I have two sons and it’s important to me to raise beekeepers. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Sure I’d love for the boys to grow up learning about and loving honey bees the way their father and I do, but more importantly, I’m interested in beekeepers of the figurative variety.
In the years I’ve kept bees I’ve learned (or am still learning about) so many different aspects of nature and this love of and respect for the natural world is really what I hope to pass on to my sons, through their beekeeping experiences. Here are a few things I’ve come to learn or appreciate about nature, that I hope my kids understand as well…
- The life cycle: When I go out to inspect the hives, I’m looking for the queen, or evidence that she’s alive and well. I’m looking for brood, drones, pollen, nectar, honey. As a result, I’ve seen all the stages of a bee’s life cycle and I’ve grown to appreciate how fragile it is. Watching a new bee emerge from a cell and take its first flight is awe-inspiring and cleaning up a hive filled with tens of thousands of dead bees is equally as impactful. It is, perhaps, because I’ve seen the beginning of life, that I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the loss of life.
- The complexity of systems: Another reason why the loss of a hive is so upsetting is because I’ve learned so much about how complex the beehive system is. This is one area where I’m still learning (and always will be, I imagine). Their organization, their communication, the work they do, everything about the world inside a hive is truly fascinating. A beehive serves as just a sliver of the complexity that makes up our own natural world and I hope my boys grow to understand that even minor disruptions can have real and lasting impacts. (If you don’t believe this, consider the varroa mite.) Additionally, I hope my boys grow to understand the reality that we as individuals are just tiny specks in this giant universe, but we as humankind can have great impact (for better or for worse).
- The weather: Now that I’m a beekeeper I’m hyper aware of the weather at all times. I spend all spring scanning the ground for the first dandelion. I watch weather forecasts with a new sense of suspense. During the summer I know if we’re overdue for rain or if it’s unusually hot because I’m always viewing the weather through the lense of “how will this affect the bees?” I know many people that are aware of the weather in this moment, but don’t notice or keep track of trends. Maybe this doesn’t matter, but it does make me less upset when a beach day is rained out if I know we desperately need the rain.
- Nature’s beauty: Now I realize this is a subjective topic when we’re talking about bees. I happen to find the honey bee incredibly beautiful (even more so now that I’ve taken a microscope class in bee biology) and I find honeycombs to be really cool too, but I realize not everyone has the same standard of beauty. However, I do hope I raise kids who are able to slow down and appreciate the beauty all around them.
In a more general sense, I’m hoping my boys grow up to appreciate nature and also respect it. I’m hoping that looking at the world through a beekeeper’s eyes will help them to do that. They might not want to carry on the family smoker (see what I did there?), but if they can at least understand that we are all interconnected and that we, as humans, play a crucial role on this earth, then I guess I’ve done an okay job.
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