Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beekeeping With Kids

My helper and me. We are getting ready
to check on our queen cells.
Sooner or later, your friends and family will become curious and will want to visit your apiary. I've shown (and shown off) my honey bees to a lot of people. Below are some of my experiences.

I'll start with the obvious :D. It is a lot easier to show off hives in Spring and early Summer while the bees are on a flow and mostly ignore intrusions.

I usually show beginner beekeepers my nucs. In this way I can show them a nice selection of frames (honey, brood and pollen) without a lot of lifting and digging through multiple boxes. I can also find the queen fairly quickly. In addition, the nucs are not as defensive as the fully-grown production hives. Another positive is that beginner beekeepers are not going to be overwhelmed with the sheer number of bees in a production hive.

Before we even get close, I make sure that everybody's bee suit is bee tight and then I go over the basic rules. The rules may be obvious for us beekeepers, but beginners probably never even thought about them.

First, of course, I point out the safety zone. This is the place where my assistants can go and take off their bee suits if they get overwhelmed, scared, stung, hot or simply bored. I also make sure that everybody understands that they cannot come back towards the hives unless their bee suit is back on and zipped up.

Then, I cover the basics of dealing with a bee sting - you scrape the stinger off and puff a few puffs of smoke on the site to cover the pheromone. Then, you can either head to the safety zone or stay and help me finish up.

After that it is time to head to the hives. I don't plan to do any special manipulations if I can help it. The main goal of the visit is to show my friends the hive and how to complete a basic inspection. I have found that it helps to "narrate" as you go (make sure you name and point out all the parts):

  • "You puff a little bit of smoke at the entrance to let the honey bees know that we're going to be visiting them. Wait for a bit, so that they can calm down"
  • "Now, we can open the telescoping cover. A puff of smoke will keep them out of our way".
  • And so on
Be prepared to give up your hive tool and smoker. I ended up having to get spares in order to be able to assist the newly minted beekeepers. 

Finally, don't forget to have fun!

Have you shown off your hives to your friends and family? Do you have helpers? Drop me a line in the comments!