We just got back from the first ever Treatment Free Beekeeping Conference on the west coast. It was held in Forest Grove near Portland, and featured a speaker list that reads like a who’s who of the alternative beekeeping world: Les Crowder, Kirk Webster, Tom Seeley, and many more.
After losing all our hives last winter, we were a bit disheartened. Yes, we did start over with a few new hives and they are doing well so far. But what’s the point, if we can’t keep them alive for more than two years? Just when the hives have built up to the point of producing a good surplus of honey, wax, and bees, it’s back to square one. And we are certainly not going to start putting miticides, fungicides, and antibiotics into our hives.
This conference was just what we needed. The challenges faced by beekeepers are certainly daunting. But there were also many examples of beekeepers who had successfully developed treatment free ways of keeping bees. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. Every apiary seems unique due to the myriad factors that come into play: climate zone, urban or rural setting, elevation, number of hives, hive management practices, local bee genetics, etc. The trick will be finding the approach that translates best to our Seattle backyard.
But there was so much enthusiasm, optimism, and celebration of the joys of beekeeping, that you could not help but be inspired. We came home with lots of ideas and a renewed determination to continue keeping bees and to collaborate with other beekeepers in the area in the quest for a sustainable approach.
Kirk Webster, Tom Seeley, and conference organizer Kat Nesbitt observe as a bee swarm takes flight