I love the quote below by Sue Hubbell. Her book, A Book of Bees, is one of my favorites. This quote speaks to something that I think is central to the mind-set of a bee-centered beekeeper. Are honey bees that are kept in man-made hives "domesticated?"
In my opinion, they are not. I don't believe that we will ever have "domesticated" insects. We are only able to keep honey bees in man-made hives because of their biological characteristics and innate instincts, i.e., their unwillingness to abandon their brood. Plus, there are two characteristics of domesticated animals, intrinsic to their domestication, that honey bees do not share: containment, and dependence upon humans. We don't actually "keep" bees in the sense that they are fenced, or contained, like other animals. Honey bees can fly anywhere they want at any time, and the whole colony can relocated at any time. And, honey bees are not dependent upon humans for their health, welfare, or survival. In fact, it is being shown that honey bee colonies are more likely to thrive if we leave them to their own decisions and devices.
In addition, every story that I hear about a honey bee colony living in one location for many years - and I mean every story that I've heard, without exception - is a story of either a colony living in a hive location of their own choosing, or a story of a beekeeper who installed a colony in a man-made hive and then walked away... never to interfere with the bees again.
My heart hurts when I listen to conventional beekeepers speak of their bees as livestock (whether they realize they're doing this, or not). And it hurts even more to hear them talk about how they manage them as such.
Here's the quote:
"Although we interfere with bees' breeding, talk of them as though they are domesticated, and keep them in man-made hives, bees are wild animals and, like any wild animals, need to be free to live. Strictly speaking, one never "keeps" bees - one comes to terms with their wild nature."
A Book of Bees, Sue Hubbell