I’m a small-scale beekeeper. At my farm, we are supporting aspiring beekeepers and teaching skills like swarm catching and how to raise queens. Last fall, my friends and I hosted the first Queer and Trans bee field day. Together, we gathered 18 “newbees,” or aspiring queer and trans beekeepers, to foster an affirming space to share skills and resources. We gathered to build a deeper relationship with honey bees and practice interdependence with one another.
When I need hope in my work, I often look to mentors and peers in the field of . Small-scale beekeepers are shaping small-scale changes to the beekeeping industry.
They are already working in small ways to adapt, find ways to support bees and radicalize the beekeeping industry. It takes incredible commitment and careful work to build change at this small scale, especially when you’re facing down behemoths like “industrial agriculture.” But beekeepers are hoping to build a new culture of beekeeping by working with the adaptive capacity of honey bees that they observe in the wild. All of the stories shared here were selected based on community-centered and natural beekeeping models, with some overlap of the two.
Small-scale beekeepers, whether in their own practices or embedded in community practice, are modeling collaboration. They are building relationship with honey bees and raising bees who are adaptive and resilient. Small-scale beekeepers are also working on honey bee education and leveraging community collaboration to support pollinators in rural, urban and suburban landscapes. These radical ways of “beeing” are important to uplift in an industry where the onus is focused on production and expansion rather than education and community building. The stories of these community-centered beekeepers are important to uplift, which is why I share them with you here.
Many of these stories come from places and faces underrepresented in the beekeeping community — the stories here center communities of people of the global majority, woman or femme led projects and Indigenous voice. Why? Because these are the faces shaping honey beekeeping in the 21st century and the voices shaping change in how we work with honey bees and the natural world.
All of these practices — whether small scale producers or community-centered beekeepers — are all happening at a small scale. Why? Because small is where we begin to build with one another. We can practice together, allow for mistakes and shift behavior. We can dismantle, rebuild and rewire. As we do this, we can create new pathways to change and take back our humanity, our intimacy and our shared understanding.
A practice of reclaiming beekeeping as a practice that supports honey bees, rather than uses them as a tool in pollination. Beekeepers are reclaiming the “means of production” by raising bees who can survive in their bio-regions, sharing honey bees with their community and rescuing and relocating wild hives through live bee removal services.