BBKA News: Which Is More Complex – Keeping Bees Or Children?

BBKA News: Which Is More Complex – Keeping Bees Or Raising Children?

Raising a fully functioning child who isn’t addicted to Peppa Pig, Hula-Hoops and screaming ‘no’ to perfectly reasonable requests not to engage in life-threatening behaviour is undoubtedly more stressful than managing a bee colony. My two kids are to blame for my overly salted hair and not the bees.

Beekeeper & Baby
Beekeeper & Baby

However, as I look at the two books currently residing beside my bed (Toddler Taming and Beekeeping: A Seasonal Guide) I realise each of the disciplines have a claim to being the more complex.

Both bees and small children refuse to follow the rules and often fail to understand that we are trying to help. That said, they are usually happy to get on with it whilst we observe.

Still, we-who-love-them hope that one day, by reading the right books, talking to the right people, finding the ‘secret’, we will finally get them sussed.  Yes, one day we will get them to sleep through the night and to produce lots of honey.

So as I continue to research the theories behind child-rearing and bee-keeping, I wonder which is taking more toll on that grey matter of mine. And to work that out, I devised a completely non-scientific comparison study.


Bottle or breast. Baby-led or purees. The blue spoon or the impossible-to-find pink one. Feeding a child can be tricky, with militant campaigners on either side. The older generation seem to think us lot are insane with our Annabel Karmel recipes books (yes, she teaches us how to mash broccoli) but we need to put our £30 baby sized food mixer to good use. My mum says it wasn’t that complicated in her day but now of course we know how dangerous food can be! Whole grapes (choking hazard), nuts (allergy) – quite frankly the kitchen is a danger zone for the first 18 months.  Child Brain Toll (CBT) rating: 3/5

Ideally bees won’t need any feeding but weighing the hives and calculating how much stores they need for the winter does take a bit of thinking.  Making the fondant or syrup is my kind of cooking.  I might have over-fed bees my bees last autumn and I’m sure this contributed to my dismal survival rate. Bee Brain Toll (BBT) rating: 3/5


With kids you get them vaccinated and try to make sure grandparents don’t get them addicted to chocolates and ice cream. At the first sign of illness, the wonder drug that is Calpol comes out. We now buy magnums of the stuff.  CBT: 1/5

Bee health is extremely complex.  We have to be the doctors and nurses. We have to diagnose and treat.  Ideally – even a general inspection should be done to the same hygiene standards as open heart surgery. BBT: 5/5


This is when rituals can become complex.  A lot has been written about getting babies to sleep and it’s a hot topic.  With our eldest, we had 12 months of “bouncy time”, involving up to 30 minutes of jumping on the bed between bath time and reading, followed by a song and rocking.  She never slept in the cot during the day meaning that when we were exhausted we still had to take her out in the pram for her daytime naps. Luckily our second child read the instruction manual and has been much more compliant. Nine months in we even get the odd night when he actually sleeps through the night.  CBT: 4/5

OK, bees don’t sleep, but I’m going to include over-wintering in this comparison.  This activity involves a varroa treatment in August; in September checking the bees are disease free, have a laying queen, are a strong colony, have enough stores and fed as required; in October providing insulation and a mouse guard.  You only need to do this once per year per hive (compared with 3 times a day per child) but it’s more complex than “bouncy time”. BBT: 5/5

Development & Play

I must have said “da-da” to my children 10,000 times before getting any reward.  I definitely wore out a pair of jeans with each baby as I helped them toddle around the house. And play – they got that all by themselves!  Not complex, just repetitive. CBT: 1/5

Bees go through the cycle of house worker to forager all by themselves without any input from the beekeeper. I’m not sure if bees play, perhaps the drones, but they do dance! BBT: 1/5


If my eldest does any more moaning, I’m going to sign her up to the next series of Loose Women.  Whilst child experts on TV can make improving behaviour look simple, it’s an issue for all parents.  From trying to get your infant not to drop the spoon again for you to pick up, to the benefits of sharing, these are difficult messages to get through. Persistence and a firm voice is key – as are threats of a CBeebies-ban.  CBT: 5/5

Bee behaviour is fascinating. Preparing to swarm, swarming and the social aspect of storing honey for the winter for future generations.  But they get on with this all by themselves.  I can’t train them not to swarm, or to lay comb in straight lines. In a way it’s easier knowing we cannot take responsibility. BBT: 1/5


So, the unweighted “Brain Toll” totals from above are:

  • Children: 14/25
  • Bees: 15/25


Bees might have just won this complexity battle but both disciplines are equally worth the effort. Both bring me joy, challenge, a smile and pride.  And with all this external focus, they might even be helping me to “regain my sanity”.

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Author: Roger

regaining my sanity through beekeeping

2 thoughts on “BBKA News: Which Is More Complex – Keeping Bees Or Children?”

  1. Hey Roger,
    Good post once again and some interesting comparisons. Thank you and we’ll done. How about some other, less savoury comparators? Nosema and “those” nappies?
    I’ve got three boys all in their twenties or soon to be. Do they get involved with the bees? I’ll be jiggered if they do. One is happy to come with me at a push, the other two are scared stiff!
    Get your youngsters involved early with your bees, get them a suit if you can. That was my error. Couldn’t afford it at the time and I’m not sure if child sizes were so readily available anyway. I enjoy the space I get with my bees but as a second generation beek, I’m wondering where the third generation is coming from?
    All the best. Simon

    1. Thanks Simon. I like the comparison – I’ll bank it and see if I can use sometime! Definitely planning to get the kids involved with the beekeeping … if they show interest.

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