It became obvious at the Stroud Debate that many conventional beekeepers see harvesting honey as the sole reason to keep bees. Some of those present seemed not to comprehend that there may be more to bees than this.
From the viewpoint of the natural world bees do not exist to make honey. They exist to pollinate. Honey is stored solely to feed the bee colony through times of dearth. One wonders what bee biology or ecology the BBKA teaches in its beekeeping courses that the role of the bee is not properly appreciated? Are people taught that the only thing that matters is economic utility to man, which for hobbyists translates into honey yield -pollination being reserved for commercial beekeepers and specialist crops.
The truth is that life-giving pollination by bees contributes to all the landscape, not just specialist crops. In addition, it had seemingly not occurred to some that they might also keep bees because of fascination, awe and wonder; that they might, over time, develop a profound respect and love for a creature that is so different from all others that it challenges our comprehension of the world in deep and meaningful ways.
Reinforcing the above, today I received the following from my local beekeeping association:
We have been lucky enough to get a speaker… who will describe a simple system to help with the problems of modern bee keeping where queens have become very unreliable. ….. This is a very flexible system that uses no extra equipment but keeps honey producing colonies productive, and will suit all beekeepers however many colonies they have.
The speaker in question seems to be held in high regard within the BBKA. That is the same BBKA that endorses the agro-industrial, production-at-all-costs approach to both beekeeping and agriculture that has placed the bees in such an awful mess. It would be wonderful if such a high profile speaker could address the need for a fundamental change in the attitude of beekeepers to enable them to see the bee in its true nature rather than treating it as an object that exists solely for the economic benefit of man. That, after all was what the Stroud debate was about. Such a change in attitude would enable beekeepers to put at the forefront of their minds the welfare, not just of the bee, but of the whole ecosystem. But no, we see instead a call for more of the same; more game-playing with the bees to defend the short-term production-driven interests of beekeepers. And when bee populations collapse, who will they blame? It won’t be themselves!