[permaculture] More Thoughts on Beekeeping

Eugene Monaco efmonaco at comcast.net
Thu Mar 8 11:34:49 EST 2007

Kevin, sorry about the UT crack.  Must have gotten my meds off a little.
Folks, I have been following the trail of bees for a while and this is my
4th season keeping them, so I know very little to nothing about them in the
grand scheme of things, but as one looks closely at them one discovers the
whole universe (same thing John Muir said about studying a flower).
I joined our local beekeepers association 5 years ago; which I highly
recommend for anyone wanting to learn about people (and a little about
bees).  A lot of these folks are salt-of-the earth mountain people, women in
work boots (yumm), old timers and newbies alike.  There's also a few
commercial beekeepers who do things at an industrial scale, but in my burg
there aren't many; mostly what they call hobbyists (I hate the word because
I take this stuff seriously, damnit!).  Sometimes the guy from the
university shows up.  It's quite a mix.
This year they did what they call a short course, 2-hrs for 2 nights.  It's
geared for newbies.  I've been to 3 of them now, including one from a
neighboring county which was even more of a hoot. (The speaker held a can in
his hand as he presented and spit tobacco juice in it every so often.)  
I've watched over the years as people struggle between 2 worlds (me
included).  The one world is the world of dogma, where you follow the rules
and the traditions, and you don't ask too many questions, and you do things
because that's the way they were done, or that's the way they are done.
This world flows into religion as well, doing what the authorities say and
thinking what they say to think.  We've all been there. 
The other world is the world of intuition, where you follow your heart and
listen to the subtle communications from other worlds: the plant people, the
fairies in Ireland, the keepers of the trees, etc.  I actually heard
somebody once say that "all my senses were telling me <blank> but I did the
opposite.  It makes you wonder, why, if all your senses are telling you to
do something, wouldn't you do it?  Yet we don't, time and again, because the
language is foreign.
At the most recent meeting, there was a speaker, who, for the first time in
my experience, talked about keeping bees with no chemicals at all.  Some of
the old timers snickered at this because they had been told by the ag agents
after living through their populations get decimated by varoa and tracheal
mites that this was the only way (chemicals).  This was what I heard when I
first started and I blindly followed their advice in a state of fear, even
though "all my senses" were telling me otherwise.  It was going against my
intuition, but bees seem so complicated, and once you fork out $500 to get
set up with your first hive and gear (bee suit, gloves, smoker, honey
supers, hive tools, etc.), you don't want to have the bees die.
As you might imagine, the topic of CCD came up.  This speaker's attitude was
that this has been around before and a lot of it is from what he calls PPM
(piss-poor management).  The only real antidote to it, he says, is to build
strong hives.  I came to this same conclusion because it is exactly the same
school of thought or principle as natural farming; I also came upon this in
my herbology practice in learning to use herbs to build health and immunity,
rather than to treat symptoms.  These things seem so basic, and yet we miss
them again and again.  Queens these days are often artificially inseminated.
Ohio State U. claims success with this in breeding mite-resistant bees, and
they might be right.  But what about the next pest that comes along?
The journey to enlightenment reveals itself in the realization of oneness
with all things and practice of sacred communication.  With the release of
ego and ambition we can feel comfortable with our place in the cosmos,
knowing that we have not tread upon others, and yet like the flower, can
unfold into universal grandeur.

Gene Monaco
Knoxville, TN

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