A Curious Beekeeper thinks about bee organizations

I spent some time thinking about the Bee Informed Partnership loss survey that has been making the rounds this week. I have some strong thoughts on that and in bee surveys in general. At times it seems as if we are being surveyed to death. But that thought needs more digesting, so this week I’m reaching back into the closet and a column I wrote several months ago.

I shared a post a while back from Albert Chuback in which he complains of the wide gulf between hobby and commercial beekeeping orientation; this on his return from the recent American Beekeeping Federation Conference.

I thought he had some valid points.

As I thought about an organization whose leadership I recently left (the Maine State Beekeepers Association) it occurred to be that the big difference between the MSBA and the ABF is that the ABF has a professional staff where the MSBA does not.

Having a professional staff doesn’t of necessity force a commercial bent to an organization any more than not having one puts you in the hobby or backyard corner. What it does do is set your expectations for interactions.

I’ve been to some extremely well-run conferences mounted by volunteers at EAS and the MSBA. The amount of donated effort that it takes to pull a conference off is amazing to witness. I regret that my leadership skills don’t lend themselves to recruiting other volunteers, so I have a special regard for those that are make it work. Good leaders are hard to find – and with volunteers, you tend to hang on to them, despite real life intrusions.

(There’s an EAS conference coming up in just a few weeks. In addition to it being a wonderful immersion with like minded folks who think hanging out with insects that can sting is fun, it is my signal that where called for, mite treatments ahead of the bees making their winter bees need to be on soon.)

I suspect that when you are working with a volunteer, you might tend to the forgiving. A pro, not so much. “I’m a busy person with not much time. Do it right the first time or find someone who can.”

That’s the problem I see with the Audacious Hive movement. I haven’t figured out a way to scale it. So, for the moment I see it as a hobby movement.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like what Dr. Seeley is talking about. My hives are kept in gangs of two spread out for disease control. Guess what? It seems to help with bears too.

Commercial beekeepers are a different breed from Backyard keepers. They have to be or the kids don’t get braces, there isn’t food on the table.

It is business. The bee business.

They don’t have the luxury of messing about. Obviously not all commercial keepers are created equal; some are better at their business than others.

More than anything, professional beekeepers are farmers.

There is some cross over. Side liners for example – hobbyists on steroids is one way of thinking of them.

Organizations reflect that. I don’t think there is anything terrible about it. It is simply the way things are. Organizations just like the environment evolve over time. Even when an individual is correct about their concerns & objections, they may not have the personality to intervene successfully.

Local bee clubs ebb and flow too. Particularly when they loose focus, and the one person who is trying to hold it all together burns out.

As Vonnegut used to say “So it goes.”

What do you see from your vantage point?

Andrew Dewey