Introducing your kids to beekeepingSafe, age-appropriate ways to get children involved
Repetitive tasks. Long waits. Not to mention thousands of small, stinging creatures. Beekeeping doesn’t sound very kid-friendly on the surface. But if you’re a hobby beekeeper with children, there are ways to get your kids involved without boring them, scaring them, or risking their safety.
Introducing kids to the basics can be beneficial for you and them. They’ll get a deeper understanding of bees and the natural world, spend time outdoors, and learn the basics of managing a hive. You’ll get a small helper, and potentially recruit a new person to the world of beekeeping.
Here’s how to do it:
Get the gear
Nobody wants to get stung while they’re checking a hive – this goes double for kids. You don’t want to put them off beekeeping straight away.
If you’re serious about getting your children involved, get them safely geared up first. Buy, rent, or borrow child-size bee suits or jackets, along with gloves, boots, and hats with veils to protect their faces. Don’t use adult-sized gear – it’s far more likely to sag and leave openings for bees to enter.
Kids’ gear should be roomy and comfy, but not oversized. Instead of specific beekeeping shoes they can wear gumboots, as long as you make sure they fit well around the calf.
Of course, even if they’re perfectly geared up, there’s always a chance they’ll get stung. If this happens – especially if it’s the first time – watch carefully for signs of an allergic reaction. If they faint, vomit, swell up significantly or feel tingly, call emergency services right away.
Don’t take kids – especially small ones – out to the hive without going over the basics first. You don’t want to have to deal with complicated questions or fearful reactions when you’re managing your bees.
So before going outside, have a chat about what bees do and how honey is made. Show them your tools and explain what the bee suits are for. Most importantly, set some ground rules – no touching the hive or tools without permission, quiet voices and no running near the hive.
Match the chore to the child
Your first hive visits with your children should be about watching and listening. When they’re comfortable around the bees, you can give them simple jobs to do. Match the tasks to each child’s age and ability, and be there to take over if they panic or get overwhelmed.
Here’s a rough guide for age-appropriate jobs – of course, you know your child’s capabilities best.
Under 5 –Pre-schoolers and bees don’t necessarily mix, but if you have particularly calm and capable children, you could start introducing them to beekeeping early. Take them out to visit the hives and get a feel for the bees, then see how they go with some of the simpler tasks for 5-year-olds.
5+ –Kids this age can help by using a soft brush to move bees from honey frames, inspecting frames for mites, and maybe even holding the smoker while you move parts of the hive. They can also get involved with bee-free tasks like cleaning frames and painting old hives.
10+ –Most ten-year-olds are capable of taking on more complicated jobs – especially if they’ve been helping with the hives for a few years. Get them to spray bees with sugar water to keep them calm while you’re working, pull out and replace honey frames, clean equipment, and refill feeders. They could also help by passing you equipment, filling jars, and cranking the extractor during the honey harvest.
15+ –By this age, your children may be ready to run a hive on their own – with a bit of help and supervision if they need it.
Keep an eye on the kids
When you’re dealing with stinging bees, sharp equipment, heavy hive ware – and children, there’s always the potential for harm. Minimise the risk by getting the right gear, preparing your kids ahead of time, and supervising closely every time they’re near your hives. Even if you trust your children to do their tasks, being close at hand helps avoid stings, injuries – and damage to your hives.
As with everything in beekeeping, things go better when you’re calm, collected, and careful. Plan ahead, take your time, and you might just train a tiny beekeeper to follow in your footsteps.Looking for gear or info about beekeeping with kids?Talk to the team at Ecrotek.