Is Beekeeping Cruel? The Pros & Cons Explored

While the plight of the nations bees is well known, many people are asking the obvious question “is beekeeping cruel?”.

It’s a fair (and very important!) question to ask. We should always question everything we do when it comes to our interactions with wild animals.

We’re going to set out the arguments both for and against beekeeping. Then you can decide for yourself whether it’s cruel or not.

So without further ado, is beekeeping cruel? Let’s find out.

The Arguments For Beekeeping

First of all, we’re going to take a look at the many arguments for beekeeping, why it’s important and why there’s nothing cruel about it. So read on to learn about these key points.

Maintaining A Healthy Bee Population

One of the most important things that can be achieved through beekeeping is the maintenance of a healthy bee population.

It’s sadly true that wild bee populations have been in decline in many parts of the world in recent times.

And a big part of that is down to the impact man has had on their habitats and practices such as the use of pesticide.

If you take care to look after bees properly, you won’t be damaging them in any way.

Instead, you’ll be able to support their continued existence and make sure that they’re part of the local ecosystem.

As we’ll find out next in this list of benefits, bees play a vital role in the entire ecosystem and environment. Their role certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

Benefits To Pollination

Pollination is one of the most important things that bees do. They land on flowers, big up pollen from the inside of the flower and then distribute the seeds to different locations.

This helps to ensure that plant life continues to thrive in the location where the bees are being kept. It’s a natural process that’s vital to the overall environment.

As we mentioned, wild bee populations have been in decline recently, and that means pollination has taken a hit too.

But the use of beekeeping techniques can help to fight back against that trend and ensure the pollination levels in your local area stay as high as they should be.

It’s one of those things that might not sound very exciting, but it is vitally important.

Biodiversity Depends On Pollination

Bees And Biodiversity

One of the things that get damaged when pollination levels fall is the overall biodiversity of the local environment.

You don’t want your local wildlife to be boring, but if there aren’t enough bees in the area doing the work to pollinate the landscape there’s definitely a major risk of that.

And beekeepers can help to support that.

Biodiversity is something you’ll hear more and more about in the coming years. As human activity has an impact on the climate and insect levels, there’s a significant change that biodiversity will suffer and that’s a real shame.

You might not be able to fix the macro problem alone, but you can play your part by encouraging biodiversity through beekeeping. That’s why it’s worth making it happen.

Benefits To The Overall Food Chain

There are serious benefits that come with having bees in the local ecosystem aside from pollination too.

It might not be particularly pleasant to say it, but bees are part of the food chain and they are prey for certain predators, including other insects, spiders and small mammals.

By making bees part of the environment, you’ll be supporting the existence of other species too.

This goes to highlight how much of an impact the decline of one insect species can have on the wider ecosystem as a whole.

When one source of food diminishes, predators suffer and the decline can have a knock-on effect in some cases. You can help to mitigate the risk of that eventuality by ensuring there are enough bees in the local ecosystem.

They Help Human Food Consumption Too

Of course, beekeeping means being able to produce your own honey. There are a few options open to you here.

If you’re looking to make your beekeeping profitable, you might want to think about selling that honey and turning a profit.

But many people who just have a single beehive and don’t want to get involved in the business side of things simply consume the honey themselves with their family.

It’s a nice by-product that you get from looking after bees, and it always tastes better when you produce it yourself as well.

The Arguments Against Beekeeping

There are also some arguments that are often made against beekeeping by people who think it’s cruel. Here are some of the most important points to be aware of.

The Impact On Wild Bee Populations

Wild Bees In Decline

There are some people who argue that although beekeeping adds bees to the local population, it might also have an impact on existing wild bees.

There aren’t any clear answers on how much of an impact honey bees from a managed hive might have on wild bee populations, but some people have concerns that it might be negative.

Wild bee populations are obviously very important as we’ve already highlighted throughout this guide.

And some would argue that rather than just adding more bees onto the situation and making it worse, the focus should be on making sure that the local population is maintained and supported more organically through other means. Maybe they have a point.

Spread Of Diseases During Trading

The industry that surrounds the trading of honey bees is something to take into account as well.

There are never any guarantees that you’re going to be buying bees from reputation sources.

Of course, you should always do your research and ensure the people you’re buying your bees from are reputable and can be trusted to do things by the book.

Nevertheless, there are risks that come with unethical honey bee trading. The most significant of them all is allowing diseases to spread through the bee population in the trading process.

Obviously, this isn’t good for you because you’ll end up with a lot of diseased bees. And it’ll also mean that those diseases might be passed onto wild bees which would be even more disastrous.

Difficulty In Measuring The Impact Of Bees On The Ecosystem

Some people argue that it is quite difficult to measure the overall impact bees have on the ecosystem when they’re part of a beekeeping farm.

That doesn’t mean that they necessarily have a negative impact, but it’s not easy to get a precise picture of what kind of positive impact they’re having.

There aren’t really any easy metrics you can reach for.

Nevertheless, most experts agree that having bees in a particular area in order to aid with fundamental things such as pollination is better than not having them there at all.

And that’s probably the thing that matters most here. It is something to keep in mind when you’re making this important decision though. It’s not all as clear cut and easy to judge as we might like it to be.

Improper Beekeeping Leading To Malnourished Bees

Malnourished Bees

Of course, there are going to be even greater risks to the bees if you don’t know what you’re doing as a beekeeper.

The biggest threat to your bees is poor management and poor beekeeping. But that is at least something that you have some control over.

You can decide how much time and effort you’re going to put into making sure you’re the best beekeeper you can be.

There are lots of ways in which bees can suffer when the beekeeping offered isn’t up to scratch, and some would say that does amount to cruelty.

Malnutrition can become a problem when bees are not being properly looked after by their beekeeper. Be sure to learn the basics and ensure you know what you’re doing before you get started. It could be the difference between success and failure, so it shouldn’t be skipped over.

Conclusion – Is Beekeeping Cruel?

On balance, it’s generally considered that beekeeping isn’t cruel and that it, in fact, helps to maintain bee populations and deliver the range of benefits mentioned above.

However, it’s also important to take into account the fact that the bees need to be cared for in the correct and proper way by people who know what they’re doing.

The risk of subjecting the bees to cruelty goes up dramatically when the beekeeper doesn’t know what they’re doing.

In the right hands, beekeeping can be a tool to reverse some of the damage done to bees and bee population by things such as pesticides and other environmentally damaging practices carried out by humans.

It can help bees to thrive and to boost the pollination effect they have on the surrounding ecosystem.