As a species, the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, is under considerable stress throughout large parts of the world. This is due to a number of factors, including environmental degradation and the ubiquitous use of toxic agrochemicals. A third factor, that receives less publicity, is beekeeper-induced stress. The honey bee is essentially a wild creature with a complex life cycle. While it is happy to live in close proximity to man, it cannot be treated as other domestic animals, such as sheep or cows.
Modern beekeeping methods can be highly intrusive and disruptive of colony function. The result of this excessive interference in bees, over more than a century, is now evident in a marked decrease in the vigour of bee populations around the world.
In response to what has now become a critical situation -both of the honeybee and the natural world as a whole- growing numbers of people, beekeepers and others, are questioning forms of honeybee husbandry which rely, as does most of modern agriculture, on chemical solutions to man-made problems. There are no insecticides or pesticides which are truly safe for bees - this includes those introduced to hives in modern beekeeping.
However, as we collectively question conventional approaches to nature in general and bees in particular, holistic practices are gaining ground. The Natural Beekeeping Trust promotes chemical-free sustainable bee-centred methods of caring for bees; methods that look at the creature in the round, taking into account its context in its local ecosystem.
For an example of the success of this new approach, we can look at the parasite Varroa destructor. The Western honey bee suffers from this mite throughout its range. Conventional beekeeping attempts to control the mite through the use of in-hive chemicals and other beekeeper actions. Yet around the UK and further afield, scientists and beekeepers are discovering that, left in peace, honey bee populations can in fact cope naturally with the varroa mite without the need for interference by the beekeeper.
Text taken from the Natural Beekeeping Trust