It is a common question: I have kids. Can I still keep bees?
The short and sweet answer is: Yes. You just have to take some precautions.
Many beekeepers will tell you that having kids doesn’t mean you can’t also be a beekeeper. But you do need to think about whether your family specifically is a good fit. Obviously, every family has different circumstances, and every kid’s behavior will be different around hives depending on his/her interest level. Some kids might get overly excited, some might be really scared. Just like anything else, parents play a vital role in helping kids gain confidence, learn appropriate behaviors, alleviate fear, and understand these fascinating insects. The question, “Can you keep bees with kids?” is, perhaps, better suited for a parenting blog than this one. Do your kids follow instructions? Do your kids demonstrate self-control? These factors might influence your decisions more than anything else.
There are, of course, a few scenarios when it’s advisable to re-consider mixing bees and kids, including allergies to bee stings. A few other considerations for beekeeping with children around:
- Let kids, neighbors and friends know how to behave around honey bees (as in, don’t swat at them).
- Let your kids’ friends’ parents know about your hives to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings when they come over to play.
- Remember that bees are more protective when there is more honey. Certain times of year might be off-limits for children, like late summer.
- Wear protective gear to prevent stings; but, know that an occasional sting will happen.
- Prepare your kid for when they are stung: stay calm, and let an adult remove the stinger.
- Give them specific age-appropriate tasks if they’re going to check on the hives with you. Or, keep them occupied and away from the hives by giving them something else to do while you’re working in the hive (like walk the dog).
- Wear loose clothing. Tight clothes are easier for stingers to pierce the fabric.
- Tape your kids’ clothing openings; a calm bee that gets trapped under a T-shirt quickly turns into a feisty bee.
We asked a beekeeper with kids
Murdoch’s IT Network Manager, John Williams, grew up around beehives and started beekeeping recently on his property. While he calls himself an amateur, he was willing to share how his kids are involved with beekeeping. They live in Bozeman, MT.
Are there certain times of year that you don’t allow your kids around the hives? The young/new hives are pretty fun and docile in the spring and into summer. Late summer – when it’s time for honey harvest – they can get a little aggressive, especially when they realize you’re going to take their honey!
Do your kids have to be a certain age before you let them help? My two younger ones (5 and under) didn’t really express a lot of interest; they are/were probably a little scared of the idea of getting near the home of where bugs that can hurt you live. My daughter (9) and son (11) love helping me out with checking up on the hives.
What are some good tasks for them to do? They get the protective beekeeping hood on and help out with getting the smoker ready, and smoke the hive. They help me inspect the frames and look for the queen, check for brood and super-cells.
Do you let their friends near the hives? I have an extra beekeeping hood, and it’s fun to do a hive inspection with friends, as people are curious. The hives are an intriguing, fascinating living community – it’s incredible how different two hives can be sitting right next to each other!
Are there things about your property that make it conducive to having bees and kids? If my yard were smaller and the kids were playing right next to the hives, I might not have bees. The little ones stay a good 20 feet away, and my wife made it clear that she didn’t want the kids to get stung all the time. They’re outside on the trampoline, running around playing, and they have space to do that without disturbing the hives. None of the kids have ever been stung when they were playing outside; only my 11-year-old son has been stung, and both times it was when he was digging into the hives with me.