The 7 Methods of Minimal Disturbance

Recently, I’ve been rethinking my beekeeping practices. The principles behind Warré beehives have forced me to think of the relationship and ethical principles I have with my bees as their Keeper in a whole new light.

honey bee' fuzzy butt
“I believe that the unsustainable ways of beekeeping are dying and that we must let them.” Photo & quote by Jonathan Hargus©

Don’t get me wrong; I have always sought to create a better way to keep healthy bees. But lately I have discovered that I can do even better.

What IF another element crucial to honey bee health was what we did not do? Based on my own research and experience, I have developed something not only for myself but for all Keepers of bees: I call it The 7 Methods of Minimal Disturbance or the 7 MMD’s for short even though that doesn’t sound very cool.

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The 7 Methods of Minimal Disturbance

Method #1

Anticipate & Prepare

  • Anticipating the bees’ needs ahead of time will help the Keeper to be prepared & organized
  • Prepare for each season according to the appropriate in-hive tasks needing accomplished
  • Prepare equipment and sites ahead of time

Method #2

Rain or Shine, do things on-time

  • Schedule your work according to weather conditions, blooming conditions & your unique climate
  • The key to successful beekeeping is to do what needs to be done on-time, despite certain conditions (provided they do not put the bees at risk)
  • Treatments must be done on-time

Method #3

Observe & Learn

  • Much can be learned by observing the hive entrance to prevent unnecessary colony disturbance
  • Observe what is blooming and when it blooms from year to year
  • Compare the traffic of a hive to the activity of other beehives of similar strength/populations

Method #4

Smoke the hive, help them Thrive

  • Smoking the hive is a ‘knock on the door.’ It is a fair warning to the bees and keeps them from unnecessary defensive posture
  • Using smoke in moderation helps to keep the bees from areas they can get squished
  • Smoke is also essential with overly aggressive honey bee colonies

Method #5

Go in with a Plan

  • Curiosity is a high-risk reason for entering a beehive
  • Have a plan if you’re going to open a beehive and disturb its homeostatic environment
  • Get in and get out

Method #6

Everything in its Place

  • Never separate the brood nest unless making splits
  • Every inspection needs to include verification of the following: room to grow, room to store, food stores, a healthy brood nest & a laying queen
  • The nucleus of the colony must be maintained in a specific structure that varies little throughout the year

Method #7

Don’t get Greedy

  • Always stay informed and practice sustainable ethics when harvesting resources
  • Taking too much will hurt the Beehive, the Keeper & the Community
  • Responsible resource management is another key to successful beekeeping

~The idea is this: Minimal disturbance equals healthier beehives.~

This upper hive entrance was one of my first ways of providing better ventilation. I believe better ventilation encourages better health. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

What’s the big deal?

Most of you reading this are probably thinking that you already do most if not all of these things. That’s awesome! I encourage you to actively practice these methods continually. I know that I could do a better job.

Another thing you must understand why I developed these is because 90% of these methods are NOT practiced in commercial beekeeping operations. How do I know? I was in commercial beekeeping for 15 years in Florida. Their beekeeping practices are unsustainable.

Apicentric vs. Anthropocentric

Apicentric beekeeping

-Apicentric beekeeping involves practices that place the bee and its well-being first.

Anthropocentric beekeeping

-Anthropocentric beekeeping involves practices that place the beekeeper first and the bee as a commodity.

Which one do you prefer?

Here are a couple of sources that I have decided to use in order to better my own practices. I encourage you to do the same because we are the next generation of sustainable beekeepers that will lead honey bees into a thriving environment.

At the Hive Entrance is a book created by a brilliant German beekeeper, H. Storch. He spent hours and hours observing the entrances of his beehives in order to know what their in-hive conditions were. Healthy or not.

Natural Beekeeping with the Warré Hive by David Heaf, is a book about building and operating your own Warré beehives. He also includes the ethics behind this unique style of beekeeping.

These ethics are the ones that got my brain working on the 7 Methods of Minimal Disturbance. Check it out!

I encourage you to use these methods freely and adopt them into your operation. (Just don’t take credit for them; they’re copyrighted 😉

And not just these. Beekeeping is just a small niche in the larger picture of Permaculture. If you’re interested in becoming a student of Ecological Improvement through career landscaping, check out the following link before you go, thanks!


So tell me what you think about these. I would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And until next time remember,

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire

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