women in beekeeping

Despite their consistent presence in agricultural endeavors, women have historically been underrepresented in the sector, often assuming roles alongside men without being recognized as ranchers or business leaders. In beekeeping, this trend has mirrored the broader agricultural landscape, with women actively involved in all aspects, from hive checks and bee care to transfers, warehouse tasks, and the packaging and sale of honey.

Encouragingly, an increasing number of women are venturing into entrepreneurship in beekeeping, taking on the responsibilities of business ownership. This new generation of women beekeepers may come from long-standing family traditions or discover beekeeping through personal curiosity, evolving their hobby into a full-fledged profession.

Statistics on rural employment illustrate a positive trend, showing a growing presence of women not only as livestock entrepreneurs but also in technical roles, research, and sectoral representation. In the United States, 31% of farmers are women, while the European average is 29%. Similarly, in beekeeping, less than a third of leadership positions are held by women (according to Bee Culture magazine).

The transformation in the agricultural sector is evident, with women assuming leadership positions, as highlighted by Sony Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture in 2015. He remarked on the overwhelmingly female leadership in agricultural organizations, signaling a bright future for the industry.

The naturalization process of women in professional beekeeping is underway, with a growing tendency to balance gender roles and responsibilities. Modern beekeeping, with its increasing mechanization, eliminates the need for heavy lifting, making it a profession suitable for both men and women. Professional beekeepers attest to the compatibility of family life and work, citing manageable challenges during hive migration, where they spend days or weeks outdoors.

A survey among female beekeepers reveals that many entered beekeeping out of concern or family tradition. Training poses a challenge at times but support from other female beekeepers has proven invaluable. Weight-related difficulties exist for both male and female beekeepers, emphasizing the importance of collaboration during field visits.

Strengths identified among women in beekeeping include meticulous work, sensitivity, particularly when handling larvae, and keen observational skills regarding colony behavior. It’s evident, as noted by Rusty Burlew, that gender makes no difference in the success of beekeeping; both men and women excel equally in the profession.

Women globally are embracing their vocation in beekeeping, contributing to rural development programs that use beekeeping as a tool for personal empowerment, poverty alleviation, and environmental conservation. UNESCO’s “Women for Bees” programs focus on agricultural development through beekeeping, emphasizing the significant role women play in these initiatives.

Examples from Brazil to Western Australia showcase women successfully keeping bees, producing honey, and transforming their communities sustainably. Mentoring programs and online communities for young female beekeepers further enhance support and knowledge-sharing.

Eva Crane

Notable women in research and scientific dissemination, such as Eva Crane, Marla Spivak, Pilar de la Rúa, and queen bee breeder Susan Cobey, contribute significantly to global beekeeping knowledge.

Beekeeping companies led by women face similar challenges as their male counterparts, including issues like honey adulteration imports, bee health concerns, colony losses, pollination rental costs, queen breeding, and varroa management.

It’s time to shatter stereotypes, recognizing that no activity should be a male stronghold, especially beekeeping. Talents, observation skills, sensitivity, creativity, organizational aptitudes, and various skills contribute immensely to positive results in beekeeping. As more women become exemplary figures, they will undoubtedly inspire the entire beekeeping sector through their talent and dedication.