Nassim Taleb invented the word “antifragile” to describe systems like beehives that benefit from adversity. Challenge bees with an invasive parasite such as Varoa mites and they’ll eventually figure out a strategy to deal with them. That is, unless we humans decide to prop up weak colonies with misguided interventions. Taleb says,
Crucially, if antifragility is the property of all those natural (and complex) systems that have survived, depriving these systems of volatility, randomness, and stressors will harm them. They will weaken, die, or blow up. We have been fragilizing the economy, our health, political life, education, almost everything . . . by suppressing randomness and volatility. Just as spending a month in bed . . . leads to muscle atrophy, complex systems are weakened, even killed, when deprived of stressors. Much of our modern, structured, world has been harming us with top- down policies and contraptions (dubbed ‘Soviet- Harvard delusions’ in the book) which do precisely this: an insult to the antifragility of systems.
There’s not much information on antifragile beekeeping. To correct that, here’s a buzzing hive of natural no-treatment beekeeping resources for your consideration:
- First I’d suggest reading Charles Martin Simon’s elegant manifesto The Principles of Beekeeping Backwards.
- Michael Bush has a huge website with lots of information at The Practical Beekeeper.
- The videos on the Backwards Beekeepers will be very useful for folks in places without natural beekeeping mentors. Check on the one on swarm captures as well as how to do crush and strain honey harvesting.
- HoneyLove has some great resources and a forum.
- Discussions on the organic beekeepers Yahoo group get heated, to put it mildly, but there’s good info.
- Gaia Bees is the website of Michael Thiele, who we blogged about last year.
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping – not to be confused with the conventional approach in the Dummies book.
- The Practical Beekeeper: Beekeeping Naturally – Michael Bush’s voluminous guide to natural beekeeping.
You’ll find a range of ideas in these books and websites particularly when it comes to hive types–everything from Langstroth boxes to top bar hives to hollowed out logs. What matters more than the type of hive you use is having a long range view and a recognition that too much intervention leads to the sort of antifragility Taleb is concerned about.
Your local club or beekeeping association may or may not be open to natural techniques. It could be difficult, depending on where you live, to find a mentor. That’s why I put this list together.
Let me know if I left out any resources in the comments . . .