There’s no doubt there are times when beekeeping is stressful, but I was surprised to read a press release from the British Beekeepers Association which informed editors that ‘Beekeepers are aging‘.
There’s a wonderful ambiguity in that statement. Beekeepers do get tedious when talking about their craft, but do they really cause people to age?
Or does it mean beekeepers are aging faster than than everyone else, in which case there needs to be a health warning on every hive?
Keeping bees can reduce you life expectancy.
Of course, what the authors were trying to say is that the age profile of beekeepers is skewed towards the older generation, and they believe this is cause for concern.
So much so that a peer of the realm and professor of economics was wheeled out to inform us that ‘It is vital … we encourage youngsters into this important and fascinating craft.’
I suppose what constitutes a ‘youngster’ depends upon your perspective, but the BBKA takes this to mean children, and has launched a series of initiatives to encourage children to take up beekeeping.
It’s a daft strategy. Beekeeping requires a safe and secure site to place an apiary, and most children’s back gardens aren’t suitable for hives. Out-apiaries make more sense, but mum or dad will need to commit to ferrying kid, kit and caboodle to and fro the apiary on a regular basis. And that kit cost money – forget the notion of ‘free honey’.
You may be confident that your child won’t get badly stung and develop an over-whelming allergic reaction, but your confidence is misplaced. Every year people die from bee stings. Responsible parents would ensure their child is always supervised.
Then, when your child loses interest or goes away to university, who is going to manage the hives?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favour of teaching children about bees, and a well run school apiary is a wonderful learning resource, but if your children want to keep their own bees you had best become a beekeeper yourself.
The British Beekeepers Association should stop worrying about the age profile of its members. It’s a hobby people will take up when they have the time, money and space.
And they do – membership of the BBKA has trebled over the last 10 years from 6,700 in 2005 to 24,000 today. Sustaining membership requires a well-thought out business strategy, but one things for sure …
It’s not child’s play!