A Busy Beekeeper – Natural Beekeeping
SWEET: Natural beekeeping allows bees to build natural honeycomb and harvests only when sufficient honey is available.
I’ve always been curious about beekeepers. Bees themselves are mysterious and complex creatures, and perhaps too, I imagined, must be their caretakers. When I heard about the ‘natural’ beekeeper, my interest was tripled. Rather than driven by the pot of golden honey at the end, this practice is more about the bees themselves.
My curiosity was sated when I visited Adrian Iodice of Beekeeping Naturally on his farm in the Bega valley, south coast NSW.
Nestled amongst steep green hills is where Adrian, his wife Stefani, and three children are busy creating a bee sanctuary and education centre for natural beekeeping.
It’s clear from first glance that his hives are not the commonplace white box I’m used to seeing. Those conventional style hives, such as the Langstroth, Adrian explains, are often detrimental to bee health.
“Modern beekeeping practices mean frequent hive movement and inspections, artificial queen rearing programs, routine medication, and sugar water feeding which reduce the vitality and weaken the immunity of the honeybees,” he says.
It’s been a journey to find his way with the bees though. After ten years of conventional beekeeping, Adrian went in search of a more holistic and sustainable approach. He travelled to Germany in 2012 to study at the renowned Mellifera Centre for Organic Beekeeping.
Natural beekeeping, Adrian explains, is a gentler bee-friendly approach that prioritises care for the bees, allowing them to build natural honeycomb and to harvest only when sufficient honey is available – the equivalent of a permaculture garden compared to a modern monoculture crop.
“In a conventional beehive, the constant taking of honey means the bees think they are constantly under attack.”
In natural beekeeping, Adrian informs me, the bees are working but they’re doing different jobs – cleaning the hives, washing the walls and landing boards, scouting for a new home site in preparation for swarming.
Adrian seems as relaxed as the bees he tends as he shows me his beautiful Kenyan Top Bar hive.
“Entering the beehive from one side means that only a small number of bees are disturbed at a time, rather than thousands of angry bees reacting to just having their roof ripped off,” Adrian says.
While farm-focused, the project for Adrian is as much about addressing the global bee crisis.
“We no longer have enough honeybees to pollinate all our crops. If we don’t change our agriculture practices and stop using pesticides, we’re not going to have bees in 20 years.”
A natural beehive is perfect for a backyard, and almost essential for anyone wanting to grow flowers and vegetables.
“Once people love something they want to protect it. It doesn’t take much to fall in love with your bees. They have such a beautiful nature.”
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Claire is the author of My Year Without Matches. Contact her at [email protected]