This year has been the first that I have ventured into the relatively new sphere of ‘natural’ beekeeping. It was always something that I had felt was right but never had the confidence to launch into until I attended a talk given by Nicola Bradbaer The whole idea of minimal intervention and definitely no chemicals resonated deep within and I felt as if I had ‘come home’.
Basically, the premise of natural beekeeping is that honey bees will survive in spite of humans and we should let them do their own thing, at their own pace and with all their own ‘stuff’. So, no more frames of foundation, no more swarm control, no more varroa treatments, counting mite drops etc, etc. I have left well alone and had a few quick, unsmoked peeps inside(along with my bee inspector) to confirm everything is fine.
Normally August would see endless trips to the apiary, clearing bees out of the supers, honey dripping all over the place and the seemingly never ending feeding with artificial sugar syrup. Not to mention the drugs!
However, this season I have left the bees all the honey they spent the summer putting down and all the pollen they will have stored as well. The pollen is a vital part of the bees’ diets providing their protein requirement and is obviously NOT present in any sugary preparations we may concoct in the kitchen to tide them over winter.
So what I have done to put the bees to bed this year is to put an empty super on top of the crown board and fill it with shredded paper to provide some insulation during cold spells. I have placed a couple of matches underneath the super at the back to allow ventilation of the colony from the entrance, through the hive to the rear of the brood chamber.
Extraction, if there is any honey left, will happen in March next year when the new seasons’ nectar begins to flow again. It will undoubtedly mean a reduced crop of honey but I am hopeful that the colonies will survive the rigours of winter in a more natural state. Watch this space!
If you are interested to learn more about natural beekeeping follow this link:http://naturalbeekeepingtrust.org