Are bees pets?

I was going over some notes after last week’s story about the status of urban beekeeping in the Twin Cities metro, and I came across a quotation from Gary Reuter about how he classifies bees.

Reuter works for the University of Minnesota’s entomology department along with Marla Spivak (our guest last week on the Daily Circuit). He said that while some cities classify bees as ‘farm animals’ and thus regulate them accordingly, he doesn’t agree.

“For most hobby beekeepers they’re more – it’s more accurately a pet, you know? And I know everybody’s going to think that’s weird but, for a hobby beekeeper – yeah part of it’s to get honey – but most of it’s they enjoy working with the bees; watching the bees; watching their behavior; and seeing what they do.

“It’s just fun to have ’em out there, so I compare ’em more to a dog or a cat or a fish than I do to, you know, a cow or a chicken.”

So what do you think? Are bees more of a farm animal? Or a pet? Or something in between? How would you classify bees?

Tom Weber

  • Justin H

    Beekeeper in waiting and overall bee enthusiast here. I guess I never really thought of bees as pets in the same way as I think of my dog as a pet. But when you list out the properties of pet ownership in a very objective sense, they certainly do qualify, or at least come close.

    However, part of the reason I plan on keeping bees is because I’m scared about their overall decline as a species and despite their important role in our ecosystem. I can’t say I feel the same way about a dog or cat.

  • essjay

    I don’t think of bees as a pet. Like Justin, my desire to keep bees comes from a strong commitment to keeping them from going extinct, as they are such an important part of our world and help my garden grow. Yes, it’s a little selfish…but also big picture thinking, which is very different than how I think about my other pets.

  • JBL

    We get food from farms. So like my dad’s chickens or my neighbor’s goats, I’d call bees livestock. Now, a couple hives, three goats, or a few hens don’t make a farm. I don’t think the specific animal should be regulated as much as their number – kind of like the difference between a hobby farm and a commercial farm.

    Until bees learn to fetch like a dog or give a condescending look like a cat, they’re not pets.

  • suestuben

    Bees can be pets. My son was an early entomologist and made pets of every animal he came across, including insects. He had a female spider with her egg sac whom he fed every morning before he had breakfast. He was so excited when all the baby spiders came out and crawled on him. He had pet tarantulas, cock roaches, centipedes, a cephalapod, and bees. It kind of scared me, but he would reach out for a bee and it would crawl up on his hand and he’d beam with pride. I’ll never forget when a friend of his purposefully stepped on one of his bees. His face scrunched up as tears began to rain down. His friend didn’t understand and was shocked when my boy pushed him and screamed at him.

    Yes, bees can be pets. In fact, if we treated all of the animal kingdom as worthy of our affection, we’d probably be living in the Garden of Eden. (BTW, my son is 28 and has never been stung by a bee or bitten by a spider or any other creature.)

  • John Reuter

    If Gary Reuter called them Pets then they are pets.

  • Flora Delaney

    I keep bees but must keep them about 24 miles away because Edina considers bees “livestock.” I spend time with my bees. Watching them, seeing how what they are collecting, monitoring their health. Are they pets? Well, I certainly don’t cuddle with them on the couch like I do my dog. But I miss them in the winter, I drive over a half hour each way to see them at least once a week from April – November and I feel proud, protective and indebted to them. So I certainly have emotions for them.

    I find it interesting that while there is tremendous grass roots support for gardens, fruit trees and locally grown produce, there is an almost willful disregard for pollinators being a critical part of an abundant harvest. Everyone hears a lot about composting and fertilizer – but not pollinators. My guess as to why: People (and Corporations) can make money selling compost bins, fertilizers and additives. Bees and pollinators are assumed to be free and therefore, without value. As gardeners fret and frown over their gardens this summer consider this: most crops require pollinators to succeed and your suburban garden is likely a pollination desert because of the anti-bee stance of your community.