August 05, 2008

The Great Vegan Honey Debate

From one vegan's perspective "... beekeeping, like dairy farming, is cruel and exploitative. The bees are forced to construct their honeycombs in racks of removable trays, according to a design that standardizes the size of each hexagonal chamber. Queens are imprisoned in certain parts of the hive, while colonies are split to increase production and sprinkled with prophylactic antibiotics. In the meantime, keepers control the animals by pumping their hives full of smoke, which masks the scent of their alarm pheromones and keeps them from defending their honey stores. And some say the bees aren't making the honey for us, so its removal from the hive could be construed as a form of theft." For the full original article, click here. Having spoken with Lang-style beekeepers, and that's who Daniel Engber is talking about here, I believe there's some stretching, but at the same time there's too much truth to this statement.

I've been pondering whether or not to explain what's so sustainable about Top Bar Hiving. I promised to not get preachy, so this is a challenging post. Let me just say we are defying all of the above because there is a better way. Bees can be "kept" for their own benefit, not ours. Feral colonies are losing out to urbanization and monoculture farming. By simply providing them with a space in which to do what is natural to them, they can continue to survive and even thrive. And when they thrive, they build freeform comb and fill them with honey and raise more bees.

Aside from making sure they have water close by (city code), we give them nothing else. Well, maybe some hand holding, since the house we've given them isn't exactly a tree hollow (again, city code). Beekeepers call it "hive management," which for us means understanding what the bees need and providing it in a wholesome, natural way. Making sure they have adequate space and don't get "honey bound" is our current concern.


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