Alternative Beekeeping, Articles

What is your Beekeeper Style?

Ernie SchmidtThe Buzz from Ernie: A monthly column about alternative beekeeping.

What kind of bee keeper are you? What is your bee keeping style?
Last month I spoke of the Beekeeper style or style of beekeeping. What’s that all about?
Let me start by quoting the famous beekeeper, F.E. Moeller. “Beekeepers in managing or manipulating colonies, are merely facilitating normal biological colony changes to suit their purposes.”  I can’t think of a simpler way to describe the art of beekeeping no matter what your purpose or style is.
Every month I will try to focus mainly on Top Bar and Warre hives, but understand that Langstroth hives can be managed in alternative ways also. All keepers have a strong similarity and bond with each other – their passion for the bees. Over the years I have found a common core purpose that seems to permeate the Alternative keeper’s vision of beekeeping. The desire to be different, hence the name Alternative. We will go so far as to rename what we do as Beehaving or Bee Guardians. Perhaps we have a desire to experience nature at a higher level then we are now. Perhaps a need for a natural connection and keeping bees seems to address it. In this crazy world we live in our bees help us to somehow make that connection. Be it a fascination, a curiosity, a drive, a spiritual connection, or maybe a personal desire to make a difference in the world. Our attraction to these tiny creatures is strong. I find the level of diversity of beekeepers at our club meetings incredible, all with the strong common bond of bees. Even I can only describe much of what I see in the world of bees with my personal feelings of, “It’s magic.”
However, it is not enough to have strong feelings, along with that passion a beekeeper must have a firm grasp of the concept- “-facilitating normal biological colony changes-” part of beekeeping. Lets start by trying to describe beekeeping styles. This is rather difficult in that sometimes managements and styles will blend and cross over with each other. Every keeper has a different style that ranges from subtle to major differences. It is nearly impossible to describe each and every little difference in styles that sets each one of us apart.
However, 3 main, general styles are;
The Controller, The Facilitator and The Observer.
The Controller – Has a tight schedule. Makes a living with the bees. Much of the management methods involves timing normal biological colony changes with business interests. Desires maximum achievable product production from the bees. Will alter natural colony behavior to obtain keeper desired results. I call my hives managed in this manner The Honey Makers. A good style for choosing the Langstroth hive.
The Facilitator – Likes to help the bees. Would like some product from the hive. Will work with natural colony behavior to create some human desired results. Sees beekeeping as a partnership with the colony. Embraces a relationship beneficial for both parties. I personally describe this side of my style as “fussing with the bees” A good Top Bar style of beekeeper.
The Observer – Goes with the flow. Views themselves as a provider for the basic needs for a healthy colony. Believes the bees can make a large portion of the choices needed to keep balance in the hive. They are content with the bees just being bees. Bees are considered more pets then product producers. This style of keeping will work well with a Warre hive.
A keeper doesn’t have to chose either one or another style. I tend to have a combination of all 3 because I run 3 different types of hives. Even then, I am more of a Facilitator and Observer then a Controller. This is mainly a basic style description to help a keeper choose a hive type most complimentary to their keeping style.
“It’s all about the bees”
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About Ernie Schmidt

Together we are about to start down the path of Alternative Beekeeping. Each month I will discuss and share the joys, methods, philosophies, and realities of keeping bees in Top Bars and Warres, along with other different and unique hive styles and methods. There will be times I get straight to the point and other times I will meander about, but always remember - "It’s all about the bees"
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