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Beekeeping in a Crazy World.

Beekeeping in a Crazy World.

Posted by Bruce Clow on 11th Apr 2022

Beekeeping in a Crazy World

It’s weird being the age of what I considered to be “old” people. But I now understand the idea of “life experience”. Just being around for a long time usually means you have absorbed some experiences and experience. You’ve seen what works and what maybe should be left alone. I know, I know, there is a difference between having 40 years’ experience and 40 times one year’s experience, but let’s just accept that us oldies maybe do have something useful to offer in the way of advice?

As far as beekeeping experience goes, I have just on 20 years of experience. Yes, there are many out there that can say they have 40, 50, even 60 years and more experience, and believe me they are worth listening to.

So 20 years beekeeping and 65 years of life experience. What can I say about the pace of life and its impact on beekeeping and beekeepers? Plenty!

The internet has changed life beyond what could have been imagined by most of us of my era. For people born since 1990 they can’t imagine life without the internet and their portable devices. Data and opinion is available in HUGE quantities at the push of a button. But data is not information, and the quality of the data is questionable. It used to be that data was analysed and processed and evaluated by peers before it was ever published. And then to a degree the validity of it was graded based on the prestige of the publication. If your peer reviewed health research was published in Lancet, you could rely on its validity. Or if your business research article was in the Harvard Business Review, well it was valuable information.

With the internet everyone’s opinion seems to carry the same weight. Google, Facebook and Microsoft search engines consider what YOU like, and what YOU think, and skews the search to show you what you already want to hear and in the way you want to hear it. They accentuate your bias.

I was talking to my son about how crazy this is, and he explained that because you can now connect in real time with others who share your views and opinions, you get a skewed perception of how many people out there actually agree with you. In addition the search bias continues to ease you to the extremes, where there may only be 0.1% who are of that opinion. In a world of 7 billion souls that is 7,000,000 folk out there who are as nuts as you. So you think, “Hey, that is mainstream!” Nope, you’re still nuts.

I get incredibly frustrated when I see crazy opinions about bees, beekeeping, and beekeeping techniques posted on the internet. As an example, when someone complains the first week of October that their foundation isn’t getting drawn and then come up with, “There isn’t enough wax on those frames!” So they take them out, triple coat them and then put them back into the hive in November—lo and behold they get drawn. What does the beekeeper say? “I told you, not enough wax on the frames.” Wrong! The bees only draw comb when they need it, period. Another one I hear is how Varroa treatments aren’t working. “I used them in the spring and the mite load in February is huge. That treatment isn’t working anymore.” Well maybe, but there are so many other factors that could influence the mite load, such as hive density, improper use of the treatment (beekeeper incompetence?), and bee drift are several possible causes.

New beekeepers and those interested in the welfare of bees can get themselves all worked up when they watch videos of commercial beekeepers working their hives. Yes, in all likelihood some bees will be killed by the way commercial beekeepers work their hives. But the reality is that the hive is the organism that is of primary importance. Working hives and caring for bees is to ensure the survival and growth of the hive, not individual bees. The process of caring for a hive inevitably means that some individual bees will die. If you do an alcohol wash test to measure Varroa infestation, the tested bees are killed. They give up their lives for the benefit of the hive. Just like guard bees when they sting intruders, they die. They give up their lives for the benefit of the hive.

So my general advice to those new to beekeeping, is just relax. Inevitably opening hives, moving frames and doing your inspections will kill some bees. But your interventions will help the hive survive in the long run. That is the goal. So just relax, listen to beekeepers with lots of practical knowledge and systems based on science, and you are on the right track.