Agriculture and ecology aren’t considered synonymous. The farmer and the ecologist are more often opposed than in agreement and yet there are crucial times when their opinions require reconciliation. Devastating honeybee colony losses have caused widespread concern. In researching and writing Farming for the Landless: New perspectives on the cultivation of our honeybee, I saw an ideal opportunity to realise the cultural study of a creature that today symbolises and embodies both agriculture and ecology. Alongside in-depth analysis, the book narrates the recent experiences and views of expert beekeepers, agricultural scientists, ecologists and beekeeping representatives across Europe, giving voice to the science, campaigns and collective practices currently focused on improving honeybee health.
With the news that the UK government has just accepted the National Farmer’s Union request to revoke its agreed suspension of certain neonicotinoid pesticides ahead of the forthcoming EU review, it should be evident that not all farmers will be pleased: beekeepers, as both farmers and ecologists, aren’t supported by this decision.
The following extract from Farming for the Landless introduces the issues that affect our shifting cultural perceptions of the honeybee and beekeeping at this moment of critical change.