Why keep bees?

When I was 13 my father wanted to do a father/son project and he chose beekeeping. I’m not sure why and the thought of getting stung certainly did not appeal to me. Since we were a family of five on only my dad’s income, we did this project as cheaply as possible. I remember very clearly having the hat and veil and for everything else we just sort of made due. My father even found a free bee hive, complete with bees and honey in it. Unfortunately it was at the bottom a canyon in Oakland CA about 30 minutes away. So we had to figure out how to pull a hive of bees up a steep canyon in mostly just put together bee gear. I’m sure that in true teenager fashion I wasn’t thrilled and showed it very clearly. Ultimately we gave it up because of financial constraints and a lack of time on my dad’s part. However, through the rest of my life I would think about those experiences very fondly.

So when my son turned 13 I informed him that we had a family tradition. He looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind. I bought the full bee jump suites to make ourselves more comfortable. However, Jonathan was not happy at all about being seen in a “stupid” bee suit. When we picked up our first two packages of bees my son informed me that he would like to be paid $2 for every non-family member that sees him in the suit. Now it is important to mention that when we were bringing home the bees my wife was throwing a baby shower with 40 women in the house. So I looked at my son and told him, “I don’t normally negotiate with terrorists, but I understand why someone his age would not want to be seen in such an odd outfit”. But I put a cap on it of $20. It turns out that we could not install the bees that day, so I did not have to pay the $20. The next day a friend called and asked if he and his wife could come watch us install the bees as they were just fascinated by the whole process. I happily informed my son that he would make $4. To my surprise he told me that this was a reservation and those go for $5 each. I almost laughed out loud. So I told him that not only would I pay him $10 but I would double it if he had a good attitude. When my friend and his wife showed up, my son transformed himself into a bee installation tour guide. It was the best $20 I ever spent!

Since then he has come to enjoy it and his knowledge of bees and beekeeping has grown amazingly. Recently I have walked into his room only to find him engrossed in a beekeeping book. While I still enjoy playing computer games with my son, it is very nice to do something with him that does not involve a screen, computer, TV or console game but rather something outside and educational.