The answer to most beekeeping questions should start with the words, “It depends.” The one-size-fits-all answer simply doesn’t work very often or very well.
People keep bees for a myriad of reasons. For example, some commercial beekeepers sell honey while others provide pollination services. Some breed bees, raise queens, or sell packages. A farmer might keep enough hives for his farm, or a homeowner might want a few bees to pollinate the garden and produce a jar of honey. Then there are hobbyists who just really enjoy bees; these folks are intrigued by the intricate dance between plant and pollinator that keeps our planet green.
The management options for these groups are different. They have to be. We can learn the most about bees—and beekeeping—by keeping an open mind to the goals and problems of each group. Yes, there are those of us who go to great effort to spare every bee when we enter a hive. We brush them aside, shoo them away, talk to them in reassuring tones. We are, in fact, nuts. But a commercial beekeeper with 1500 hives simply doesn’t have time for the same light touch. He or she is a businessperson with deadlines, contracts, and responsibilities. The commercial beekeeper keeps food on all our tables, but does he care any less about his bees? Absolutely not.
I am often bothered by the tension between hobbyist and commercial beekeepers. There is much to be learned from either side as long as we understand the differences. Both sides can add to our overall understanding of why the bees are in trouble and how we can help them in the future. Think about it: we are all on the same side.
Honey Bee Suite