All interactions between kids and bees don't end up like Macaulay Culkin in My Girl. Allergic reactions to bee stings are actually fairly rare, and getting stung happens less often than many worried parents might think. In fact, children can learn a great deal from bees.
Respect Bee Homes Much like cuddly cartoon bears, children may be tempted to poke around hives or stick things down bee holes. Not only are the dangers obvious, but children need to be reminded that insects can be fragile and vulnerable, and deserve to make their homes in peace.
Bee Alert But Calm The best way to keep your kids, as well as bees, safe is to teach your young ones to pay attention to their environment. Tell them to watch out if they walk barefoot, and explain that bees can be attracted by strong perfumes or sugar. Male bees, which lack stingers, can act aggressively, but are harmless. They have larger eyes than females, won''t be covered in pollen, and lack the prominent abdominal striping in many species.
Ask for Local Honey Kids love honey's sweet, rich taste. It is better for them than plain sugar because it also contains vitamins (though it still affects the blood sugar in ways similar to sugar). By giving them local honey, you are helping to support local bees. Beware, however, that honey often contains botulinum endospores, which can activate in the digestive tracks of infants under age 12 months, since they lack stomach acids.
Put Out Water Like most living things, bees need water. Shallow, calm sources tend to work best. Add a birdbath, fountain or small pond to your property, and give your child the opportunity to watch wildlife in action â at the same time beautifying your landscape. The job of refilling the water can be a simple one that is readily assigned to the youngest member of a household, who will learn responsibility as well as connection to nature.
Build or Buy a Bee Condo (With Help from an Adult) Attract stingless orchard mason bees to your property with bee condos, which are made from reclaimed fir posts by artisans who are paid a fair living wage. If you'd rather, make your own by drilling holes into blocks of wood. The project is simple and can be done with children, who will also have the opportunity to observe the bees through the seasons. Learning about bees is a good way for children to discover the interdependence of living things, something that will last them a lifetime.
Previously, for adults:
The Daily Green Saves the Bees A special report with stories, tips, recipes and your photos
The Beekeeper The Daily Green blog by Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine
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