"The more I studied beekeeping, the less I knew, until, finally, I knew nothing. But, even though I knew nothing, I still had plenty to unlearn. For we can never, and I do mean never, reiterate the ideals of the books, of history. How did Langstroth manage all his colonies without power tools? Especially when he was totally disabled for months and months. How did he do it? Simple again. He was crazy. Crazy people can do phenomenal things. The other side of insanity is genius.
I realized early on that if I followed the rules as written, I would fail. And how could anyone who knows better choose to fail? But it did take me a long time to figure that out. I started out just like everybody else, trying my best to go by the book.
It took me 20 years to get up the courage to sell my extractor, after it had taken me ten years to save up enough to buy it in the first place along with a truck with a shack on the back to serve as a portable extracting room. I was so stupid back then. I thought it was about honey. I’d read all the books, especially Ormand’s, especially the part where he says, “Honey is money.” I bought it hook, line, and sinker.
But don’t get me wrong. I love Ormand. He’s my friend. Acknowledged grand master of the game, third generation beekeeper, author of two great books on the subject, holder of the world’s record in the GUINESS BOOK OF RECORDS for the most honey produced by a single hive in a single season with a single queen, 404 pounds, a record that held from 1957 – 1963, when it was broken only with the use of multiple queens. Ormand’s true, single-queen record will most likely never be even seriously challenged. But he doesn’t keep bees anymore. The unthinkable happened. It was not that he got too old. He is very old, but he still works in carpentry. What happened was the mites wiped him out.
Ormand played by the rules. Bought the miticide and followed the directions. I bought the stuff too. But when I was handling it still sealed in foil, I could taste it in my gums, and it tasted toxic, so I didn’t use it. So my bees died. But Ormand’s bees died too. Besides, we were hearing reports from all around the nation that it was not working. But “they” were insisting that we use it anyway, the implication being if we didn’t use it, we were part of the problem. But if we did use it, our bees still died. Year after year, I didn’t use it. Year after year, I’d start new swarms in the spring, only to have them die off in the fall and early winter. I didn’t quit only because I couldn’t. Then we heard the miticide was outlawed in Scandinavia."
Bee Culture – July, 2001
Principles of Beekeeping Backwards
- Charles Martin Simon