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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
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    Stratham, New Hampshire, USA
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    2

    Default Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Hi all!

    I would like to open up the floor for a discussion about the ethics of keeping bees on both industrial/small scales and some historical/social contexts related to beekeeping. I assume everyone here is comfortable keeping bees and using honey (I certainly am, so no worries! I'm not looking to pick a fight!) I would like to get some people's opinions on the possible social implications of artificial queen insemination, treating for pests, commercial-scale beekeeping and its difficulties/implications, the idea of beekeeping as 'usury' (I don't see it this way, but I'd like to talk about it anyway), and other 'ethical' concepts. I'd also like to talk about how gender and race has influenced beekeepers and how women and minorities deal with issues that may arise in beekeeping or the agricultural field (no pun intended!).

    Feel free to suggest topics or resources!

    Kelly

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    S Hadley, Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    I keep bees because I enjoy it. 30 hives currently and if the winter is not too harsh I plan on having 60 hives next year.

    I graft or left the bees raise thier own queens.

    Treat for mites with soft chemicals.

    Again,I keep bees because I enjoy it. Life is complicated enough to worry about everything else.
    Pearl City Apiary Michael and Loucil Bach

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
    Posts
    1,497

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Usury? That would imply that the bees are slaves. Since hives can pretty much swarm whenever they want I'm not sure how that could be the case. There is a symbiotic relationship between the beekeeper and the bees, and if anything, the benefit is to the bees. How much money is spent on other insects to keep them going, relative to bees?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA
    Posts
    1,693

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    I, too, keep bees because I enjoy it. But that's not all; I also keep them for their own good. I put forth effort to keep bees in the best way for them, while keeping them alive and manageable . I own 7 hives and plan to go to at least 10, possibly more, next spring. I also work with the Cheyenne Honey Company, and help manage 150 hives with them. I graft queens most of the time, but occasionally let the bees raise their own. I treat for mites by fogging using food-grade mineral oil and thymol. Beekeeping will be my life career; I intend either to build myself up to that or to buy out Cheyenne Honey Co.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,306

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    I keep bees because I enjoy it, because I love honey, because I want to make a little bit of money from honey sales.
    I use only survivor or treatment free bees, do not treat, and don't do heavy swarm control methods. I try to minimize swarms, but figure I need to help repopulate the feral population with bees able to cope with the mites.
    Hope in two years to hit 50-60 hives... last count had 30.

    Regarding the ethics of beekeeping, I would think it's much like dealing with any livestock - treat them well, help them thrive, and harvest their produce. Don't abuse them.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Rowley, MA
    Posts
    253

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    not sure how usury applies. i rarely loan my bees money and when i do its at a low interest rate

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma dr. Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    876

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    I have met people who wont use milk, eat eggs or honey because that would be exploitation of animals: in the meantime they were wearing leather boots and had a leather belt holding up their pants, so not much of their philosophy managed to rub off on me!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Jackson, MO
    Posts
    586

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Bees are not like any livestock I have ever dealt with. Cows, pigs, horses all need constant maint. to keep the herds going. There is no organization in the herds and most would perish without any help due to their domestication. You have to control them to keep them from wandering. You have to protect them from predators. You have to provide feed and water.

    Bees are organized colonies. Each have their own purpose during each phase of their life controlled by a single queen for the most part. They control their climate, guard themselves from danger, and forage for their own food and water. They always come back to roost each night. Sure they have their pests, but I have already figured out, they really know best what they need. And if you lose a herd, you don't need a dozer to dig their grave.....

    On a nice summer's eve, you can sit by a hive and watch this little organized colony do all of these things and be amazed at how controlled their lives are. Each has a purpose and they perform it flawlessly till they drop dead and get carried off by their sisters.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    New York City, NY
    Posts
    4,317

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    While I'll agree that it's important to recognize that Honeybees have a special place in our culture, and that they are considered livestock by many, I'll also have to say that they are still invertebrates.

    Invertebrates just never seem to get the same kind of treatment that some give to other animals, and the fact that they are stinging insects doesn't help.

    Nevertheless, I have objected in the past to the placement of hives in a known quarantine zone, deliberately exposing them to harmful pesticide levels, just to make a point in european environmental politics.

    That IS unethical, and quite frankly, should always be condemned.

