But bees did just fine without us for millions of years . . .
I frequently hear this argument for the “do nothing” form of beekeeping. Unfortunately, it is not a logical argument. For starters, bees did manage just fine without us for millions of years, but now they have “us” and that’s the problem. With “us” came pesticides, air pollution, contaminated water, habitat destruction, climate change, freeways, monocultures, lawn mowers, genetically modified organisms, introduced parasites and pathogens, and high-fructose corn syrup. Yet you expect honey bees to still do “just fine?” Come on.
It is a known fact that feral honey bee hives have virtually disappeared from the North American continent, probably due to some or all of the above. These feral hives, in which beekeepers “do nothing,” cannot make it in the environment we provided for them. This world has no resemblance to the world in which they evolved and thrived. This is very sad indeed. But not liking it doesn’t change it.
Even the so-called natural beekeepers—those who use no man-made chemicals or artificial products—must do many, many things to protect their bees from environmental hazards and keep the pathogens and parasites in check. These manipulations may include anything from breeding resistant queens, to using essential oils, to mechanical separation of mites, beetles, and moths. These people—some of our most creative beekeepers—go to extraordinary lengths to find ways to help the bees survive in our world. They do way more than “nothing.”
Beekeepers who plan on doing nothing for their bees should find a different hobby—one that doesn’t involve living things. If you have animals, then you have a moral obligation to care for them—whether they are horses or ants makes no difference. Someone once said, “You can judge a society by the way it treats its animals.” Think about that the next time you open a hive.