Beekeeper motivations and management practices

Beekeeper motivations and management practices

Beekeepers use a range of management styles, and sustainability in beekeeping is a complex concept. There are calls for coordinated practice to manage honeybee health, but differing recommendations are promoted by beekeepers and in published literature.

Researchers at the University of Exeter used a participant-led approach with beekeepers in Cornwall, UK, to understand motivations underpinning beekeeping management, including practices that contradict official National Bee Unit advice.

Results indicated five beekeeping perspectives: conventional hobbyists, natural beekeepers, black bee farmers, new-conventional hobbyists and pragmatic bee farmers. Their motivations are summarised in Figure 1.

Although motivations were sometimes shared across the five perspectives, management practices were different depending on economic, social responsibility and ideological motivations. For example, all beekeepers wanted to minimise honeybee stress and suffering – for natural beekeepers this was achieved by minimal hive inspections and disturbance, whereas for conventional beekeepers this was achieved through regular hive inspections to check colony health.

The researchers found that honeybee conservation was a key motivator behind non-conventional practices, but consideration of wild pollinators was not prioritised by most beekeepers in practice. The researchers call for further research into the impacts of beekeeping on wild pollinators, and recommend that this research is co-produced with beekeepers holding varying perspectives

Figure. 1. Beekeeping perspectives and motivations. Radar plots illustrate the 'loading' of each participant (coloured line, n = 21) on to each perspective (pentagon point, n = 5). The closer the coloured line is to the pentagon point, the more that participant agrees with that perspective.
Copyright: Kahane, F., Osborne, J., Crowley, S. and Shaw, R. Ambio. Licensed under CC 4.0

Read the full paper:

Kahane, F., Osborne, J., Crowley, S. and Shaw, R. (2022) Motivations underpinning honeybee management practices: A Q methodology study with UK beekeepers. Ambio.