Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A BOOK SUGGESTION FOR THE EMOTIONAL BEEKEEPER



In my opinion, and this will probably rub some beeks the wrong way, I believe there are two kinds of beekeepers; those that have an emotional connection with their honeybees and those that don't. I'm not using this post to judge, I'm just stating what I believe is the obvious.

I was reading then participating in a discussion on the beesource forum where the topic posted was "kill off your bees/colony" and the poster wanted to know how to kill off their hive instead of trying to overwinter them. The discussion that resulted came down to those who are against killing off bees and those who are either proponents of killing or don't find anything wrong with it. I think anyone who reads my blog would know where I stand on the subject of killing ones own bees.

So... I am reading this book written by William Longgood and I happen to come upon the chapter in which he talks about this type of beekeeping just days after debating the kill or not kill topic on the beesource. At one point he is quoted saying "I faced a dilemma common to people who try to manage nature, when human values conflict with nature's unsentimental imperatives. That is the part of beekeeping that I dislike and often it gets in the way. Is it more merciful to kill outright or to let creatures perish slowly and possibly painfully through want of their own kind and their own elementary biological needs? The manager becomes an arbiter of life and death. I was forced to confront a decision that was distasteful to me." As I suspected. the author doesn't disappoint, he chooses the emotional over the logical.

I use the word "logical" loosely. Killing off your own bees can be logical if you see beekeeping as pure business and nothing else but if you have any emotional connection to your bees at all you wouldn't think of killing them as logical at all. Logic isn't something an emotional beekeeper can make peace with, at least not right away. People keep bees for various reasons, some do it for the honey, others for the beeswax, and quite a few people do it out of pure fascination with bees. If you are fascinated at all by the life cycle of bees and you derive more pleasure from watching them work together as a colony than you would from extracting honey, then you would never take the "logical" approach of killing them off because it doesn't make for good nighttime sleeping.

There is an intolerance amongst beekeepers as there is with people in most aspects of life. I'll be the first to admit, I don't want to make nice with the commercial beekeeper who lit his hive on fire just because they didn't give him any honey, actually, I'd prefer never to meet such a person and I'm sure the feeling would be mutual... he wouldn't want to make nice with someone who mourns the death of a single bee. But... the point of this post isn't to slag off those who have a different beekeeping style than I do, it is purely a book review and plug.

The "Queen Must Die" is the best beekeeping book I've read thus far. William Longgood has taken the logical parts of beekeeping and exposed its emotional side. He has dissected every aspect of the hobby/business and his heart is open in every word he uses to describe these beautiful insects. As an emotional beekeeper, it is nice to see someone put into words what is so hard to convey to those who don't keep bees or those who don't care if they live or die. Plus the fact that you walk away from this book with the sense that humans could learn a thing or two from bees in how we function as a society. Longgood covers a lot of ground in this book so I recommend putting it on your reading list if you aren't the one burning your hives in the fall ;)

Bees are more than a hobby; they are a life study, in many respects a mirror of our own society." ~William Longgood