Can email groups help sustain our planet? Welcome to the extraordinary story of the BEE-L LISTSERV list. It's the oldest Internet bee list and has spawned many new bee forums and blogs over the years. It has about 1,000 members, who continue to try to work out how to best keep bees – sometimes to save the bees and sometimes to save the world from what we'd all be if we didn't keep bees.
Bee discussion lists predate the Internet, having been hosted on Bitnet and dial-up platforms. In the 1990s, Professor Edward Southwick, a professor of biology at the State University of New York – whose discoveries led to the concept that individual bees' social group behavior makes a colony deal with cold temperatures very similarly to large vertebrates – started the BEE-L list at the University at Albany as a way for academics to exchange ideas about honeybees and other bees. The list archives go back to that era.
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 server.
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 list is now administered by Allen Dick, a retired commercial beekeeper currently living in Mexico and Jose Villa, a retired bee scientist living in Colorado.
"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 many years on the list. Some BEE-L members visit one another and sometimes make a point of meeting up at conventions."
BEE-L List Owner
The list guidelines are simple:
Message content is the responsibility of the writer, and moderators don't edit posts. The restriction on quoting is to keep the archives searchable and non-redundant. Members are encouraged 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 '90s 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."
BEE-L List Owner
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."
BEE-L List Owner
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