Backwards Beekeeping: Natural Care of Feral Bees


You’re relaxing in your backyard when you hear that ominous noise: the unmistakable buzz of a swarm of bees. The sight of a writhing mass of wild stinging insects is enough to turn almost anyone into a shrieking horror movie heroine, but whatever you do, don’t harm them! Natural care of feral bees could be a key to overcoming Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

They’ve yet to pinpoint the exact cause, with guesses focusing on everything from tiny mites to pesticide overload, but one thing scientists do know is that we need the bees to pollinate, since a third of our food crops are rapidly disappearing. But treating honeybees with even more chemicals is just fueling the fire, according to one subset of beekeepers.

“We’re “˜Backwards’ because we rely on observation and natural practices rather than pesticides and other chemicals to keep our bees thriving,” write the self-proclaimed Backwards Beekeepers, a group of organic beekeepers in Los Angeles who are determined to help local bee populations thrive.

While CCD has hit commercial bees hard, wild bees seem to be doing just fine – and Backwards Beekeepers believe their health is due to their more natural way of life. The Backwards Beekeepers trap feral swarms of bees, transfer them to new hives and provide organic chemical-free support while allowing nature to do most of the work.

Conventional beekeepers place sheets made of plastic or wax in their hives for their honeybees to build upon, but the problem is, bees aren’t too fond of plastic and the wax is contaminated by chemicals and pesticides. The hexagonal cell pattern on the sheets is often too large, encouraging the growth of oversized bees that may gather more pollen and make more honey, but are also more susceptible to mites and thus require chemical treatment.

The Backwards Beekeepers – made up of Kirk Anderson, Charles Martin Simon and Michael Bush – believe that this just plain unnatural system is adding unnecessary stress to bee populations. Their own system relies on wood strips painted with chemical-free beeswax taken from their own previous harvests.

Simon outlines the 10 Principles of Beekeeping Backwards, explaining that observation, working with nature and above all supporting the health of the bees are the most important things you can remember, adding “Beekeeping is not about honey – it’s not about money – it’s about survival.”

Want to get started as a Backwards Beekeeper? Check out our primer, ‘How to Keep Bees: Basics of Bee Keeping for Beginners‘ and then bone-up on natural beekeeping methods at

Image: hr.icio

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.