Natural beekeeping is a phrase often used to describe many different approaches to beekeeping. While there's not one agreed-upon definition, our definition of natural beekeeping is minimal manipulation, natural combs (no foundation), and no medication (chemical treatments). This is a stark contrast to the predominant practices in beekeeping today that generally include frequent hive inspections, queen replacements, feeding, single cell size foundation, chemicals, and a myriad of other regimens.
Our approach comes from the perspective that honey bees are amazingly successful creatures that, if given the opportunity, can succeed without human intervention. Our goal is to provide the bees with a good environment in which to thrive without us. We do believe the best environment is in a hive with natural comb, such as a top bar hive or Warré hive, but this isn't the only determinining factor.
Since 2008 we've been keeping bees in Langstroth hives, horizontal top bar hives and Warré hives using natural beekeeping methods as we've defined them. We believe that the most important variable in determining hive success is good genetics. This is why we work hard to create strong genetic populations of bees in our apiaries. We do this by increasing (creating new colonies) from strong colonies and letting weak colonies die. If we start two colonies at the same time and come fall, one colony is full of surplus honey stores and the other is empty, we do not feed the weak colony. We'll let it die and avoid perpetuating their weak genetics the next swarm season. We'll replace the dead colony by either splitting a stronger one or catching a swarm from a successful colony.
We've had the greatest success with feral bees -- bees living on their own in trees and walls without any human interaction for multiple years. These are our favorite bees to catch, and it's always a treat when we are able to identify the source of these feral swarms and catch more year after year.
In the end, we believe that bees can do it on their own without us, and while it may be harsh to allow some to die off, we believe it's the only way to help the relieve the ailing beekeeping industry from the dependance on chemical treatments.
Check out some other beekeepers with a similar philosophy: