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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 17th year of beekeeping in April 2022. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

What's in a Name? The Confusion of the Name: Certified Naturally Grown

"What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"   William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

As all companies who struggle with branding know, a name means EVERYTHING.  I once saw a yellow ribbon tied around a tree (the symbol designating the wish for a soldier to come home from war) with a huge sign that said "Yellow Ribbon Tree Removal."  A strange name for a tree removal company, I thought, since the name implied that although they chopped down the trees, they would come (grow) back.

When I first encountered Certified Naturally Grown at EAS in Boone, NC in 2010, I was thrilled that there was a way to designate something natural in the beekeeper's approach.  How I read and interpreted or assumed what the designation meant was that the beekeeper would be as organic as possible.

Organic is not something a beekeeper can claim.  Our bees gather nectar far and wide from an area up to six or so miles from the hive.  As such, we have no idea if the plants they choose have been treated (likely) with insecticides that might be harmful to the bees.  But as beekeepers we can do our best to keep pesticides out of our hive management practices by going treatment free.

But upon reading the requirements for Certified Naturally Grown, I think Shakespeare is wrong on this one.  It doesn't smell so sweet.

Essentially what the designation means is that the beekeeper is practicing IPM (Integrated Pest Management).  In other words, the beekeeper is certifying that before he/she uses heavy poisons, he/she will have tried conservative methods first:  powdered sugar (which does work for the backyard beekeeper but not for the commercial beekeeper), drone trapping, etc.  But CNG allows oxalic acid, formic acid to a degree, HopGuard, ApiGuard, Apilife Var, etc.

Thankfully they do prohibit Coumaphos and Fluvalinate.

Of my fellow beekeepers who have applied, the only one who comes closest to treatment free is Jay Parsons and he uses ApiLife Var when "needed."  And although regular inspections are required, the inspector doesn't have to be qualified as a CNG beekeeper themselves, which seems a little odd.  Any other beekeeper who is willing to take the time can inspect an apiary and declare it Certified Naturally Grown.  In looking at Jay's inspection record, none of the people who have "inspected" his operation are themselves qualified as CNG and that is true of the other two people I know whose inspection reports I read.

CNG puts no limits on feeding sugar syrup (despite it being a marked different pH than honey).  The president of our bee club, who urges everyone to "feed, feed, feed," and says on her application for CNG that she feeds heavily in fall and spring,  has qualified for CNG as has Jennifer Berry who feeds her bees 100% of the time, with no break, as she reported at the short course.

So I feel a little confused.  Should I apply for CNG?  My hives meet the requirements and then some, but since it appears to be simply a label implying something that isn't true, I feel somewhat hesitant.  I expect people who buy honey labeled CNG are assuming that being certified naturally grown means that nothing artificial goes into the hive - which depending on the individual beekeeper could be far from true.  These purchasers have no idea what IPM means, so CNG stands as somewhat of a misrepresentation just because of what's in the name.  (It isn't a rose.....)

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