Image credit: The Urban Conversion
When I wrote about top-bar hives and "natural" beekeeping, commenter Craig Knox argued that it was irresponsible to project our opinions on what is, and what is not, natural on the bees. Indeed, there are many well informed advocates of the more conventional Langstroth hive including leading entomologist Professor May Berenbaum who described it as the biggest innovation for beekeeping ever on our live chat a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, others maintain that top-bar hives offer a healthier, less stressful environment for bees—and the video below shows how opinionated these folks can be about the status quo in beekeeping. Top-Bar Hive Maker Has Strong Views on Beekeeping
I should note, of course, that James Zitting is not exactly unbiased. As the maker of Bee Landing top-bar hives, you'd expect him to be an advocate for this type of hive over the more commercially used variety. However, I was taken aback by his striking description of commercial, industrialized beekeeping and beekeepers are being subsidized for the bee deaths that are occurring. He doesn't come right out and say it, but he rather implies that this is a situation of their own making.
Backyard Beekeeping the Way Forward?
Zitting advocates that small-scale backyard beekeeping is the way forward, and seems to hold little hope for the continuation of large-scale beekeeping. Top-bar hives like his, he claims, make beekeeping easier, and they make it less stressful for the bees through minimum disturbance and a focus on feeding them their own honey.
Conventional Hives Have Passionate Advocates Too
Proponents of the conventional Langstroth hive, however, would most likely respond that it has many benefits that top-bar hives like this one do not. It allows beekeepers to remove honey without destroying comb—saving bees significant amounts of energy each year—and it also allows for ease of inspection without killing bees.
What's causing the plight of the bees? Should beekeepers medicate or not? Should they feed bees sugar or not? Which type of hive is most sustainable in what type of situation? The potential discussions are endless. I am sure there will be plenty of folks on both sides of this argument and we would love to hear your views. Whatever the best way forward for sustainable beekeeping, it's good to see the topic of honeybees and their the needs getting the prominent discussion it deserves. Hopefully we can all learn from each other without too much "them and us" finger pointing.
The bees best interests and ours are one and the same. We may need to learn to get along.
More on Honeybees and Colony Collapse Disorder
Live Chat with Honeybee Expert Professor May Berenbaum
The Cooperative Group Launches Plan Bee to Save the Honey Bees
Colony Collapse Disorder and the Epic Fight to Save the Bees
Beekeeping Alternatives: Top-Bar Hives, Warre Hives and Natural Approaches to Honey Bees