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Beekeeping for children

PUBLISHED: 08:11 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:44 28 March 2014

Youngsters learn about bgeekeeping

Youngsters learn about bgeekeeping

With Jules Moore, who runs courses at her smallholding in Gloucestershire

With the ever increasing interest in beekeeping for adults, it was inevitable that children, hungry for knowledge, should become more aware of this fascinating hobby. When my children were little, we took our local beekeeping association’s display caravan to their school along with an observation hive and lots of equipment and props for them to look at. The children were thrilled and spent the next few weeks on bee-themed projects, including building an enormous papier mache bee.
In recent times, the trend has caught on in schools, where teachers assist the children in keeping their own bees on site. Charlton Manor Primary School in Greenwich have two beehives and have around 60 children who are involved on a regular basis with keeping the bees, which is now an integral part of their curriculum. They have adapted their hives to provide observation windows so they can study them without bee suits on, but the children are quite capable of handling them and are enthusiastic, but sensible around the bees with the odd sting failing to dampen their enthusiasm. A recent swarm (not one of theirs) caused little excitement, with the headmaster and one seven year old donning bee suits to contain the swarm, calmly collecting them and removing them to a new home.
They were featured on television on CBBC’s Newsround as proud as punch with their matching bee suits and jars of honey. They handled the bees naturally and confidently and the bees were correspondingly well behaved. The demand for honey is so high amongst the parents that there is a waiting list and they are considering getting more hives.
The headmaster, Tim Baker, who went on a beekeeping course with two of his colleagues before launching this project three years ago, is sufficiently convinced of the merits of keeping bees for children that he now runs an annual conference for teachers (July 13, 2012) and new projects in London can get support from London’s community funding initiative, Capital Bee.
If this inspires you to get your children involved in beekeeping, I would urge you to give it a go. There are plenty of companies who make child sizes of bee suits. So long as children are not allowed around bees unless properly dressed in a bee suit and accompanied by a knowledgeable adult, it can prove to be a fantastic opportunity for them to understand the workings of this amazing creature and to have an appreciation for nature and wildlife which is so often lacking in today’s childhood. Extracting honey is such a glorious opportunity to get sticky and messy as well!


RESOURCES
The following resources are available for parents or teachers keen to start beekeeping with children:
• Bees, Hives, Honey! By Tim Rowe. An excellent colourful book, which would make a great gift for a young beekeeper. Well written for its target market and well researched – 23 young beekeepers took part - this book even shows you how to make and decorate a horizontal hive, which the author considers to be a more appropriate design than a tower of traditional boxes. It is similar in style to the Dartington hive and the Beehaus, which are options for those without DIY skills or you can use a conventional National hive. My only quibbles with the book are that the section for adults suggests that you don’t need to be a beekeeper yourself and that you shouldn’t worry about swarm control, both of which I disagree with. Other than that, it is very inspiring, with fantastic pictures.
• The BBKA has plenty of information and resources on its website for teachers and a selection of fun activities for children to participate in, plus a small selection of bee-themed gifts. A free guide to parents would be a helpful addition, but the general rules on safety around bees for adults applies. www.bbka.org.uk
• CLEAPSS (Consortium of LEAs for the Provision of Science Services) produce a comprehensive nine page guide to beekeeping in schools, that is worth reading even if you are just involving children at home. (Type ‘PS87 beekeeping’ in a search engine to find it). The advice provides a number of scenarios to consider, making it useful as a checklist so that you have thought through all possible problems and are prepared for them.
• Local associations are not generally child-focussed, but joining them ensures that you will not only be able to borrow shared equipment, but will also be able to get guidance and training should you be starting from scratch.

MORE: Contact Jules Moore via www.mumbleysfarmhouse.co.uk

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