Have you ever meant someone and wanted to know them better because they are so interesting? Part of being an agronomist is getting to work with some really interesting and amazing people.
On what I thought would be a straight forward farm visit, you know the kind where I talk manure, cover crops, and fertilizer, I was introduced to a really special person. This time I have permission to talk about him however, I have to keep his true identity secret to protect his possible lively hood, but I'll explain all of that later.
His name, at least for the purpose of this post is Bee Keeper IV, for short IV. His mom explained to me she refers to him as Roman numeral IV because he is the 4th generation with the initials REK. I added the Bee Keeper part because that is what makes him so incredibly interesting. I'm sure he has several other special qualities, however for the sake of my time I can only cover one right now.
At the age of 12, IV is currently practicing the discipline or art of apiculture. That's fancy for bee keeping. Wikipedia refers to it as the maintenance of honey bee colonies. Whatever you want to call it he is twelve and willing to work around an insect I have seen grown adults run from. To be specific it was a grown male adult, not to call him out because in all honesty I have a great deal of respect for him. It just makes me laugh he will man-handle snakes and run like a girl from bees.
IV became interested in bee keeping through his grandfather, who got started when his wife suggested she needed more bees for her garden. I love how most things come back to a list of projects women want help with. IV's grandfather had a colony that he was maintaining and got IV a bee suit so they could work together. The grandfathers colony swarmed and passed it on to IV. Not only is he sharing his bees with IV but the experience and knowledge he has gained doing it for the past two to three years.
IV is now building and maintaining his own hives at his house.
As parents we are all looking for ways our kids can learn and have meaningful activities to teach them. How cool is it to say my son is a bee keeper?! He's learning about bees and a whole slew of other lessons like responsibility, disease and insect management, ecology, and the list goes on.
When talking to IV about his bee keeping gig I asked him what some of the most important things he does for his hives are. His first response was feeding and monitoring. He has to regularly check the hives for disease, damage, etc. His number one source of information as side from his grandfather is a book titled Top-Bar Beekeeping by Les Crowder & Heather Harrell. I think he liked it because it had a video with it.....12 year old boys and reading doesn't always mix. At least, that was the case when my son was twelve. He also recommended Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees, even though he hasn't read it yet. I'm not sure if there is an accompanying video or not with this one.
As for IV's future, well he plans to make some modifications to his hives to improve mite control. He is also looking to market his products in the distant future. This brought us to the agronomy part.....species of vegetation he could grow to benefit his hives and add some special value to his products. We talked about using lavender and berries to give the honey a unique flavor. He is starting with buckwheat as a cover crop in his mom's garden. Bees love Buckwheat and it makes a very good honey.
This brought us to another topic of discussion and one of the other reasons I can't name him. His hives are not registered. We talked about how someone of his stature just getting started could be dissuaded by the registration process. However, we did both agree that some regulation is important for the purpose of monitoring and helping control disease outbreaks.
So, here's to all the bee keepers young, old, and in between. Here are some resources to look at if interested in kids and bees. You need to check with the state you live in as to what their laws are.