3. Don’t feed your bees junk.
It’s standard in the bee industry to take honey from bees and then feed them with sugar or corn syrup, since these are less expensive than honey. However, backwards beekeepers make sure their bees have plenty of honey stored before they take for themselves in order to obviate the need to supplement with other sugars. Honey is nature’s perfect bee food, and in many ways a great human food. Forcing bees to survive on sugar or corn syrup is, well, not that different from a human trying to survive off those same foods—it’s a quick recipe for disaster.
Instead, let your bees build up at least two or three boxes of brood and honey, and only then, when they are well-stocked and robust, take honey for yourself.
4. Don’t use chemicals.
“Beekeeping backwards is environmentally responsible. It keeps pesticides and fungicides out of the environment,” Ms. Askren assures. Anecdotal evidence suggests that whether chemicals are used to treat for mite infestations or not, the chemicals only hurry the death of the hive.
What do hives infested with mites do in nature without a beekeeper there to spray chemicals on them? That’s like asking what deer in nature do about ticks, or what fish do about parasites. This hands-off approach is controversial, but according to beekeepers like Ms. Askren, it works.
What does the future hold?
“As a grassroots movement, this has tremendous potential to have a trickle-up effect to influence commercial beekeepers, who will see that this manner of beekeeping doesn’t bring CCD,” Ms. Askren says. “In other words, beekeeping backwards will help educate rest of world about what we need to do to prevent the extinction of bees.”
Backwards Beekeepers is opening its first chapter in Brooklyn soon. For more information, check out beehuman.blogspot.com or see the book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping by Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer.