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Home beekeeping has been in the news for the past few years, but saving bees doesn’t mean raising bees and stealing their honey. Much of the domestic beekeeping industry is steeped in speciesism, even though it claims to support these animals, as it assumes we have the right to steal honey, beeswax and honeycomb bees who work hard to produce it themselves.
If you are considering getting into backyard beekeeping, here are some things you should know:
Backyard beekeeping doesn’t ‘save the bees’
When scientists talk about “saving the bees,” they’re not talking about the species that most home beekeepers exploit. The species most commonly used for backyard beekeeping is the European honey bee, a domesticated non-native species imported to North America for use in agriculture. These colonies compete for resources with native bees – which are actually much better pollinators and are threatened with extinction – and other insects.
While bees are more interested in nectar, native species actively collect pollen. They also pollinate native plants much better, which promotes overall biodiversity and ecosystem health.
The best thing you can do to help bees is to support struggling native species by making your garden a haven, full of native plants and bee-friendly bee houses. Mason, leafcutter, and miner bees are just a few of the species you might spot, but there are over 4,000 types native to the United States.
Other Problems With Backyard Beekeeping
Many backyard colonies die because people don’t realize how much work and responsibility is involved in maintaining a thriving hive.
Bee colonies are very susceptible to disease, poor nutrition and parasites. Varroa mites can infest colonies – where they feed and live on larvae, pupae and even adult bees – which can eventually lead to the spread of diseases and viruses, colony collapse and death. Novice beekeepers may not have the knowledge, funds or experience to manage infestations, which can also spread to neighboring hives.
Taking honey, comb and beeswax is inherently speciesist
Bees produce honey and build combs from beeswax in order to feed themselves and support their hives. Stealing their hard work is inherently speciesist – their honey belongs to them, not us. Many people get into backyard beekeeping in order to have their own source of honey, while claiming to support bee populations. But most native species either don’t produce honey or don’t produce enough for humans to harvest. If you really care about the well-being of these friendly pollinators, leaving them alone and simply turning your garden into a bee-friendly place is the best thing you can do for them.
What to do if you already practice beekeeping in your garden
If you’re already caring for bees in your garden, make sure you’re familiar with proper care techniques so you can protect them from disease, varroa mites, and other damage. Don’t be a speciesist, stop stealing bees for your own gain.
Do more to help bees
There are many delicious sweeteners you can use instead of honey, including agave nectar and maple syrup. Be sure to purchase beeswax-free cosmetics and soy-based candles for your home. Finally, support the local bee population by planting pollinator-friendly native plants, installing bee houses or hotels in your garden, and avoiding the use of pesticides.
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