Honey bees are millions of years old, our hunter gatherer ancestors did not keep bees, they hunted bees for their honey in tree cavities and rock faces high up in nature.  Bee hunting began to be superseded by beekeeping some 10,000 years ago, when people started farming and domesticating plants and animals. 


Tom Seeley’s research in his book, Following the Wild Bees, shows the difference between bees as nature intended (unmanaged colonies) to commercial beekeeping (managed hives): 


Colonies genetically adapted to location 

Colonies live widely spaced in landscape 

Colonies occupy small cavities (40 litres)

Nest walls have a propolis coating 

Nest cavity walls are thick 

Nest entrance is high and small 

Nest site relocations are rare

Colonies are rarely disturbed 

Colonies deal with familiar diseases

Colonies have diverse pollen sources 

Colonies have natural diets

Colonies are not exposed to novel toxins

Colonies are not treated for disease

Pollen not trapped, honey not taken 

Bees choose larvae for queen rearing 

Beeswax not removed

Drones compete fiercely for mating 


Colonies not genetically adapted to location 

Colonies live crowded in apiaries

Colonies occupy large hives (85 litres)

Hive walls have no propolis coating 

Hive walls are thin 

Nest entrance is low and large 

Nest site relocations can be frequent 

Colonies are frequently disturbed 

Colonies deal with novel diseases 

Colonies have homogeneous pollen sources 

Colonies sometimes have artificial diets

Colonies exposed to insecticides 

Colonies treated for disease 

Pollen sometimes trapped, honey often taken 

Beekeepers choose larvae for queen rearing 

Beeswax removed during honey harvest 

Queen breeder may select drones for mating 

So, the domestication of the bees, taken them from their natural environment to man made homes, combined with the rise of industrial farming practices, use of chemicals and the removal of their natural habitat (the trees), has led to the bees health being in a critical condition.

In response to this situation, a global movement has risen to support Free Living Bees and the production of hives that support natural behaviour.