Save the Bees, Save the World: Behind the Scenes of the Longest Running Bee Discussion List
Customer story, with insights and information from Allen Dick, BEE-L List Owner:
BEE-L is the original Internet bee list and has spawned many, many new bee forums and blogs over the years. Only a few original members remain among a circle of a thousand or so friends and colleagues, who continue to try to work out how to best keep bees--sometimes to save the bees, sometimes to save the world, and sometimes to save the world from what we'd all be if we did not keep bees.
A sample image from the Bee-L community powered by LISTSERV®
Bee discussion lists predate the Internet, having been hosted on Bitnet and dial-up platforms. In the 1990s, Professor Edward Southwick started BEE-L on LISTSERV® at the University at Albany, and our archives go back to that era.
Edward’s discoveries, based on his studies of thermoregulation and energy use by honeybee colonies, led to the concept that social group behavior of individual bees makes a colony deal with cold temperatures in very similar ways as for large vertebrates. In 1990, he launched Bee-L on the University at Albany-SUNY’s servers as a way for academics to exchange ideas and references about honeybees and other bees.
BEE-L discussions have evolved from academic to more general bee-related topics, including conservation and management. LISTSERV has proved over many years to be an ideal platform and eventually the list moved from the university server to being hosted on the L-Soft COMMUNITY servers.
The present list owners are Allen Dick, a retired commercial beekeeper currently living in Mexico who joined BEE-L in the mid-90s, and Jose Villa, a retired bee scientist living in Colorado.BEE-L's purpose is "Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology". The roughly 1000 current members range widely in occupation, experience and interest—from university and government bee scientists to commercial beekeepers, bee magazine writers and editors, hobby beekeepers and interested members of the public. Active list members primarily span the Americas, the UK, Australia, and Europe with a member from China as well.
The level of activity and interest among the one thousand-subscriber list is difficult to ascertain directly. Indirectly, we get periodic comments from people who are not regular writers that they find the discussions very informative and helpful for whatever level of beekeeping or knowledge they have. Also, there seems to be a good amount of loyalty to the list subscription in that there is very slow turnover of people unsubscribing and the opposite. The numbers appear to stay pretty steady.
Many researchers currently do not write, but again, we are told that they read posts. BEE-L may inadvertently provide a service of promoting/guiding research by the amount of questions and speculation on important practical issues as well as fairly arcane aspects of honey and other bee biology. Bee-L is in that sense a crucible of ideas.
We get posts asking simple basic beginner questions and discussions about recent or older research. The tone is generally very civil and many of us know each other by reputation, from meetings, and/or many years on the list. Some BEE-L members visit one another and sometimes make a point of meeting up at conventions.
Our structure is simple. Send a message, a moderator reads it and okays it if it is appropriate for the list regardless of personal opinion on the matter. We have probably ten regular contributors and another fifty or so who chime in periodically plus some who come and go. I'm sure most members read and many participate in other forums but LISTSERV has the ability to send and receive email in real-time and also provide a web page and a powerful search engine that makes us unique.
There have been major differences of opinion at times leading to schisms and new forums being started and individuals who attempted to flood the list creating a need for moderation. Normally 95% of messages are okay-ed and sometimes weeks go by with no rejections. Trouble-makers find BEE-L an unrewarding place to post.
We have guidelines but they are simple. Be polite, don't get personal, don't quote more than a few lines of previous messages. Stay on topic. Format your emails properly.
Message content is the responsibility of the writer. Moderators do not edit posts. The restriction on quoting is to keep our archives searchable and non-redundant. We encourage members to dig back and research the history of a subject on the list and see the evolution of thought and practices and post new insights or questions.
The archives are our library, stretching back to the nineties and contain the thoughts of people long gone and recent contributions, all easily browsed using the excellent LISTSERV search engine to search for words, parts of words, sets of words, phrases, or authors.
- Although Apis mellifera (western/European honeybee) is the main bee species of public interest, there are many thousands of species of bees in the world that vary in size from tiny to the large and familiar bumblebee and Apis dorsata, the giant honeybee of South and Southeast Asia.
Bees—Essential Inhabitants of Planet Earth:
“While managed bees are well studied, the effects of civilization on many of the native bees of the world are unknown. What is known, though, is that many are in decline due to loss of habitat and chemical use. Global trade has spread diseases and pests and challenged bee populations, both managed and native. Bees are resilient but the combination of new challenges has made maintaining bees much more difficult than a century ago.”
- Alan Dick, BEE-L List Owner
- Only a few species make enough honey to be kept under management for honey production but bees are all valued for pollination, and some species are managed strictly to pollinate specific crops. The economic production of many familiar foods and spices is either partly or entirely dependent on insect pollination. Canola, blueberries, and almonds are just a few examples.
- Many bees are adapted to specific regions and are not widely distributed but all are important in their niche. Some bees, like honeybees are social and live in colonies of tens, hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of bees, and some are solitary.
BEE-L Fast Facts
Purpose: "Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology"
Primary Topics: Bee conservation and management.
Members: Around 1000 current members, from university and government bee scientists to commercial beekeepers, bee magazine writers and editors, hobby beekeepers and interested members of the public. Participants are from the Americas, the UK, Australia, Europe and China
Current List Owners: Allen Dick, a retired commercial beekeeper currently living in Mexico and Jose Villa, a retired bee scientist living in Colorado
List Culture: The tone is generally very civil and many of us know each other by reputation, from meetings and/or many years on the list. Some BEE-L members visit one another and sometimes make a point of meeting up at conventions
List Guidelines: Be polite. Don't get personal. Don't quote more than a few lines of previous messages to keep list archives searchable and non-redundant. Stay on topic. Format your emails properly.
Moderation: Message content is the responsibility of the writer--moderators do not edit posts
Subscriber Best Practices: Research the history of a subject on the list and see the evolution of thought and practices in the archives and post new insights or questions.
Subscriber Feedback: Periodic comments from people who are not regular writers that they find the discussions very informative and helpful for whatever level of beekeeping or knowledge they have;
Subscriber Retention: A good amount of loyalty to the list and very slow turnover of people unsubscribing. Subscriber numbers are steady