• Why I'll Let My Son Keep Bees (If He Wants To)

    Before Bubster was born, I remember conducting a fun little game imagining with my husband, Zak, how our little guy would turn out as he grew into a man. Zak mentioned that he envisioned our little guy’s physique as tall and skinny. When he said this, my mind filled in an elaborate story to go along with our tall, skinny son. He also had short hair and a beard. He wore comfy, organic cotton clothes and walked around barefooted on his organic farm where his prized accomplishment was his extensive collection of beehives. Zak and I amused ourselves with these thoughts, fully aware that whatever parents envision for their kids must necessarily be the opposite of what they actually choose for themselves. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    With that said, though, ever since that little “vision” about Bubs came to light, I have been noticing more and more that bees are kind of a big thing, here in the Triangle region of North Carolina. There are some beehives at the J. Raulston Arboretum (one of my favorite Sunday jaunts); there is a Pollinator Festival held yearly at another of our favorite Sunday jaunts, Lake Crabtree; the Museum of Natural Sciences holds a Bugfest featuring a Beekeeping Workshop in September (am I the only one who thinks the fact that it is sponsored by Terminix is hilariously ironic?); and now there are even beekeeping classes hosted by Bee Downtown for hipsters who want to take their Saturday Farmer’s Market savvy to the next level and create their own urban apiary. There are even TWO specialty North Carolina license plates for the Save The Honey Bees campaign. Basically, bees are hot right now.

    So, the other day as Bubs and I came across hives in the front and backyards at a home right in our neighborhood along our usual trek path, I couldn’t help but point them out to my little man, thinking “This is it. This is the beginning of his lifelong bee journey.” Perhaps he noticed the general direction I was pointing, anyway, but he was far more interested in the tall weeping willow swinging its branches in the wind (maybe this is a sign he’ll be a arborist instead? Kidding.)

    Looking at our adventurous neighbors pulling off this swarming feat right in their own yard instantly gave me the desire to try it too. And not because it’s trendy right now. I remember as a kid watching my dad, without fanfare, put on his white beekeeping tent-like outfit complete with the mesh veil. Out he went to smoke those bees out of their home to get to the golden goods on our little five acre farm. He looked like he was going to explore the far side of the moon in that getup and I feared the bees would just find a way to sting him somehow anyway. I’m pretty sure bees weren’t the latest fad back then and there wasn’t as much of an organized campaign to save the honeybees. He just kept bees because was just interested in seeing if he could do it and to gather a little homegrown honey in the process.

    This is what I want for my little guy. To participate in a process of nature. To participate in a project where the gratification isn’t instant. And to just see if he enjoys it! So, hipster bee bandwagon - here I come.
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    1. I find myself in agreement (once we're sure he's not actually allergic to the critters, grin). Surprisingly, I am deathly afraid of insects in general - EXCEPT when I've got a camera between me and the bug. For some reason, the act of putting a lens between us drains out the fear and instead allows me to appreciate the critter for what it is, and bees are actually one of my favorite critters to photograph (both the bumbles and the honeybees). Now, granted, I'm usually nowhere near the hive (!) but I've grown confident in photographing them, because I've noticed that they're so intent on the job they have they completely ignore me - they're just as focused on their work as I am on mine at the time (Cautionary note - yellow jackets are just plain mean!). I watch, fascinated, as they harvest the pollen and lug it back home. I've grown to appreciate as I never could before the role the least of these play in the ecosystem around us. So if Ether indeed wants to become a beekeeper - hats off to him (grin)! Or - probably more to the point - hats ON!

      1. Yes, good call!! Teaching him the difference between fairly non-aggressive honey bees and the more aggressive yellow jackets and hornets is going to be lesson #1 when it comes to the bee basics - excellent reminder on that one :)