Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I get bees ?
We suggest you look at our UK map to find a local natural beekeeping group and ask if they can help you.
Where can I buy ethically produced honey?
The Trust's view on honey and it's use can be found on this page.
How can I start keeping bees in a more natural way?
We recommend you find an good mentor who will guide you. Most natural beekeeping groups provide support for beginners. You can find a UK map here.
How can I make a donation to the trust?
You can find a pay pal donate form here, as well as our bank account details if you would prefer to make a bank transfer of standing order.
Do honey bees compete with other bee species ?
All species compete for resources, and any successful species can out compete others. This can include bumble bees between themselves, honey bees and undoubtedly the most consuming of all - humans.
In Europe honey bees have been a part of our landscape since the ice age (more info). In North America they have been naturalised now for centries - the country is not just a "melting pot" of human cultures. Honey bees have just as much right to exist wild and free in our landscapes as any other insect. Unfortunately many conservationists see the honey bee as an agricultural animal taking nectar and potentially spreading disease. However, honey bees are the first pollinators of the year, without them many early flowering plants and trees would have no pollinators. On the other side, many beekeepers deny the bee’s natural biology to exist wild and free - afraid of these unmanaged bees, but it is important to known that wild honey bees have a very different biology to bees in boxes kept for honey, and rarely suffer the common deases of intensive bee farms. We must separate what we do to bees, from their true nature.
Wild bees typically choose cavities which are much smaller, and warmer than box hives – A colony living in a 30-40 ltr tree cavity will need just 60kg of nectar per year compared to 600kg of a large commercial hive. In addition wild colonies would disperse with on average 300m between colonies. So the impact of just 5 colonies close togther in an aipiary has a completely different ecological impact compared to a similar number of wild colonies.
Removal of honey has the largest impact on the hive development compared to anything else. Typically once honey bees have food security their behaviour switches to other more balanced behaviour such as hive maintenance and hygiene. As a result wild hive is typically less stressed and free from disease.
In one of the widest reviews of wild bee health the research conclusion was: "There seem to be many reasons why beekeepers’ colonies should have more disease than wild colonies. It is difficult to formulate such plausible reasons for the opposite point of view, and the evidence so far received indicates that wild colonies are the more healthy"
The Canadian Bee Journal published this report in 1935: "Michigan has, or had, at the date here mentioned, the most drastic bee disease law that the writer has had access to. This is a heavily timbered state, and there are a great many bee trees. These bee trees are "illegal" and are vigorously searched out and destroyed. from the official report of state inspection for the year 1929 we will copy a paragraph: “Bees in trees are considered illegal, and are either killed and sealed up, or removed. The peculiar thing noted last year, that no disease was found in trees, was found to be true the past season; although a large number of colonies of bees in trees were removed and destroyed.“ During the season of 1929, 13.3 per cent of the regular colonies in the state of Michigan were found to be diseased with A.F.B."
It is important not to confuse honey bee behaviours and problems caused by humans with true free wild bee behaviour. Conservationist should in the view of the Trust be working to protect wild honey bees as much as other bee species. Wild honey bees in many parts of Europe would now qualify for protected red list status as they can no longer live in the wild. It is not too late to reverse this.
All bees are now competing for food because we humans have removed their food resources and unleashed a chemical warfare against them. There used to be a time when the land supported far greater numbers of both bee hives kept for honey harvest and all our native insects. Now is not a time to pit one pollinator against another - pollinators enhance the landscape and create more resources in doing so. Instead we need to focus on sources of the problem.
We have also removed bee habitats. The natural habitat of the wild free honey bee is ancient forests. If an ancient forest is destroyed to make way for roads or trains ... it is gone. The creatures that once lived in the forest cannot wait 500 years for a new forest to grow. We cannot "mitigate" the loss of an ancient forest; one thousand hundred year old oaks have less biodiversity than a single ancient oak.
This is why the Natural Beekeeping Trust promotes low density natural beekeeping and respect for all natures spirits. We reject commercial intensive beekeeping practices which not only harm honey bees but also other species.
The honey bee is an exemplar of how to be in this world; the more industrious the bee is, the more the world is enhanced. For all that honey bees have done for us – they deserve our respect, love and protection.
Are beekeepers responsible for honey bee decline?
Can anyone explain to me why it's common practise to raid all the honey and only offer sugar syrup in return? Regards Lin
Sadly sugar water is cheap and honey is valuable, and some people only keep bees for honey production.
There are some beekeepers who try and leave enough honey for winter, but if the spring or summer is also poor, then out comes the sugar again. You can’t feed back honey because you run the risk of spreading disease if the source of the honey is from multiple hives.
Then the is the issue of taking “some honey”. If bees sense honey removal, this triggers food insecurity and they adjust the processes of the hive to rear more honey foraging workers, triggering increasing mite populations (often countered with chemicals), and the bees drop hygienic behaviour to focus on food production.
In some parts of Germany we are getting reports of feeding sugar in May (2021). To put that in context, May is the peak foraging season when hives fill for the rest of the year.
Our science page: https://www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org/the-science has details on the negative effects of feeding sugar. It is a poor subsititute for honey. Just pick the topic "Effect of feeding sugar…" or for a shorter list, searching for "sugar" in the title.
We have got to a point where nectar abundance has gone, and this starts a chain of unforeseen problems. The only solution is to give back what we have taken.