His philosophy is different from that of old time beekeepers, and his ideas were fascinating to me. In previous seminars, I had heard beekeepers talk of medicating their bees to help control pests such as mites. Protocol dictates that medication is done prior to the bees gathering nectar. However, tests have shown that those medications and pesticides end up in the honeycomb....and potentially in the honey. As an inspector, Mike had often seen beekeepers that failed to remove the medications even after beginning honey collection....a practice that he was unable to do anything about. There is presently no regulating body for the inspection of honey production. State Inspectors' responsibilities are only to the health of the hive.
We do not use medications with our bees. To me, it just doesn't make sense. Personally, I always worried that the medications would eventually end up in the honey. I would rather ensure that our honey is as pure and natural as possible. Mike (Bjorn Apiaries) gave us a few great ideas for naturally controlling and minimizing mite populations, without jeopardizing the environment or our health.....ideas that I plan to try with my own bees.
Another point that I found fascinating was Mike's opinion about Colony Collapse Disorder. Because Pennsylvania is one of the epicenters of research on this subject, he had the most recent information. It seems that researchers believe that it is not one single thing that is causing the demise of our bees, but rather a combination of many factors. The use of formic and oxalic acids to combat mites might change the pH of the bee's digestive system, thereby making it more susceptible to harm by current "organic" pesticides such as Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) which is used in large-scale spraying for control of certain pests, such as caterpillars. Although Bt is, by itself, safe for bees....perhaps the fact that the bees are exposed to such a chemical soup makes exposure to one more chemical the "straw that broke the camel's back". It is just an idea, but it sure makes sense to me. Just one more reason that natural beekeeping seems like the way to go.
I know that a certain amount of bees will not survive....I will lose hives from time to time. But as they say....the strong survive. And perhaps this will help to ensure a stronger genetic strain of bee in the long run.
As with most things in life, I don't always choose to follow the rules, but try to do what feels like the "right" thing. Natural beekeeping feels right to me.