My eyes tend to be much larger than the relatively non-existent time frame I have to work with when it comes to reading. The only allotted smidge of time for one of my dearest hobbies falls somewhere between the last load of laundry being folded, the dishes washed, me stumbling down the hallway half-catatonic and my head hitting the pillow.
I like to think of the library as my friend. We meet up every week or so and I mooch more books off the shelves (remember the 30+ I checked out for Beckett’s birthday?!). But, I have a problem with the quantity. And, I have been lovingly teasingly truthfully referred to as a “bibliophile” by my brother-in-law. I am often spotted juggling a sky-high armload of books, a toddler on one side and a dog leash in the other hand as I exit the library. I read fast, but not THAT fast.
One of the books that has been lingering on my dresser for months now (thank you, Mr. Library for continuing to let me renew) is The Barefoot Beekeeper by PJ Chandler. I heard through the grapevine about “top bar” beehives a few months ago and this book is the definitive source on this type of practice. Well, the book collected dust. I commiserated about not having enough time to read it. And, in the meantime, my beekeeping world fell apart as one, and eventually both, of my hives turned on me.
So, I reached out into the oh-so welcoming abyss that is the internet and was thrown a lifeline.
Kerry commented on the post and (Thank you whoever you are!) sent me a link to an eight-page pamphlet that Chandler has put together titled “Beekeeping: Pure & Simple”. The article length fit into the allotted time frame I have for reading and it was just the kick in the booty I needed to actually read that book on the shelf.
If you are interested in beekeeping on any level ranging from the total voyeur who just wants to talk about bees to the full throttle let’s-start-this-beekeeping-thing person – this article is for you. The first four pages talk about the “colony” and its classification as an organism as a whole. The idea of looking at a hive as a single unit living with the selfless view of “one for all and all for one” is fascinating and spot on. The description of how a hive prepares to swarm is literally a page-turner (no joke!) and the information on how bees interact as a cohesive unit is unbelievably cool. So, uh, read it – just the pamphlet if you want (I’ll understand).
The idea of beekeeping – pure and simple – hit me hard. First and foremost, it brought back the love and wonder I have for honeybees. It helped remove the personal stigma I had placed on myself and helped shed light on why the bees were doing this. It helped me understand that it wasn’t a case of them doing it to me anymore. It was a natural reaction and predilection that they were having to their surroundings, their environment and the intrusion I had placed on them. It wasn’t me.
So, once I was feeling a bit better and a little warmer inside, I got to thinking.
The idea of “barefoot beekeeping” considers the burden and infringement that we as beekeepers have placed on the honeybee. The modern practice of beekeeping exploits bees for their honey and corrupts their natural tendencies for our own benefit and gain. It only takes a moment’s glance into a beehive to realize that it is designed entirely for the ease of the human keeper – not the honeybee. A strange concept considering it’s the bees’ home.
Modern beekeeping has become a human-centered practice that focuses on reaping the benefits at the expense and cost of the honeybees’ health and sanity. I don’t know where this is taking me, but I know one thing – I don’t want to be where I’ve been. I don’t want to open up the hive come March and find death. I don’t want to open up my hive one sunny afternoon and find myself under attack. I do not, under any circumstances, want to question myself as a beekeeper. So, I will continue to explore, research and read (when I have time) about what is best for my bees. It is humbling to acknowledge that the honeybee has had it figured out for hundreds of thousands of years without mine or any other humans’ influence. The winds are a shiftin’ and I’m thinking “natural” beekeeping is gonna look a little different come next year.
beekeeping-pure-and-simple“>PDF Version of Beekeeping: Pure & Simple by PJ Chandler
You can pick up a copy of The Barefoot Beekeeper by PJ Chandler at our local bookstore, Village Books!