miscellaneous musings

Beekeepers come and go

Recently a friend pointed out that the popularity of beekeeping ebbs and flows in a big way. The fluctuation is caused not by commercial beekeepers but by hobbyists and side-liners who tend to segue in and out of the hobby with the fad of the day. The previous big surge in beekeeping occurred in the 1970s after books like Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé focused attention on our food supply, and legislation such as the Endangered Species Act highlighted problems with our environment.

Today’s surge in beekeepers can be almost directly linked to colony collapse disorder. CCD focused attention not only on honey bees, but on native pollinators and other food supply issues such as pesticides and industrial farming. I say “almost” because other food and environmental imperatives pre-dated colony collapse disorder, among them outbreaks of e-coli 0157:H7, mad-cow disease, and salmonella in eggs.

Nevertheless I agree with my friend that the popularity of beekeeping will peak, then die off as some new environmental issue snares public attention. Her point (I think) was that I should be prepared to have something else to write about and perhaps what I’m doing here is all for naught.

However, I don’t see it that way. I think Colony Collapse Disorder—whether it actually exists or not—has done enormous good because it captured the public’s attention and focused it on creatures that have gone largely unnoticed. People who knew nothing about pollination or crop production became aware of the interplay between humans, bugs, and the food on our tables. Others learned that there was something to be treasured about stinging insects . . . that not all that buzzes should be banned . . . and that life as we know it depends on bees. How can that be bad?

Colony collapse disorder served as a wake-up call, a warning that things are not right in the world of industrial farming. A huge influx of hobby beekeepers will not, by themselves, save the honey bee—but a surge of public awareness might. Groups all over the country are pouring money into pollination research, bee breeding programs, pesticide inquiries, and alternative farming practices. This is the type of action that may ultimately solve—or at least ameliorate—the pollination problem facing us today and in the future.

As for me? I’ll always have something to write about.


Thoughts for a winter day.


  • Every time I read something new that you write, or every time something is a little bit more reinforced in this brain of mine, I am, if only microscopically, a little better off in my bee trek in life. I think it’s fairly safe to say this is true of most who read your columns. That is not all for naught in my book.

    True, I did start beekeeping due to current bee issues. I am an organic gardener, a foodie, and someone who has what my husband describes as insatiable curiosity. Bees made sense and fit my current lifestyle and have taken me on a wondrous adventure. I can’t say I will always have them – but I hope I do. But I can say I have valued and thirsted for as much information as I could find to help take me out of the fledgling state I am in and that is how I happened upon your website. I understand you may not always write about bees, but I will always be grateful you were writing about them when I needed some plain, concise information. Cheers. Here’s to the here and now.

  • You’re right on about the “almost” part. My interest in bees came from wanting a shorter carbon footprint. I actually wanted backyard chickens, but since the city won’t allow it, bees it was. It is an addictive hobby, but it is also challenging. I don’t think many people realize how vested one becomes in their bees, and how difficult it is to lose a box of stinging insects. And how expensive it can be to keep replacing them. My interest in knowing where my food comes from, hoping it was produced sustainably, speaking with my dollars when I can, etc., none of that has waned. But if I weren’t a blogger constantly seeking content, and the promise that I made to you to start up again, I’m not sure I’d have ordered the nuc I did.

    • HB,

      I certainly understand people going in and out. I doubt if I would have stayed with it for this long if it wasn’t for the blog. As you say, it’s heart wrenching to lose them, expensive to replace them, and their care (I think) is ridiculously complex at times. I agree they are addictive, but sometimes I wonder . . .

  • I agree that a lot of people have gotten into or are getting into beekeeping because they feel it is helping with CCD or something like that. Personally, I got into it several years ago after watching a special on the tube about beekeeping itself. The special had nothing to do with CCD. It followed a married couple around, focusing in on the hobby itself and all the details around it. I became intrigued with the bees, bought a book, a few more, took a class or two and decided to do it. I’ve been having the most fun doing this than I’ve had in years. The neat part is meeting other beekeepers and continually learning more all the time. Losing a hive here and there is part of the process, as it happens to everyone now and then but stick with it. It is very rewarding…at least it is for me! 🙂

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