THE DARWINIAN BEEKEEPER
We are happy to present an update about our bee rewilding programme in which Juan Antonio Garcia Villaba, who manages the project, details the success of Darwinian beekeeping in regenerating the natural resilience of honeybee colonies without resort to chemical or organic treatments of any kind.
Like plagues and diseases which have decimated human, livestock and crop populations since the dawn of civilisation, the pandemic of Colony Collapse Disorder that has led to the extinction of wild honeybees in Europe and is increasingly devastating commercial hives around the world is neither an act of God nor an act of nature, but a product of compulsory mismanagement and disastrous design. Indeed, it has been suggested by scholars that the Biblical story of the seven plagues which struck Egypt in the age of Moses are mythical depictions of the first ecological crises brought about by large scale monoculture production.
As biologist Thomas Seeley, author of half a dozen books about bees, wrote last year for the American Bee Journal:
"Adopting an evolutionary perspective on beekeeping may lead to better understanding about the maladies of our bees, and ultimately improve our beekeeping and the pleasure we get from our bees. An important first step toward developing a Darwinian perspective on beekeeping is to recognize that honey bees have a stunningly long evolutionary history, evident from the fossil record."
The photograph reproduced above, for example, is a 30 million year old worker honey bee of the species apis henshawwi, described as one of the most beautiful fossils in the insect world.
As Seely notes, "Modern humans (Homo sapiens) are a recent evolutionary innovation compared to honey bees. We arose some 150,000 years ago in the African savannahs, where honey bees had already been living for aeons." For most of human history, we have hunted bees for their honey, allowing natural selection to maintain healthy populations in the wild. As was the case with crops and other live stock, hunting became replaced by beekeeping only recently, during the last ten thousand years: once the eco-logical forces shaping the lives of bees were replaced by homo-logical domination and control, they inevitably began to succumb to what Michael Pollan terms "the problems of over-cultivation".
Seely goes on to analyse the 20 differences in wild vs. domesticated bee colonies listed above, concluding that "ever since humans started keeping bees in hives, we have been disrupting the exquisite fit that once existed between honey bee colonies and their environments". Lastly, he offers 10 suggestions for those interested in attempting bee-friendly apiculture, all of which we are implementing on the farm -- with encouraging success! -- under the deft supervision of Junjo, as you can observe below.
We hope, as Seely does, that our readers find it useful to think about beekeeping from an evolutionary perspective, and that those who are able will consider giving Darwinian beekeeping a try!