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Organic beekeeping is the process of raising bees without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other unnatural or harmful substances. In order for beekeeping to fit the definition of organic, the bees have to be raised using all-natural materials and methods, with care taken to support bee health and low stress levels. It’s important to note that a beekeeper may consider his efforts organic even if he does not meet all of these standards. He typically has to meet these standards, however, if he wants his beekeeping project to be certified organic.
The backbone of organic beekeeping is ensuring the products and substances used for the hives are safe for the bees and the beekeeper. If it cannot be handled or consumed safely by a beekeeper or his bees, it doesn’t belong in organic beekeeping. Pesticides and herbicides are among the things that are prohibited in organic beekeeping. These substances may work to weaken the bees’ immune systems, making them more likely to develop disease as well.
The hive location often plays a significant role in whether or not a beekeeping operation is considered organic. Organic beekeeping certification standards may require a hive to be within a specific distance of natural vegetation or land that is farmed using organic methods. For example, some certification standards require an organic beekeeping operation to have a minimum of three miles (4.82 kilometers) of organic farmland or natural plant life around it. This helps ensure the bees will restrict their feeding to these areas since they are unlikely to fly farther in search of food.
Organic beekeeping also requires the beekeeper to use hives that are built with natural materials only. For example, an organic beekeeper may build a hive from unpainted timber. An organic beekeeper doesn’t stop with just the hive’s construction, however. He also uses tools that are safe for contact with food and free from potential pollutants.
To be designated an organic operation, the manner in which beekeepers harvest hive products also is considered. An organic beekeeper leaves some honey in the hive when harvesting, ensuring that the bees can feed on it when the weather is very cold or dry. Often, beekeepers help to supplement their bees’ diets by providing a supply of sugar water. The organic beekeeper avoids this practice, as he knows it’s not healthy for his bees. Organic beekeepers also leave some of the original honeycomb for the bees when they remove the beeswax, helping to reduce stress on the bees.