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The Bee-Friendly Beekeeper – a sustainable approach

The Bee-Friendly Beekeeper – a sustainable approach

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The book begins with the story of two swarms, one natural and one artificial. This comparison between what the bees do when left to themselves, and what ‘is done to them’ by the beekeeper, runs through the whole book. Later sections expand on the differences, pointing out the impact or sustainability of the two different approaches. Heaf makes use of an academic matrix to introduce agricultural and environmental ethics into his argument, fitting the fundamental attitudes of beekeepers into four types of relationship between beekeeper and nature: that of dominator, steward, partner or participant. Readers of The Beekeeper’s Quarterly will be familiar with this matrix, which first appeared in a series of articles by Heaf in 2008. Sustainability is environmental, economic, social and – vitally – bee-friendly. He then goes on to discuss the three primary needs of a bee colony shelter, seclusion and sustenance. Two chapters on disease and making increase answer to modern concerns. Finally, two chapters on the People’s Hive of Abbé Warré describe in detail Heaf’s own use of the hive, and tips on management. This is very much a beekeeper’s guide, it assumes a good working knowledge of conventional frame hive management processes. Heaf’s own choice is for the People’s Hive – a vertical top-bar hive – being simpler to build and manage than conventional frame hives. Simplicity is often an indicator of sustainability, at least for the beekeeper, and a distinct advantage for the bee in that it reduces opportunities for interference with the natural workings of the colony. Heaf backs up his call for more ‘natural’ conditions in the brood nest with extensive research into the literature of beekeeping.