What Bees Want

Beekeeping As Nature Intended

This site offers a comprehensive departure from conventional beekeeping. You will find no references to splitting hives, treating bees, inspections, honey extractors, bee suits and gear, except in reference to why we do not do these things.

For those who want to have a relationship with their bees that is more like a friendly naturalist than an overlord, this is the site for people like us. (Looking for our book? Click here.)

Have you ever asked yourself: Exactly what DO bees want?

We ask ourselves this question all the time.  We believe that tending bees well, and humanly, requires us to know exactly who bees are when they live unbothered by human interference.

Order WHAT BEES WANT from one of these fine book shops: What Bees Want: Beekeeping as Nature Intended

A Radical Approach to Beekeeping that Helps Bees Survive

Jacqueline and Susan have always kept our bees naturally, with no chemical treatments, using alternative hive styles like Warré hives, skeps, and hollowed log rounds. Intuitively, we felt we were on the right track with our colonies. Then, a few years ago, we attended the first “Learning From the Bees” conference in the Netherlands, hosted by the Natural Beekeeping Trust.

We were, to use a British term, gobsmacked. Suddenly—finally—here was the science to support all we had sensed was true! Dr. Thomas Seeley (Cornell University chair and honeybee researcher), and Torben Schiffer (researcher with Dr. Jürgen Tautz of “Buzz About Bees”) and a host of others shared documented scientific evidence that supporting every method we were using back home with our bees. Their research backed up all the goodness we could bring to our bees. The term we use for this style of tending bees is “preservation beekeeping methods.

Finally, we found researchers exploring how bees live in the wild. Torben Schiffer said that studying bees in boxes and thinking you know who they are, is like studying a polar bear in a zoo and thinking you now know that animal. After hundreds of years of keeping these creatures close to us, no one had taken the time to learn who they really were. Until now.

In this website you will find the key tenets to a new kind of beekeeping—a beekeeping method that puts bees’ needs first—and creative ways to provide your bees with what they want and need from their keepers.

We also provide links to Jacqueline’s and Susan’s personal blog as well, where you can read about farming, skepping, and gardening. Come join us on this journey to gentle, relational bee-ing.

Susan Knilans and Jacqueline Freeman

12 Tenets of Preservation Beekeeping

We are aligned with the research of two dedicated bee scientists, Tom Seeley (US) and Torben Schiffer (Germany). We combined elements of their work with our own principles and observations and created this list of guidelines that exemplify Preservation Beekeeping. These are the cornerstone of ‘what bees want.’ The more of these guidelines you are able to implement, the better for your bees.

Jacqueline with Cherubs

Spirit Bee

Bees live in wholeness. They dedicate themselves to working within the hive in ways we humans don’t grasp because we humans have individual personalities. Bees have the hive, and each individual pours love into the care and keeping of the colony.


American Skep Making

Weaving a skep takes a lot of time and determination. It is easy to get frustrated at first, but as your hands gain “memory” of the feeling of the straw, you will find it becomes easier to work.

cultivating-wonder-susan resized

Cultivating Wonder

Susan Chernak McElroy is author of “Animals as Teachers and Healers” and a host of other books that explore our sacred and “wonder-filled” relationships with animals and nature. These days, Susan goes by her married name, Susan Knilans.

Susan writes to entice people into an unexpectedly deeper relationship with all of our relations: Furred, winged, leafy, and all the rest. She blogs with stories, tips, and projects for expressing that deeper relationship close to home.