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Beekeeping and Children

Children can now start beekeeping in 4-H officially at age 5. The most important thing to remember is safety. Be sure the children are properly suited up anytime they are working directly with bees. Also caution children to handle dead bees carefully. It sounds strange but a dead bee can "sting." This actually happened to one of our young beekeepers much to his surprise. It is best to have liquid antihistamines at hand just in case of a sting. Be aware of what signs of shock to look for and treat every sting seriously. Vomiting, having to go to the toilet quickly, tingly feelings or fainting are all signs that emergency medical help needs to be called immediately. Now that the scary issues have been addressed, let's think about what children can do with bees.

Learn more about 4-H and all its wonderful opportunities:
Check out the California Youth Development 4-H web site at U.C. Davis.
To order 4-H publications and make more inquiries phone (800)994-8849
Please see the 4-H UC ANR disclaimer link and
for information on National 4-H programs
and see Sonoma County's 4-H web site

Our project meetings are at Peterson's Farm on the third Tues. each month from September to May at 6:30. You need to join a 4-H club to be a member of this project. It does not have to be the Liberty 4-H Club because you can "cross club".

Call Ettamarie at 707-765-4582

Learn More
Bee Facts
Record Keeping
Honey Harvest
More Sites
Queen Rearing
Observation Hives
Wax Moths
Rescuing a Colony
Top Bar Hives
Save the Bees

4-H children opening a beehive

These Liberty 4-H children with a little brother are practicing the skills they learned all year.

Provide the children with simple, easy to read literature to begin with. They will need to know what honey bees live in the colony, what the life cycles of the queen, the workers and the drone are. They will need to know the parts and functions of the bees and also the hive they live in. A good beginning project is building a bee hive. The parts can be ordered from several bee supply stores on line or locate a near by store that carries them. The Liberty 4-H beekeeper group in Sonoma County, California, learn how to build the boxes and wire the frames, make products from the beeswax and honey, evaluate brood comb for signs of diseases, hive colonies of bees and many other things throughout the year. Some of the 4-H children order bees and some rely on the leaders' swarm catching skills. Learning to care for their colonies is an on going lesson next.

Children Can Learn to Be Calm Around Bees
The girls are checking to see if it is time to add another deep box.

These children are checking to see if it is time to add another brood box to their hive.


Griffin catching the swarm.
This spring Griffin's
hive decided to swarm
up into a near by oak.
This was his first
swarm catch. He is
holding the cardboard
box to catch the falling
bees. Usually the bees
will stay in a large
clump as they fall into
the box. Many of these
bees did but others flew
around and landed
back on the tree so we
had to do it a few times
and then finish by
cutting off the branch
to get the last ones.

The Liberty
4-H beekeepers here in Petaluma, California were asked to give a demonstration at the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa in the fall of 2011. They did a mock opening of the hive and did a great job explaining basic beekeeping.

Swarm in cardboard box.
After they landed in
the box, we looked to
see if we could spot the
queen. Note the bees on
Griffin's suit. They did
not disturb him at all!
4-H girl opening hive

Maggie ,
another Liberty 4-H
beekeeper, is
gaining confidence
by using a frame
lifter to pull up
a frame for the first
inspection of her
hive. Note that the
leader is not wearing gloves to let
the children see that
all it takes is a calm
attitude around the
bees to be safe. That
is, of course, if you
are working with
calm bees.

Dumping the swarm into the nucleus hive.
The next step was
dumping the swarm in
the nucleus box Griffin
had made as one of his
first bee projects. He
was happy he had it
Queen surrounded by workers

We teach the
children to find the queen by looking for her in a circle of her
daughters. This is
called "her court"
and it is a common
sight on the combs.

The daughters care for her by feeding and grooming her.
They also give her
drinks of water. The queen is a pampered mother!

Griffin by his first swarm.
Griffin proudly
watched as the last bees
marched in. This gave
him confidence he had
the queen.

His swarm catch meant
everyone of the Liberty
4-H beekeepers could
now say he or she had
captured a swarm!
new beekeeper
Griffin's first job
was to learn to use
the smoker. He is
smoking the bees in
a smaller hive to be
able to move them
into his new big
hive. Being
properly suited up
gave him all the
confidence that he
needed to do a
good job.
Griffin inspecting a brood frame.

After his swarm
catching, Griffin
inspected the original hive. Note that now he is not wearing his
gloves! He is feeling much more at ease with his bees.

These swarm photos were taken by his
brother Jimmy and entered in the 2005 fairs winning blue ribbons.

Griffin making a presentation At the February 2006 4-H meeting Griffin made a presentation on swarm catching. He used the photos his brother took and told the other children the steps to catching and hiving a swarm. Jessie doing hive check In early February 2006 Jessie checked her hive and decided she needed to add her honey super to give the colony room to prevent swarming.

Learn More
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Record Keeping
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Honey Harvest
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More Sites
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Queen Rearing
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Observation Hives
recipe page button
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Wax Moths
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Rescuing a Colony

Top Bar Hives

Save the Bees button
Save the Bees


For more information about starting a 4-H Beekeeping project e-mail Ettamarie.

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This web site was designed and is maintained by Ettamarie Peterson, 4-H leader,
to help the Liberty 4-H beekeepers' project and encourage young people to become beekeepers.
It is dedicated to the 4-H children of Liberty 4-H Club in Petaluma, Sonoma County, California.
We hope a lot of other young beekeepers and adult beginners learn from it.
The site is sponsored by Peterson's Farm.
Our thanks go to Sean Straw, another beekeeper, for hosting the site for us for many years and then getting the site over to its new host.
Some photos are taken by the 4-H children themselves as part of this project or the photography project.
Last updated November 24, 2018

Webpage assistance provided by James Carey