    So, yes, Honeybees and ethics can be placed in a social context.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
    Posts
    104

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    In Australia, I have not met any gender bias (for or against) in regards to beekeeping. Actually, the beekeepers I have met probably wouldn't have cared if I was green-skinned as long as I was interested in beekeeping.
    Jeanette
    HiveTasks Software for beekeepers

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    West St. Paul, MN, USA
    Posts
    68

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Like most of you who have already responded, I keep bees because I enjoy it. I think it is therapeutic for me and helps me deal with stress and a bit of depression. I am still new to this and have much to learn, but I truly hope that keeping bees will be a lifetime pursuit and passion. I look at the world around me and realize that a lot of our collective actions have not been good for the planet or any of its inhabitants, especially bees. I would like to change that, even if it is only a few hives at a time.

    My goal is to give the bees what they need and not rely on chemical treatments. I lost my original queen this year when she swarmed, so I am now the proud owner of a naturally mated queen!! I hope by next year to bump up to 3-4 hives total, and learn how to split hives successfully. I like the idea of naturally mated queens and of incorporating as many different genetics as possible to breed hybrid vigor!

    Ultimately I would love to have bee keeping be a part of my living. I am a student of permaculture, and having more than one way of making an income is part of being resilient. I never plan on being a "commercial" bee keeper, but do not look down on those who can make this work out for themselves. For right or wrong, right now we need the bees for pollination for our food system to continue, so I don't believe the argument lies with small vs. large scale bee keeping, the problem lies within the food production system itself. But that is a different debate for a different forum.

    Short term goals are to 1) - successfully overwinter my bees 2) - This winter I plan on making as many of my own hive boxes and equipment as possible 3) - Continue reading, watching, and practicing any and all things related to bees.
    www.autonomyacres.com Discussions on Urban Homesteading

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
    Posts
    4,395

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Hmmm not sure how treating for pests figures into the ethical argument, would that be from the perspective of the bee or the pest? Women? Minorities? Once you put on a bee suit everyone looks the same.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    4,001

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Take a herd of horses. Don't feed or medicate them and see what your neighbors say. You can tell them I am trying to just let the strongest survive and West Nile won't KILL them all! When the grass is gone, tell them that, "Yes their is no grass but I am seeing if they can eat the bark off those cottonwood trees and survive til spring". What is wonderful and romantic about not taking care of your livestock! Most of the rest of this premis is even more ridiquious as my Grandson say. No disrespect to the person posing the question, he is accomplishing exactly what he wanted and that is to discuss morality.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Kaysville, Utah, USA
    Posts
    389

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    I keep bees because it's enjoyable, educational, and of great benefit to the environment.

    Treatment is a touchy issue, and there are good arguments on both sides. Personally, I'd rather not treat. But if it looked like I had to, or lose the hive, you bet I would. I see this as being similar to treating pets, herds of livestock, or ourselves when need be.

    There's a cafe in Salt Lake City that reportedly will not serve honey because they believe it's exploitation of the bees. Personally, I see it as more of a synergistic arrangement. I treat them well and provide them a protected home, food, medical care, spending money, etc. when they need it. (Wait, are we talking about my bees or my kids?) In exchange I get whatever honey they don't need. My philosophy is:
    1. Don't take all the honey and then feed syrup for winter.
    2. Once the bees have enough for winter, I can harvest the rest.


    I don't see an ethical issue once the bees needs have been met. Of course, this is all philosophical right now since this is my first year and I had to feed like crazy just to get them up to weight for winter.
    Don't provoke a hive full of angry bees.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Grayson, KY
    Posts
    277

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    [QUOTE=Maykronata;856742]Hi all!

    I would like to open up the floor for a discussion about the ethics of keeping bees on both industrial/small scales and some historical/social contexts related to beekeeping. I assume everyone here is comfortable keeping bees and using honey (I certainly am, so no worries! I'm not looking to pick a fight!) I would like to get some people's opinions on the possible social implications of artificial queen insemination, treating for pests, commercial-scale beekeeping and its difficulties/implications, the idea of beekeeping as 'usury' (I don't see it this way, but I'd like to talk about it anyway), and other 'ethical' concepts. I'd also like to talk about how gender and race has influenced beekeepers and how women and minorities deal with issues that may arise in beekeeping or the agricultural field (no pun intended!).

    Feel free to suggest topics or resources!

    Kelly[/

    No one really thinks your here to have a nice conversation.
    Last edited by BigGun; 10-09-2012 at 11:50 PM.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,903

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    There was an interesting post on Bee-L yesterday regarding a non-migratory commercial beekeeper who uses treatments with apiaries located somewhat near a 3 year old treatment free yard. The treatment free yard is blamed for higher than usual varroa counts and readily observable Nosema in the commercial yard. The treatment free person replies that his bees were doing fine but have now all died - with the blame going to the commercial yard.

