Continuing with the discussion on what is wrong with modern beekeeping methods;
3) With the removable frames came the next fundamental change to beekeeping, foundation comb . This great step forward ensured the bees built their comb within the confines of the frame. There was no chance of them building cross comb making it difficult to remove the frames. In the quest forever more honey yield the foundation was impressed with the size of the cell that would encourage the bees to produce workers and reduce the number of drones. The cell size was also increased from the natural size the bees would construct in the hope they would produce larger and more productive bees.
Since that time the cell size has remained largely unchanged. With slight regional variations the cells are 10% to 15% larger than the bees would normally build. Coincidently in the wild Varroa prefers the large cell size of Drone brood so the larger size of worker cell foundation forces the bees to build is ideal for them (lucky old Varroa!)
The other main issue with using wax foundation is the transfer of chemicals and pesticides present in the wax, which can cause health issues with the bees.
If the bees are left to their own devices they build comb which is ideal for them and less than ideal for the Varroa. Of course their own wax will also be free of the build up from the pesticides and chemicals.
Personally I believe that allowing the bees to build their own comb is less stressful for them and they know best what size to build (Don’t forget they have had over 100 million years practice. Why do we as beekeepers feel we know better than they do?)
4) One additional thing the modern hive with removable frames facilitated was selective breeding. This in my humble opinion is the worst interference of them all. A strain of bee that has perfectly adapted to its environment is taken and bread with other strains of bee to produce a gentler more productive hybrid. The required traits are selected and bred for but what about the myriad unknowns. Is the new strain more susceptible to a particular disease, can it cope as well with the extremes of its environment? There are many questions that should have been asked and weren’t. The hybrids then mix with the native bees and millions of years of natural selection quite simply fly’s out the window.
Of course things can quickly get out of hand with unforeseen consequences the African hybrid bees are a case in point.
5) This leads nicely into my final point about what is wrong with ‘modern’ beekeeping, the import and export of bees and queens. The movement of bees by beekeepers around the globe brings with it the danger of diseases and pathogens native bees are not equipped to cope with. Varroa is a case in point. How long will it be before the Hive Beetle is found in Europe? Not long if modern beekeeping methods have anything to do with it!
Next: What Can Be Done To Put Things Right?