Beekeeping is an increasingly popular hobby for both adults and children. It raises crucial environmental awareness for our children and is a hobby that produces a natural and delicious food which they can eat, share with friends and family and even sell, teaching them basic sales and marketing skills.
While grown-ups can decide for themselves when they are ready to begin beekeeping, for kids there are a number of factors that need to be considered.
This post will cover some of the considerations surrounding if or when your child should get into beekeeping. The aim of this blog is to help you make an informed decision about whether or not your child/ren are ready to begin their beekeeping adventure and provide you with some key information to consider.
What age can kids start beekeeping?
Kids can start beekeeping around the age of 5 years old. That said, the age a child can start beekeeping will often be quite subjective and depend upon the individual traits and physique of your child.
We will attempt to break down what roles and tasks children can get involved with by age, but ultimately this will come down to a parent or guardians comfort level as determined by each child.
What is an appropriate age for children to learn about beekeeping?
Provided a child can be sized up with an appropriate child’s beekeeping suit, we are comfortable having children as young as 3 years old to 5 years old accompany us on our hive inspections.
Accompanying a hive inspection can involve the child being within a couple of metres of the hive or even right up next the hive. This allows the child to see inside the hive and get a good appreciation of how the beekeeping process works.
We are cautious of letting children between 3 years old to 5 years old handle any of the beekeeping equipment or hold the frames of bees as both can carry risks. However, if you as the parent or guardian believe your child is able to, you can encourage them to ‘help you’ hold a bee frame or puff the bee-smoker.
Bee frames can be quite heavy, especially for a young child in this age group so they shouldn’t be left to hold the frame alone. The reason for this is that if a small child drops a frame of bees or bangs equipment against a frame or the hive body, this could injure or stir the bees up and lead them to become aggressive which can lead to both frightened bees and a frightened child.
What age can kids begin assisting with beekeeping?
Kids aged 5 years old to 8 years old can be given more tasks around the beekeeping yard.
With guidance, they can be shown how to remove frames from a hive and what to look for when inspecting them.
Children in this age group can begin to identify different types of bees (workers, queens and drones) and can learn the difference between capped brood, honey and pollen cells. Their young eyes can often be sharp enough to spot freshly laid eggs and they can learn the various life cycle stages of young larvae.
Effectively, so long as children this age are gentle with the bees, they can use most tools and really have a good look through the hive with more independence. We would advise against them being left entirely alone to do this, as an adult should be there to lift boxes and make sure everything is put back together properly before closing the hive up.
When can kids ‘actually’ help with beekeeping?
Children aged 8 years old to 12 years old can be relied upon to assist a beekeeper with most beekeeping tasks. At this age, the children should be ready to assist with the honey extraction process, equipment making and other basic tasks.
With supervision, children this age can help with tasks such as:
- Uncapping honey frames and putting them in an extractor
- Filtering honey
- Bottling honey
- Assembling frames
- Assembling and painting boxes
At this age, children can start to become quite useful little assistants for both hobby and commercial beekeepers!
When can kids manage their own beehive?
With guidance, children aged 12 years old to 16 years old should be able to manage their own beehive. This will include them being able to assess when to conduct hive inspections, when to extract honey, and when to add or remove hive boxes, as well as most other aspects of hive management.
Like with most new beekeepers, a mentor or ‘bee-buddy’ would be very handy for a child/teenager this age to assist them with their beekeeping and to further their knowledge. Solitary beekeeping should be fine for children this age, but it is still a good idea to bring someone along to work on the hives together.
Managing their own hive is a great way to build confidence in children as it allows them to have a personal responsibility for the bees and can deepen their passion for beekeeping!
A teenage beekeeper tending to his beehives
Beekeeping requires adult supervision
While small children can accompany their parents or another beekeeper while inspecting hives, we believe that the overall management of a hive should be left to an adult or mature teenager. Just like buying a family pet, an adult will need to register the hive and deal with any local government or neighbourly issues.