    We are likely to see more of this type of argument going forward, as the two methodologies are very incompatible at some levels. How is the treatment free beekeeper going to know if his bees will co-exist with high levels of Varroa without allowing Varroa counts to get high? And what is going to stop the treated bees from getting reinfested?

    I wish I had the magic wand that would resolve this.

    Oh yes - I keep bees because I always wanted to be a farmer, and keeping bees seemed like a good way to head in that direction. Then I caught "the bug." 10+ years keeping bees, roughly 40 colonies.
    Last edited by Andrew Dewey; 10-10-2012 at 05:31 AM.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    New York City, NY
    Posts
    4,317

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    That's the PP Beekeeping argument.

    Beekeepers that follow standard practices get 'stung' by pests/pathogens coming from neighbors.

    The other side of that argument is that treatment-free beekeepers are getting off of the chemical/treatment treadmill to avoid contaminants in their hives and develop resistant bees.

    I do think that both sides have a good argument, and that each side can criticize the 'ethics' of the other.

    But, the treatment-free approach has some good science to back it up including: social immunity, healthier microflora, molecular immunity, and IPM in general.

    The standard practices beekeepers have productivity on their side. They've got a big job to do, and it's the best way to do it.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
    Posts
    5,390

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Kelly, why don't you open the discussion by making a point or telling us how you feel about all this. Then folks can reply/react to your ideas and concerns.
    Mike

    Quote Originally Posted by Maykronata View Post
    Hi all!

    I would like to open up the floor for a discussion about the ethics of keeping bees on both industrial/small scales and some historical/social contexts related to beekeeping. I assume everyone here is comfortable keeping bees and using honey (I certainly am, so no worries! I'm not looking to pick a fight!) I would like to get some people's opinions on the possible social implications of artificial queen insemination, treating for pests, commercial-scale beekeeping and its difficulties/implications, the idea of beekeeping as 'usury' (I don't see it this way, but I'd like to talk about it anyway), and other 'ethical' concepts. I'd also like to talk about how gender and race has influenced beekeepers and how women and minorities deal with issues that may arise in beekeeping or the agricultural field (no pun intended!).

    Feel free to suggest topics or resources!

    Kelly

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    27,201

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    Keep your own bees. Don't stick your nose into your neighbors hives or management practices. Treat other beekeepers respectfully regardless of who they are, what their abilities are, or where they originate from. Don't intentionally sell disease infected equipment or bees.

    Being a suspicious individual, is this question being brought up to fulfill a Social Studies requirement?

    When it comes to morals or ethics I don't know that there is anything unique about beekeeping and beekeepers. Live your life in as moral and ethical manner as you can , understanding that we all fall short at times. Besides, morals and ethics are human constructs. Bees, and other critters, don't live their lives ethically or morally. They simply do what they do w/out regard to such things. Gathering and storing food in whatever way possible, reproduce, that's what bees do. W/out regard to whether their methods are ethical or moral.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    3,013

    Default Re: Beekeeping ethics and Social Context

    As a beekeeper ethics for me inters the picture in many ways. I myself have raised as a point of conversation the benefits of killing the bees in a hive in the fall in order to harvest every drop of honey. On a purely financial basis this actually makes since. I have an investment in my bees. the colony alone cost $100. The hive, tools, food, medications etc are also expensive. I have invested lots of time in order to understand and make choices to benefit my bees. I will have spent about as much if not more to help my bees get through the winter as they cost me in the first place. To do so I left 100 lbs of honey on the hive. That is $600 to me if I sold it at $6 a lb and I have people waiting for it. This has been primarily a ethical choice on my part.

    I will spend time and money to treat my bees for illness even though it could be of greater benefit to me to just let them die so I can again take their honey. Again an ethical choice.

    I have taken great care in the quality and condition of the equipment my bees are housed in. Again strongly influenced by ethics. It is not humane or beneficial to keep bees in conditions where they suffer or face additional challenges. I support that at least in part my choice to provide quality and more expensive equipment is ethical on the grounds that other choices I make are almost purely ethical.

    I also keep current on treatments for the diseases of bees. Not only because ti is a benefit to me but that it is a benefit to the bees. I have a genuine concern for all bees that whatever is afflicting them gets resolved. weather I keep bees or not. I always have.

    I have heard many of the views of those that will not eat meat, drink milk or eat honey. I also spent quite a while setting in a park talking to a person that thought they where a knight of the round table. It struck me that this gentleman was most likely quite educated. He actually knew the story of King Arther very well. He knew all the names of the characters as well as the events depicted in the stories. It is my philosophy that if this man is happy being a knight. Then please someone provide him with some armor. It does not make him right it makes him happy. So for those that are happiest not eating honey. I will do my part to sell all I have to others.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

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