Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Spring 2012

There is a great and long tradition of drawing analogies between the working of the Bee Hive and the working of human society.

To do is to be: Socrates
To be is to do: Jean-Paul Sartre, Plato
To be or not to bee: William Shakespeare
Do-be-do-bee-do: Frank Sinatra
Do be a Do Bee, don't be a Don't Bee. Miss Connie from Romper Room

Life should be one of constant self-examination. When one stops analysing one should admit to being nothing but a coffin-dodger. It is the same with organisations. Management or committee should constantly worry about progress. But if the workers or members do not give feedback as to how the organisation is working then the whole dies. If the workers do not give out the right pheromones in the right quantities then the queen does not function.

And many BeeKeeping Associations die because the members to not give sufficient feedback, or their queen has had its antennae cut so it is no longer able to pick up the pheromones being scent.

Much of 19thcentury Beekeeping was dominated by priests and preachers. What they saw in the hive reflected their vision of a perfect world. God in his heaven and the angels and people below in ordered subservience. Or a king with the nobility and peasants below. Or a Queen and the captains of industry and workers below. In each case there was a pyramid of power and control. And such beekeepers would tell their flock that they were the equivalent of the worker bees : happiness and fulfilment of the individual is gained by a total acceptance of the need to work hard for the regimented hierarchical structure. Doff your cap to the Queen and the Empire in all its glory will prosper.

We now know that all this is nonsense. But it is surprising how many organisations still run as though it were all still true. I have written a separate article in this BeeHolder (see page 14) about the organisation of the various BeeKeeping Associations in Wales and the dangers of having too little or too much feedback.

Those 19th century Priest/beekeepers did as much harm to the understanding of the beehive as they did to many in their congregations. Our present understanding of the hive relies, not on preconceived notions of the intrinsic value of order, but on discovering ways of measuring the sights, sounds, vibrations and smells within the hive, and our willingness to analyse these without prejudice. Nowadays we understand that the analysis of chaos is more important than the belief in order.

Great scientists are now becoming interesting philosophers; mathematician Steven Hawkins, geneticist Richard Dawkins and Beekeeper and Neurobiologist Robert Pickard. We are in discussion with Professor Robert Pickard to talk to us next year. Feedback please about how we should entertain him, where we should meet, how we can ensure that we get an audience sufficient for the status of this guy.

I was most upset to get a letter from an old MBKA member from the Machynlleth area saying he was not rejoining in 2012 because he felt we were ignoring old beekeepers and those who lived far from Newtown. The whole committee agonised about what to do. For at least 5 years there have been repeated pleas in the BeeHolder for old beekeepers to come forward and volunteer as mentors to the novices. How can we function without their experience and anecdotal knowledge? We cannot. We need some fresh ideas about how we can bring these experienced beekeepers back into active participation with the beekeeping community. It always amazes me that throughout the UK more than a third of all beekeepers do not belong to any BeeKeeping Association. How do they cope with insurance? Or don’t they bother? How do they cope with information about problems of local bees, diseases and swarms and all those other things about being a responsible beekeeper? They must realise that bees are in trouble and that bees cannot survive without the help of an experienced beekeeping community. How do they reconcile their love of their own bees with a blatant indifference to those of others?

Comments and ideas please.

Tony Shaw
Chairman MBKA