An estimated 50% of new beekeepers discontinue within their first year and a further 25% within the next two years. Many suggestions have been proffered to reduce this attrition, including mentoring programs and more beginner courses, and
yet I wonder if there is something more involved.
We all begin this wonderful pursuit for a variety of reasons, each of them valid, and most who choose not to continue do so in the spring, disillusioned by the loss of the
colony or the stress of over-wintering.
Discussions with disenchanted nu-bees suggest a pattern related to Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple
Intelligences. Gardner postulates that not only do we have different ways of learning and processing information but these methods are relatively independent of one another, leading to multiple "intelligences" as opposed to one general
Traditionally, of course, we measure intelligence very narrowly and label people accordingly. The limitations of ‘verbal and non-verbal’ intelligence were brought home to me
some fifteen years ago when I had a non-traditional student in a college class. ‘Joe’ was in his early 30’s and had been advised by his high school that he was not college material because he did not write easily and was not good at
math. He sat in the front of my class, asked if he could record each lesson and then arrived each morning armed with some remarkable, perceptive and penetrating questions, the like of which I was not used to receiving. Joe was an audio learner,
and as he listened several times to each class when he returned home, these questions would emerge.
I discovered eventually that Joe is a superb guitarist who composes, plays and teaches jazz guitar.
This is a man with superb musical intelligence but his audio learning style and musical brilliance had not been recognized at high school; he had to discover and nurture them by himself, and coming back to college with it’s
more traditional emphases was an immense act of courage.
I guess we all know stories like this – people who have succeeded in life despite poor performances at school. We also know those, sadly, who have
never recovered from being labeled at school as ‘failures.’
Howard Gardiner has to date identified nine possible modes of intelligence and believes there are many others. We all have them with one or
two being more dominant.
The first three are the bases of traditional intelligence testing. Logical-mathematical intelligence has to do with numbers and reasoning and is expressed in recognizing abstract patterns,
scientific thinking and investigation and the ability to perform complex calculations. Linguistic intelligence involves words, spoken or written, and is seen in those who learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and by discussing
and debating about what they have learned, whereas spatial intelligence is the ability to visualize with the mind's eye. Artists, designers and architects come to mind, as do those with a love for jig-saw puzzles.
The core elements of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are control of one's physical motions and the capacity to handle objects skillfully. Such people learn better by hands on, practical
applications and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance.
Musical intelligence has to do with sensitivity to sounds, rhythms and tones, whereas Interpersonal intelligence is one’s empathy
with others, in particular a sensitivity to others' moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and the ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. Intrapersonal intelligence, by comparison, reflects one’s introspective
and self-reflective capacities. This refers to having a deep understanding of the self and is conveyed in philosophical and critical thinking.
Some proponents of multiple intelligence theory proposed spiritual or religious
intelligence as a possible additional type. Gardner suggested instead the term "existential" intelligence, ie. the ability to contemplate phenomena or questions beyond sensory data, such as the infinite and infinitesimal.
brings us to naturalistic intelligence, or the nurturing and relating of information to one’s natural surroundings, such as by gardening and farming, and of course keeping honey bees.
I’m not aware of a
way to measure this last form of intelligence but it can be observed. Larry Connors has described how, when he first introduces new beekeepers to a working hive, some lean in and others lean away. It is the former, he suggests, who will succeed long
term. My intimation is that this latter group has a dominant naturalistic intelligence which is unfailingly curious to anything involving the natural world.
When people come to visit Mary and I, most walk
into the house and settle into the comfortable and inviting kitchen. But there are a few, a distinct minority, who insist on going outside, walking around the garden, even asking if they can see the hives. Only then can they relax and come inside.
As a personal example, I believe that I have more developed linguistic, bodily kinesthetic, intrapersonal, existential and naturalistic intelligences, but poor logical-mathematical, interpersonal and spatial intelligences with
absolutely no musical appreciation at all. Try as I might I cannot learn a musical instrument, cannot read music, and if given the choice, would rather listen to a talk show on the car radio, no matter how bad, than a musical program, no matter how good.
For a long time I blamed myself as somehow incompetent; now I accept that it’s the way I am wired, and I focus on what I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot.
Thus I’m OK with the fact that I would
rather send e-mails than make telephone calls, and if it has to be the latter, to keep them as short as possible. Mary is the exact opposite, and the monthly statements of our respective cell phones reflect it.
I first began to keep bees the image was of a jigsaw puzzle – it was simply a matter of putting a small number of pieces together. Now it seems that there are a never ending number of pieces and they will never quite come together completely.
Gradually unveiling that big picture is a challenge to, and a reward for, my naturalistic intelligence; I enjoy it, which in turn perhaps explains my motivation and perseverance.