Supplemental Feeding Update
By Lady Spirit Moon
Editor’s note: In light of so many articles and experts recommending supplemental feeding in the fall, we asked Lady Spirit Moon how to reconcile that expertise with her recommendations, especially for a hive that is borderline for having sufficient stores.
Her answer follows. Our September issue featured her article “To Feed or Not to Feed.”
Every beekeeper has to make beekeeping decisions based on who they are according to their knowledge, life experiences, intentions, ultimate goal, why they keep bees, a beekeeper up the road, conscious, and sometimes just plain “because I want to.” I’m a natural beekeeper, meaning I don’t treat or smoke, and keep bees with the image of them living in a tree in a feral state, asking them, “What do you want me to do?” and “What would you do?” Natural beekeeping is less expensive and less labor intensive. I do not buy queens but allow my girls to make their own because each hive knows its needs better than I. I choose to keep them by their perspective and use feral stock as much as possible (feral is anything around 5 years or older). The honeybee has to survive and I feel they are trying to and evolving in spite of Man.
Dr. Kevyn Catlin, Entomologist, WCU, and a natural beekeeper, states, “The honeybee’s immune system is 67%, at best.” Stress from treatments, not enough stores or lack of nutrients in their stores, no queen, beekeepers, noise and chemicals in their environment, pests, being smoked, etc, compromises their immune systems 24/7.
I’ve learned bees do communicate in ways most beekeepers are unaware because I look at and work with the bee and hive as a sentient beings and not as commodities to be used for profit, though I do make money.
Bees are mostly kept in urban, forestry, desert, and rooftops areas, but it is my goal to raise resistant bees in a farming community. This is extremely challenging because of the chemicals used in farming and by utility companies clearing right-of-ways. It is also challenging because the colonies in farmlands don’t ‘fatten’ up like the colonies raised in or near forest regions.
Because of four hives located in my two apiaries, I have communicated with another beekeeper/biologist in PA regarding GMO crops affecting the honeybees’ learning abilities. The bees fly out to forage, but forget how to get back. I’ve discovered GMO crops may play a major role in CCD. Our first GMO product in the USA was a tomato in 1993. Americans have been eating GMO corn since 1996. Over the next several years honeybee colonies were disappearing. Then Colony Collapse Disorder was first phrased in 2006. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence.
I will not support a weak hive I know will not go through the winter; but will dignify the hive by allowing it to die out naturally. If I get a good nuc or hive in the fall and there are not enough stores and means of obtaining raw honey, I will feed sugar/water. But I haven’t done this beyond my first year of beekeeping. When I feed (and not often), there is always honey in it. The bees need their nutrients. If the hive is borderline, the sugar/water shouldn’t pose a problem if the hive is more than 60% full of nectar/capped honey and beebread.
Apitherapy has taught me there are not enough nutrients in the artificial feeds like Bee Healthy. Dr. Jamie Ellis, Entomologist, University of Florida, has proven Bee Healthy doesn’t work. Honeybees need more key nutrients than the companies put in their products; and what nutrients are in the products are usually synthesized.
I will not feed medication, essential oils, etc. Our society is too quick to medicate, even for “just in case” scenarios, rather than seek the cause or find a healthy/alternative way of dealing with illnesses or with what is out of balance. When I was doing Clinical, diet was about 90% the main cause of most illnesses. All animal species need a healthy diet, including our pets.
The honeybee is closer to humans than Man wants to admit. The needs of humans and bees parallel in many ways on many levels. And both societies need each other for both to survive.
Always question and open your ears and eyes to people, advice, information—everything —before major decisions regarding beekeeping, especially if you’re serious in your intentions. And do your own research. Never believe in any studies until you learn who paid for the study and how the study was done. There are a lot of herbal studies out there that are just plain wrong and are backed by pharmaceuticals. In the end, your gut is going to tell you what is right and what is not. Now, to answer your question, go back to the first sentence “Every beekeeper...”
Lady Spirit Moon is the Ambassador for the non-profit Center for Honeybee Research located in Asheville, NC. This year the Center has put in place two bee yards in which to do their research. Go to chbr.org to stay up with what we are doing and our events, sign up for our newsletter, and/or use our tax-deductible Donate button.