Picture Copyright Ujubee
Every now and again the Natural Beekeeping Trust comes across an inspired piece of writing which we feel needs broadcast far and wide. The following piece is written by Karin Sternberg from the wonderful Ujubee organisation in South Africa. The wild bees of South Africa are lucky to have Karin as one of their protectors.
"It is a misconception that honeybees need beekeepers in order to save them. As humans we have a natural inclination to want to save things. But bees have been around for millions of years and were thriving and evolving without us. Their adaptations to different climates, geology, flowers, altitudes, ecosystems, predators, even weather (like wind!) is remarkable. To save our bees we need to let them be free to bee. We need to stop wanting to control or manage every aspect of being a bee, which inevitably changes their natural behaviour. Bees don’t need us to box them in hives or determine cell size and shape of comb through frames and foundation wax; bees don’t need us to medicate them and in so doing, kill all healthy and symbiotic microfauna living in the leaf litter and nest debris that can be beneficial in the fight against disease and Varroa mite, and at the same time kill off bees’ natural ability to develop coping mechanisms. Bees don’t need us to take and eat their honey, which really is their food and therefore their energy. In wild nests one does not find vast quantities of honey. There is always just as much honey stored as the bees may require to tide over bad weather days or drought so that they can continue all their colony functions, like caring for their brood, producing wax and bee milk or royal jelly, cleaning cells for the queen to lay her eggs, keeping the nest temperature and humidity constant…. If every beekeeper could turn their love of bees or wonderment at bees (and this is really what one should have if you are keeping bees) to watching bees do what they do naturally, then bees worldwide would be far better off and have the capacity to survive, if they are strong and healthy. The word ‘beekeeper’ needs redefining as those who are ensuring that there are swathes of flowering plants in our gardens, and tracts of wild flowers on agricultural land, and interconnected biomes of natural vegetation, not only providing forage and a natural pollination of orchards and agricultural crops for our consumption, but also habitat for all species of wild bees (and other pollinators). These are the true bee-keepers and in so doing, the bees will keep us and all future generations to come. Our focus should not be on maximising agricultural land for greater areas of food production and less peripheral wild pollinator forage spaces, but rather on vast spaces of wildness and a better and more abundant crop on existing agricultural land due to an abundance of varied and specialist pollinators."
Karin Sternberg - Ujubee