Fouling our Hive 2


In 1994 James Collins and Jerry Porras published Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, in which they devised the term 'Big Hairy Audacious Goal'.  BHAG, as it is customarily referred to, is a strategic business statement designed to focus an organization on a single goal which is audacious, likely to be externally questionable but not internally regarded as impossible.

Thus the theme for the PSBA conference last November, “Audacious Ideas for the Future of Beekeeping,” which was inspired by Mark Winston’s Manifesto, first published in 2015, in which he argued for a new paradigm  “that recognizes beekeepers as stewards of both managed and wild bees, promoters of healthy environments, managers of economically sustainable apiaries and paragons of collaboration and cooperation. It’s time for some audacious thinking about the future of beekeeping.”  

Last month’s blog focused on the implications of the term ‘dominion’ as meaning either plunder and subjugate or caring and looking after.  In describing the different approaches to beekeeping in the United States, Europe and Oceana, as compared say to Africa, Maryann Frazier uses the terms nursing versus nurturing.  In the former the management objectives and styles are mostly economically driven, with the maxim that increased yields means increased profits for the beekeeper. The bees are expected to adopt to our needs despite the fact that they are exposed increasingly to diseases, pests and parasites, they exist increasingly in monocultures, we treat even weak colonies for survival, and the bees are expected to use and re-use old comb, which as Keith Delaplane explained, and with the superorganism in mind, “forces the bees to use their liver as their uterus.”   It’s hardly surprising that pollinators are in decline in so-called ‘developed’ countries.   

In many parts of Africa, Asia and South America beekeeping is more biologically driven. It is nurture more than nursing, and we are expected to adapt to the bees. Although this is changing, there is less use of pesticides, less exposure to pests and diseases with minimal intervention by the beekeeper, a diverse environment for foraging,  and apis mellifera scutellata is allowed to exercise its need to swarm frequently which not only interrupts the varroa cycle but allows for the frequent building of new comb.  Honey bees are not declining in these areas; indeed they are increasing. 

There are other examples of this comparison not immediately connected to honey bees.  Dr. Mai Van Trang, an Indonesian, in a poem entitled An Asian View of Cultural Differences, describes Asians as always at rest compared to Westerners who are always on the move.  “We are passive; you are aggressive.  We like to contemplate; you like to act. We accept the world as it is; you try to change it according to your blueprint. Religion is our first love; technology is our passion.  We delight to think about the meaning of life; you delight in physics ...”   Obviously these are generalizations but you get the picture. 

So what if the BHAG is to move consciously from the current Industrial era to an Ecological era?  Using comparisons developed by Riane Eisler and David Loye in The Chalice and the Blade, what if we were to move from an emphasis on material progress to one of a balance between materialism and spirituality; from a consumptive, self-serving behavior to a more cooperative, life-serving behavior; to an identity defined by possessions and social status which leaves us feeling separate and alone, to an identity defined by our participation in life which leaves us feeling  connected to a larger universe?

This would mean viewing the world as a living organism of which we are a part rather than an object to be conquered and exploited.  Our interactions would be based on a win:win philosophy and rather than operate from a base of competition, control, fear and domination, we would place our trust in cooperation, nurturing and partnership.  “These words are hard to keep still within definitions,” said Wendell Berry during the 41st Annual Jefferson Lecture, “but they make the dictionary hum like a beehive.”

So, the question remains, what’s to be done?  In 2003Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff published The 10 Trusts : What We Must Do to Care for the Animals We Love, which can be tweaked for honey bees : 


  • Recognize that we are all connected and interdependent. 
  • Respect all life.
  • Open our minds in humility to the hive and learn from the bees.
  • Teach our children to love and respect nature, starting with the insects.
  • Be wise stewards of this earth.
  • Realize that every action has consequences that last for seven generations.
  • Have the courage of our convictions.
  • Recognize and help those who work for the benefit of the natural world.
  • Act knowing that we are not alone.
  • Live with hope. 

 Within these broad parameters there seems to me to be one significant Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and that will be the subject of the third and final part of this series.



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Latest comments

27.11 | 16:01

Moustache, wax? Of course. Now if all of the drones had mustaches ...

27.11 | 12:43

One of our club members says he got into beekeeping in order to make his own mustache wax. There's the explanation for the bearded/mustached ABF attendees!

13.08 | 05:43

Good morning Mr. Barnes, I'm so pleased to see the best of history teachers is still going strong! Looking at your website brings back some great memories

21.05 | 07:18

Its pleasure to read about Boy Scout here. He plays vital role to serve humanity. I will share after my