I will be teaching a class this summer at The George Washington University on Online Political Strategy. The students don’t know it yet, but they are going to be assigned Susan Brackney’s ‘Plan Bee’ (find it on Amazon) as required reading.


As the extended book title describes, Plan Bee: “Everything you ever wanted to know about the hardest-working creatures on the planet.” But, despite its singular focus on bees and beekeeping, this book may be one of the best sources I have come across for developing a sophisticated advocacy outreach strategy.


The following are just some of the concepts Brackney outlines. I am guessing many of you will instantly see parallels to your own advocacy programs:


Organizational Structure


Bees are organized into three distinct types:


1.     Queen Bees – specially bred by the hive to provide order and lay eggs to create new bees. Hives without a Queen will quickly descend into chaos and will collapse. Despite their leadership role, Queen bees will be deposed periodically as their egg production lessens. The hive will breed new Queen bees who will ultimately kill the old Queen and then fight to the death til only one new Queen Bee remains.


2.     Worker bees (who are all female) – undertake all the work in the hive including pollen collection, building the honeycomb cells and producing the honey. In the advocacy world, we would probably see them as our champions or super-activists.


3.     Drone Bees (who are all male) – serve only the one purpose of impregnating the Queen. The queen flies high in the sky, calls out to the drones who mate with her, then lose their genitals in her body and fall to earth and their death. Other than this one time task, they perform nothing of value to the hive. Except for the grisly death part, this sounds a lot like many activists who sign-up to take one action and are never heard from again.


Protecting the Hive


Bees have numerous predators including insect eating skunks or bears who try to get at the honey. There are also parasitic mites that will latch onto the bees and suck their blood. Finally, bees can get stressed-out from overwork. If too much honey is extracted they will fight to create more so they have enough to survive the winter. Without their reserves the hive will die-off before the next season. Sound familiar?


Beekeeping as a Profession


Professional beekeeping is unfortunately an undervalued pastime but it is essential to not only create honey, but also to pollinate the plant life that results in much of the fruit and vegetables that we eat.


A fruitful hive must be located near numerous sources of pollen producing vegetation as well as water. Each type of pollen will deliver different tasting honey. A varied diet of blooms throughout the year will guarantee that the bees can locate enough pollen to create honey.


Crazy Bee Facts


·       Hives are actually built in wooden boxes with shelves that can be removed (so that the honeycomb and honey can be extracted). The old circular bee-hive made of rope is no longer used.


·       Did you know that bees can be transported via the U.S. Mail? They can! – hmmm, that could be a unique Christmas gift that will create some buzz.


·       Beekeepers will often carry a smoker to spray on their bees. Rather than ‘smoking them out’, the smoke is used to calm the bees so that the beekeeper can get to the honey.


Plan Bee is definitely worth reading. And hey, Susan Brackney, if ever you are in DC and want a speaking gig – let us know. If your book is any indication, I am sure your presentation will be both hilarious and fascinating.