Due to reasons that should be apparent in this post, a responsible adult will still need to oversee the running of a beehive. That said, we strongly encourage children to get as involved as they can as they will learn so much more if given certain responsibilities for the hive.
Beekeeping is a great hobby that the whole family can enjoy together and a great opportunity to pass down knowledge to the younger generation.
Weight of beehive boxes and frames
A frame of bees and honey can each weigh as much as 3kg or more and are about 50cm wide. This may be quite cumbersome for small children to handle at times.
A full box of honey from a beehive can weigh over 30kg. This can be a difficult weight for an adult beekeeper, let alone a child. We recommend that children do not attempt to lift hive boxes when they have frames of bees/brood/honey in them. Attempting to do so could cause an injury to the child, or damage to the bees and equipment if dropped.
Furthermore, a full hive could weigh up to 100kg, so it goes without saying that children should not be tasked with moving one!
Is it safe for children to help with beekeeping?
Given the correct parental or guardian supervision, beekeeping can be a safe hobby for children. So long as children behave responsibly around beehives and equipment, the hobby is both safe and fun.
Below are some possible safety factors to be aware of.
If a child has never been stung before and parents believe the child may be at risk of a severe anaphylactic reaction, then an EpiPen should be at hand whenever children are around the beehive.
If a child has a known severe allergic reaction to bee stings, then we must advise against them participating in beekeeping as a hobby. Various immunotherapy treatments are available, and while we cannot comment on their effectiveness, this could be something that parents may choose to explore if they want beekeeping to be a future family activity.
Make sure safety gear fits well
Ill-fitting beekeeping suits, gloves or boots will render them ineffective as it can allow gaps for bees to get inside and defeats the purpose of wearing the safety gear. As cute as a baggy suit and gloves may look, if it does not protect the child properly, then this exposes the child to a greater risk of stings and reduces the child’s confidence and enjoyment of beekeeping.
If not handled correctly, a bee-smoker is one of the more dangerous items in a beekeepers kit. Always ensure that children are made aware of the risk of a fire being started from a smoker and encourage them to keep an eye on the smoker to make sure no accidental fires start.
A bee-smoker can also get quite hot so children should always wear thick beekeeping gloves when handling the smoker. It is a good idea to buy a hive smoker with a safety guard around it to prevent burns, such as this bee smoker.
As discussed above, be mindful of how much some beekeeping equipment can weigh, and task the children appropriately with their age group. A box of bees being dropped on small toes is sure to make a child upset, especially when it is accompanied by thousands of upset bees!
Like with any outdoor activity, children should be made aware of poisonous animals. Snakes and spiders like to hide out under beehives, so it is a good idea for an adult to check the hive area before a child is allowed near the hive.
Being confined to a beekeeping suit on a warm day can be tiring for even the fittest of adults. The hard work and the thick suits can lead to overheating very quickly so be mindful of children getting too hot. Plan for regular water breaks away from the hives if necessary. This may be hard to remember though, as time flys when you’re having fun!
Being too popular at school…
A serious problem for the amateur beekeeper!
Okay, this is not an actual safety consideration, but we wanted to conclude by saying that children are almost always fascinated by bees, so beekeeping can be a great social tool for children to interact with both the environment and each other.
A surplus supply of raw honey that children can share with their classmates and teachers is always a plus as well!
While daunting and mysterious at first glance, children can quickly learn what goes on inside of a beehive
Is beekeeping for you and your children?
Now that you have the above information, it’s time to decide whether you are ready to introduce your child to the wonderful world of beekeeping. If you do take up the hobby, watch their knowledge for bees, trees and nature grow and their understanding of honey and the environment around them reach a whole new level. They’ll be buzzing to tell anyone who’ll listen about the interesting world of bees!
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share this with anyone else who may be interested in embarking on a family-oriented beekeeping adventure.
We hope this information helps to encourage the creation of many little future beekeepers to come!