Happy New Year!   New Year’s Day is always special to Diana and I.  22 years ago, we were at Northern Vermont Regional Hospital for the delivery of our first son.  Geoff was the first (and only for 3 years running) new year’s baby at NVRH.  We got our picture in the paper and several gift cards to local establishments .  Our mid-wife almost didn’t make it in time for the birth – her husband was in a band playing a new year’s gig and they were up pretty late.  But, she made it just in time to catch him as he shot out into her hands. Ah, life in the rural Northeast Kingdom!

I was thinking about the similarities of child rearing and beekeeping (aka. animal husbandry ;-)).  We give the kids/bees a home, try to make sure they have enough to eat, worry about them when they are sick and pray that they will thrive.  We try to protect them from harm/pesticides, but even our best efforts can’t keep them from foraging where we we would rather they didn’t. We have to be patient sometimes which for me is really hard.

Some beekeepers use Langstroth hives which have set places for the bees to make comb with a foundation of predefined cell sizes.  Some parents structure their kids lives and expect that they will follow a particular path.  In many cases, the bees/kids will follow the path laid out for them.  But even with all that structure, the some bees will build comb where they aren’t supposed to, just as some kids will not follow the predefined path their parents have laid out for them.

Other beekeepers (like me) use foundation-less frames, letting the bees draw comb to satisfy the needs of the hive.  We provide comb guides for them to follow and when they don’t follow the guides and make crooked combs or cross comb, we try to straighten them out and get them back on track.  I think this is the approach we’ve taken with our kids also.  We always say that Geoff is going to do what Geoff wants to do and nothing we can say will change that. He would be one of those bees to make burr comb in the empty space in a Langstroth hive. We are still there to guide him and hope that some of our guidance sinks in.  He’s had some crooked combs, but we are very proud of who he has become.

I’ve been reading The Thinking Beekeeper, by Christy Hemenway who talks about the differences in beekeeping styles, and her opinions on why one style is better than the other.  I basically agree that letting bees build natural comb is a better way.  But, it’s not practical for large scale honey production/pollination if that’s what you want.  I think different parenting styles work for different situations/people.  While we get less honey from our top bar hive, that’s not why I keep bees.  I hope to provide them a place where they can thrive, pollinate my gardens, and provide me a little honey in return.  I’ve tried to do the same with my sons.  Watching them grow to be caring, loving humans is honey in itself.

Happy Birthday, Geoff and Happy New Year to the rest of you.  May 2014 bring you more peace, love and understanding.

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Categories: Animal Husbandry

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