Famous Beekeepers

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In this exploration of famous beekeepers, prepare to delve into the lives and legacies of notable figures who have shaped the art and science of beekeeping. From historical figures to contemporary beekeepers, all have played a role in bringing the importance of bee stewardship to the attention of others. Join me as we take a buzz through the some of the most notable beekeepers that have dedicated part of their lives to bees.

Female beekeeper inspecting colonies of honey bees image.

For those of you who are beginner beekeepers, you should know that you are joining a dedicated class of people. This passion (a.k.a bee fever) is caught by thousands of new beekeepers each year.

Famous Beekeepers In History

Bees played a role in the lives of early man. They were considered messengers of the Gods in some cultures. In early times, the bees were destroyed to obtain the honey. They were housed in straw skeps – much different from today’s modern types of beehives.

In time, beekeepers learned how to manage bees and harvest honey without destroying the colony. Keeping bees allowed people to provide harvested honey, beeswax and other valuable resources for their family.

Early bee keeper with skep hive image.

Hippocrates

This well-known Greek physician is considered the father of medicine. His writings on disease and treatments are still revered to this day.

Releasing the importance of nutrition for good health. He blending beekeeping and the use of bee venom, honey and other bee hive products as a remedy into the field of medicine.

Leo tolstoy beekeeper portrait image.

Leo Tolstoy

This Russian author is probably best known for his novel War and Peace – a celebrated work of world literature and his greatest work.

But he was also a famous beekeeper, sharing his love of beekeeping with friends and colleges. He even mentions beekeeping twice in the book.

His great love for bees was documented in his wife’s diary. She (Sonja) spoke of him “crouching in front of his hives with a net over his head and remarked that the bees were the centre of his world”. (Sounds familiar doesn’t it.)

Brother Adam

Brother Adam was a Benedictine monk who dedicated his life to beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England. He major work was in bee breeding – a quest for a better honey bee.

His most notable achievement was the creation of the famous Buckfast bee, renowned for its gentleness, disease resistance, and high honey production.

L.L. Langstroth

Lorenzo Langstroth is considered the Father of American Beekeeping. In his book “The Hive & the Honey Bee” – published in 1851 – he promoted his revolutionary hive design.

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The dimensions of the Langstroth Hive made practical use of bee-space to create removable frames that facilitated hive inspections. This was good for the beekeeper and the bees.

Eva Crane

Eva Crane was born in 1912 in London, England. She was a gifted mathematician but her interest in honey bees began in the 1940’s. Her passion for beekeeping turned into a lifelong dedication to bee research and education.

Crane founded the Bee Research Association (now the International Bee Research Association) to promote scientific research and collaboration in the field of apiculture. She published over 180 scientific papers and books on bees.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary is noted as one of the first two people to ever reach the summit of Mt Everest in 1953. However, it is his occupation as a beekeeper that catches my eye. Working on his fathers bee farm in New Zealand – gave him time off to enjoying climbing during the Winter.

On his trek up that slope, I have to wonder if he had some honey sticks in his backpack for energy?

Various beekeeping activities beekeeper with smoker, hives in snow and frame of bees.

Contemporary Beekeeping Icons

Of course as the years go by, beekeeping continues to evolve. Today’s beekeepers benefit from the works of those committed to sustainable practices, research, and education.

Marla Spivak

Marla Spivak is a professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota. She is most known for her groundbreaking research on honey bee health and breeding. She has developed innovative strategies for managing honeybee diseases, breeding resilient bee stocks, and promoting pollinator-friendly landscapes.

Randy Oliver

Randy Oliver is a beekeeper/biologist in the state of California. He is a leading voice in advocating for sustainable beekeeping practices. Through his website (scientificbeekeeping.com) he shares his extensive research findings. He also offers practical beekeeping advice, and insights into honey bee health and management.

Various images of bees, beehives and beekeepers working with bees.

Famous Celebrity Beekeepers

Love them or not, celebrities get a lot of attention for anything they do. In the case of beekeeping, this is a good thing. When these famous beekeepers talks “bees” people listen. It is a good way to raise awareness about important pollinators.

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was a American poet and novelist born in Massachusetts in 1932. Her love of writing and insects must have come from her father (a noted entomologist and professor of Biology at Boston University).

A brilliant woman, who also suffered from depression, she found solace in the structured world of bees. She began to keep bees which became the subject of many of her poems.

Henry Fonda

Henry Fonda, a renown actor, was also an accomplished beekeeper. He kept bees on his Bel Air estate (California), where they enjoyed the nectar from his lemon and orange trees.

He was a beekeeper before he became an actor, earning an Eagle Scout’s merit badge for beekeeping. It is said that he gave away his jars of honey with a label reading: Henry’s Honey. Now, who would not want a jar of that.

Peter Fonda

Peter Fonda was quite an accomplished beekeeper. In fact, he was named Beekeeper of the Year by the Florida State Beekeeping Association. His portrayal of beekeeping in the movie Ulee’s Gold brought the plight of beekeepers to the forefront.

Maria Von Trapp

The name Maria Von Trapp is well known around the world. Her life story and escape from Austria was the inspiration for the film The Sound of Music.

She was also an avid beekeeper. After arriving in the United States in the early 1940’s, she lived in Vermont. She kept bees on her family farm. Her husband encouraged her in her beekeeping pursuit.

Morgan Freeman

I just love Morgan Freeman. In addition to starring in numerous movies over the years, he is also a beekeeper. Mr. Freeman has always been an outspoken advocate for protection of the environment. 

Since becoming a beekeeper, he has devoted a potion of this Mississippi ranch for the care of his bees. He has also become an outspoken supporter of bees.

Honey bee on yellow flower beekeeping is relaxing and intriguing.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Academy award winning actor, Leonardo DiCaprio is also a proud beekeeper. He began the hobby as a way to relax and escape the stress of his career. The joy of having a few hives in his garden helps him deal with daily life struggles.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart is the queen of all things homemaking with style. Is there anything she can’t do? Her desire to have a great garden, led to an appreciation of the honey bee. She knows how important bees are for pollination.

She has been a beekeeper for many years and shares her love of backyard beekeeping with others. I wonder if Martha’s bees keep house better than mine or yours?

Scarlett Johansson

A well-known American actress, Scarlett Johansson was born in New York City. In addition to earning several Oscar nominations she has appeared on Broadway. Among her many passions is a love for bees.

In fact, she was gifted a hive by a fellow actor (Samuel L Jackson) as a wedding gift when she married Ryan Reynolds. Her status gives her a great opportunity to support the cause for saving bees.

Cartoon of sherlock holmes character as famous beekeeper image.

Sherlock Holmes

According to Conan Doyle, fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was another famous beekeeper. He may be remembered as a brilliant detective. But, his beekeeping experience began upon retirement.

Beekeeping involves some detective work on occasion so this seems a fitting end to a brilliant career. Can a fictional person be a famous beekeeper? Sure, if he can solve crimes – he can keep bees. Who would be better to help you catch a swarm?

Final Thoughts

These people come from many different walks of life. All have made great accomplishments in their professional lives. For most, beekeeping was not their “claim to fame”. However, they made time in their busy lives to connect with honey bees.

Whether you are an urban beekeeper – quietly managing a few hives or a large scale migratory apiarist pollinating crops, you have joined a pretty impressive group of folks. Who will be the next famous beekeeper? Maybe it will be you!