I've been thinking about a recent thread on the Natural Beekeeping Network Forum about how natural "natural beekeeping" should be.
The pure aim of natural beekeeping is to allow the bees to make their own decisions without interference or support from the beekeeper. The first interference has to be when we take the bees and expect them to live in a box!
It's difficult to accept the role of bee carer and not interfere. There are worries at this time of year about the amount of remaining winter stores, how well the hive has withstood the weather, is this number of dead bees outside the hive normal? etc., especially for the new, inexperienced beekeeper (yes, this is my first winter), but a little knowledge has persuaded me leave well alone.
I believe that Dave's Bees web site has got it right - As Natural As Possible (ANAP). That fits perfectly with my thoughts. Gather all the pros and cons of any action you are thinking of taking and then make your own decision. If the colony is weak because of natural circumstances (i.e. poor weather during summer leading to little honey flow), give support, feed. If the colony is not coping with disease or pests, maybe they are not meant to survive? A stronger colony would be a better breeding option.
As with everything around us, there are only degrees of natural. In the UK the current "natural" landscape is divided into fields, has road passing through it an electricity distribution above it, it's grazed by purpose bred animals and planted and harvested by huge machines. Left to nature it would probably still be deciduous forest!
So I think I'll keep my interference levels in the hive as low as possible and go ANAP!