasn’t the way to go,” says Jacobsen. “He let most of his bees die, and he took the survivors, bred them with each other, and introduced hardy Russian bees into the hive. But to do this he went without an income for a decade. He lives simply. And he developed bees largely resistant to mites.” Webster, known as the Bee Mystic, sees the mite problem as nature’s way to root out the weaker bees—think survival of the fittest. But letting nature take its course as Webster did requires patience, something industrial beekeepers lack. Their mantra is profits; patience is costly. Treat the bees with respect, however, and you get prosperous, healthy hives, and lots of nutrient-rich honey. Which is what Jacobsen himself is doing on his few acres of undeveloped land in Vermont. He got some bees from Webster and let them do their own thing, starting with building their own hives, which are not the rectangular boxes that the industrial apiaries use, but V-shaped. Organic. Not stackable. Not conducive to being trucked around the country.

Quote by Kirk Webster ;
"Let's come back again to the case of my Swedish friend Erik Osterlund, who did so much to track down and document--in many countries--the work of beekeepers operating without treatments. He also did more to prepare his apiary for the arrival of varroa than anyone else I know of, or can imagine. Three years before the arrival of varroa in his area he had already completed the multi-year task of stocking his colonies with bees having survivor parents on both the male and female side-- and converted all of his combs to 4.9 size. Yet, when the first contact with varroa mites occurred, his bees fell apart, much the same way the all unprotected European bees in N. America did upon their first encounter. To me this is just further strong evidence that natural systems operate in more dimensions than we can easily see and measure. It took time for a new host-parasite relationship to develop, and we really did need to kill the mites at the beginning in order to have any bees left at all. The one good thing about our current situation is that we are well past this stage now in N. America, and also well past the point where the focus should shift towards removing all treatments and learning from our new friends.

Once honeybees and varroa can co-exist in an economically viable situation, then this mite disappears as a pest and takes on the role of friend, ally and mentor-- doing most of our selection work at little or no expense, and pointing clearly to the places where our practices are misguided or poorly adapted. Because of its status as an out-of-balance parasite and its enormous destructive power, the varroa mite is the most important creature to focus on this way: as a potential ally. But the story is the same with all the other visible and invisible creatures we regard as "pests". If we can learn to treat them as friends and allies, and learn from them; then we have a chance to create a better agriculture and a world based on creativity and biological energy. If not we have no choice but to follow the same consumptive and self-destructive path we are on now--and share the same outcome with all past civilizations and cultures who chose to live by such tactics. In many of the same ways that my tiny state exerts a disproportionate amount of influence in the Senate, beekeepers--because of their key role in both the food chain and natural ecosystems--may have a disproportionate role to play in choosing which path to follow."

No comments:

Post a Comment