Teaching Bees and Beekeeping


I like to teach. If I could rewind and whitewash my life’s failings, I’d be standing in front of a chalkboard on some small campus right now. That won’t happen. I’m not a professional teacher, but I seldom pass up an invitation to talk bees in a classroom. Last week, I presented to 70 first-graders (tough crowd!), then on Saturday and Sunday, I’ll help others teach the local Calgary beginner’s beekeeping course (14 hours!), and in two weeks, I’m half the team at Making Money from Honey.

The elementary school is always fun, even if it’s getting harder each year to identify with 6-year-old people. My own youngest child is now 10, going on 20, so it’s a bit of an effort to remember how to communicate with very young students. I’ve written about this a few times in the past – here and here – so I’ll only mention a few things:

  • Use a big stuffed bee (like Benny, below) to point out the bee’s parts.
  • Show pictures on the white board while you talk.
  • Cut some pieces of foundation for the kids to take home. (I don’t give them honey.)
  • Halfway through is a good time to get the kids to stand and do a waggle-tail bee dance. Build that into a story about foraging, pollination, and communication – the kids will appreciate a chance to stretch and wiggle.

One more thing – kids at school (even in Grade 1) don’t need baby-talk. Don’t condescend; treat them as intelligent people. They’ll appreciate it and they will rise to meet expectations.

This Saturday and Sunday (November 5 and 6), I get to teach two modules on Beginning Beekeeping. This is a pretty big deal with four teachers, assistants, lots of demos, lots of lectures. The course is offered through the Calgary Beekeepers Club and is held twice a year. It always sells out. The students are keen, most are quite satisfied with the work we put into it – though it’s the Grade 1 kids, not the adults, who send me cards and drawings of bees such as my bounty in the photo at the top of this page.

Neil, explaining bee diseases and control

Neil, explaining bee diseases and control.

Finally, I am also preparing for the Honey from Money course coming up in two weeks. This course bridges a gap that’s missing in almost all bee courses. You know that there are beginner classes, queen rearing sessions, and master beekeeper programs, but few (if any) courses specifically designed to help new-ish beekeepers get a handle on the money that they may make (or lose) by keeping bees. Beekeeping is an unusual hobby when it comes to money – most keep bees with the expectation of getting some cash back. They may, but there are a lot of pitfalls between the hive and the bank. With a co-teacher (a very experienced commercial beekeeper), we try to help newbies navigate through the mistakes we have each made.


Thank you from Benny and me to the great kids at the school we visited last month!

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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