I keep seeing stuff about how beekeeping isn’t ethical and stuff. I really like honey but don’t want to hurt the bees because they’re apart of the ecosystem. Is it hurting the bees when we take their honey and beeswax? Do we take it all or leave some for them? How much do you know to take? What happens to them in the winter? (Sorry for all the questions)
These are all excellent questions!
Many people who don’t know how beekeeping works (mostly crazy nature peeps and PETA-esque people) like to yell and make a ruckus about how “beekeeping is killing the bees” and “taking honey starves them” and stuff.
I can assure you that absolutely none of this is true (when speaking of actual beekeepers).
Beekeepers and the beekeeping community in general have actually seen a slowing of the decline in their population, and some sources are starting to show them on an incline again. (yayy!!!)
Taking honey is also typically not harmful for the bees at all. A good beekeeper knows how much they have, and how much they need to leave so that the bees can survive the winter. We don’t ever take all of it unless the colony absconds (leaves the hive to go find a new one) or dies due to non disease-related causes.
Honeybees are programmed to keep making surplus honey wayyyy after they have enough to survive the winter, and sometimes this can actually lead to something called being “honey bound”. This is where the bees have so much honey that there is no more room for the queen to lay eggs and their population starts to drop. (too much of a good thing really is bad.) By taking some excess honey, beekeepers actually free up space for them to work, and in turn can potentially save them from themselves.
In the winter, the bees go in to a kind of “not really dormant” state where they just gather up in to a big ball around the queen and buzz quietly to make heat. They slowly drain the honey (because this buzzing takes energy) so think of honey in the winter as a kind of “fuel” the bees use to heat up their house. As long as they have enough honey (or honey substitute) they will stay nice and cozy warm in the winter.