Beekeeping is having a moment in the spotlight. The Decline of bee numbers around the globe has seen a lot of attention over the past years, which has intern garnered interest from people wanting to put a stop to this detrimental trend. Couple this with the fact that everyone is staying home a lot more due to covid, and you have a recipe for momentum. In this article we take a look at some of the trends emerging in this space.
Beekeeping as a tool of empowerment
The lives of marginalized women around the world are being improved by apiculture. With relatively low economic and educational barriers to entry, the profits from honey production, as well as the improved food security not only affects the women beekeepers in underprivileged area, but also the entire communities. In one such example, a collective of 900 women in regional India is working together to generate incomes for their families. The increased pollination has the added benefit of securing food sources, which has been particularly helpful during the time of covid, as city workers have had to return to rural communities.
A return to organic and natural beekeeping
Not necessarily something new, in fact, we could say that this trend is a return to older methods. As people pay more attention to what goes into their bodies, and also the environment, the demand for honey and bee products without harmful chemicals is growing. Organic honey is a subject fraught with contention. As bees often travel kilometres in search of food, it is difficult to control what pastures a foraging bee may visit and what pesticides it has been exposed to. Natural beekeeping is however much more controllable. This refers to beekeeping practices that do not introduce additional chemicals, such as miticides, to a hive.
Digital is buzzing
Before the digital age, beekeeping had remained relatively consistant for hundreds, if not thousands of years. From mobile apps that track and manage beekeeping operations, to hive temperature and weight sensors, no area of apiculture is left untouched by technology. The hope is that the new insights provided by digital technology will help reverse the decline of bee populations. In one initiative conducted by the ‘World Bee Project’, data collected by ‘I.O.T’ sensors implanted in hives around the world, is being fed into AI applications. The result is that through machine learning, we will have a better understanding of hive dynamics, and can then make more informed and timely choices to save the bees.
Innovation in hive design
The last major revolution in hive design came in 1851, with the invention of the modern ‘Langstroth’ hive. But in the past few years, creative beekeepers have gone back to the drawing board, with some interesting and popular results. The innovative ‘Flow hive’ enables people to collect honey directly form the hive and has made it easy for beginner beekeepers to immediately reap the rewards of apiculture. For the beekeeper seeking to be as natural as possible, the Hex Hive looks just like an upright cedar log-only hexagonal. The interesting shape is supposed to provide an environment that a bee would be familiar with-as it resembles the shape of a comb cell, and the foundationless frames enable bees to build their own comb.
Urban beekeeping and corporate programs
No longer a hobby for people in rural areas, city dwellers have also been donning their bee suits. There are of course a few limitations for urban beekeepers such as the quantity and placement of hives, but urban beekeepers have been taking up the challenge and finding innovative solutions to these problems. This movement has exploded, as the notions of where bees can be kept has evolved. Corporate organizations have jumped on the band wagon too, by utilizing areas such as office rooftops or secluded gardens for colonies. The practice is not without it criticism, as some people believe that the added competition in urban areas can have a negative impact on the wild bee populations.
With so much happening in the world of beekeeping, it is certainly an exciting time. We can only hope that this new found interest and subsequent innovation will lead to more bees and more bio-diversity.