Brief overview of the current situation

30 million years of successful natural evolution
Bees, as feral beasts, have adapted to and survived 30 million years of environmental changes as well as countless diseases. Weak breeds succumbed, whilst stronger and more adaptable breeds had the reproductive advantage. This is the basic principle of natural selection: tough, yet sustainable.

Where do bees stand today?
Almost all honeybees in Switzerland are domesticated and kept by beekeepers. Should a swarm happen to settle and colonise, beekeepers and bee inspectors will destroy it as it is considered a potential source of disease outbreak.
The feral bee is virtually extinct in Switzerland. The main reasons for its demise are intensive agriculture, a severe shortage of nesting sites (old trees and trunks) and modern beekeeping, which prevents natural selection from running its course. 30 million years of natural bee evolution have virtually been annihilated by man in just a few decades.
A fleeting comparison between conventional beekeeping and a more natural approach reveals that mainstream beekeeping compromises animal welfare in favour of maximising honey yields and beekeeper comfort. In order to maximise honey yields, sophisticated measures are applied for swarm suppression and to prevent the bees’ natural swarming instincts, which is equivalent to castrating the bee colony. The ensuing chain reactive issues will, in turn, need to be dealt with through human or unnatural intervention. As a consequence, bees are bred and weakened through symptomatic pest and disease treatments to the extent that they are no longer capable of surviving in Nature without human intervention. Current bee mortality is, to a large extent, the result of widespread intensive animal husbandry. China’s attempts at manually pollinating fruit trees simply confirm our worst fears which are rapidly becoming reality. Such is the impending catastrophe that even if all environmental impacts were to be set aside, e.g. avoiding the use of plant protection products, this would not solve the current problems without a fundamental change in the art of bee keeping.

Legislation and Research
The Swiss Federal Epizootic Diseases Ordinance obliges us bee keepers to register our bees with the cantonal authorities.  Bee keepers are required by law to maintain their bees correctly and to keep them healthy. Bees are not to be exposed to any dangers that may bring diseases. Any disease outbreak or suspected epizootic outbreak should be reported immediately.
“Correct maintenance” and “epizootic  outbreak” are defined by the Centre for Bee Research (Agroscope, the confederate research institute) in close co-operation with the umbrella organisation of Swiss Bee Keeper Associations (apisuisse).
Both are heavily biased towards short-term honey yields. There are very few experts or bee keepers who have any practical experience with bees kept under more naturally conditions. As a tragic consequence, outcomes of any such research tend to be limited and one-sided. If bee research were to consider the longer term and research the preservation of the natural balance, it would draw different conclusions.
As a consequence year after year, the cantonal bee inspectorates will advise bee keepers to treat their bee colonies with formic acid and oxalic acid in an attempt to fight the infamous varroa mite (latest research indicates that this mite is responsible for bee mortality). The underlying cause of the uncontrolled spread of varroa, i.e. swarm prevention, is never mentioned. The authorities fail to mention the scientifically proven side effects of these treatments. Modern day bee keeping can be rewarding even without the use of such noxious substances. Our organic and naturally kept apiaries bear witness to this fact.
There are already field trials in the Bernese Seeland where the confederate research institute has prescribed area-wide forced acid treatments. Any form of natural bee keeping is thus made impossible and is likely to be considered a criminal offence in the near future. The authorities are using this same argument against a potential re-introduction of the feral honeybee, despite the fact that natural selection will create optimal conditions for the survival of a species in the long term. The Federal Veterinary Office prevents the re-introduction of the feral honey bee, yet refuses to answer the question why bird boxes, hornet boxes and solitary bee hotels may be freely placed while bait boxes or brood boxes for honey bees may not.

Mainstream bee keeping requires a fundamental overhaul. Mainstream bee keeping yields honey and thus provides an incentive for bee keepers. Modern agriculture would suffer a massive loss of earnings if bee keepers were to disappear. In addition to his/her honey yielding colonies, every bee keeper should be encouraged to keep a certain percentage of colonies in a bee-friendly or natural way. Furthermore, there is a need to re-introduce bees into Nature. This will immediately create a Swiss-wide network of natural bee colonies and will enable bee evolution to continue running its 30-million year course before human interference. There should be no professional or centralised bee keeping – on the contrary, liberalisation and decentralisation should be encouraged. Everyone should be allowed to keep bees as this would result in an optimal bee population. The more non-professional the bee keeping, the better natural selection can run its course!