The day I harvested honey with a three year old – a photo essay

On an overcast Saturday morning a few weeks ago, I made the trek over the Harbour Bridge to Auckland’s North Shore for a very different kind of adventure. It was the day Dave would be harvesting honey from the hive in his backyard and joining him would be his (very) cute three-year-old son, Harley, miniature bee-keeping suit and all.

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Of all the cool (and dangerous) dad-son bonding activities I had heard of, this had to be pretty darn near the top of the list. Given my lack of experience with bees, I watched in total fascination as this brave toddler (in my defence, said three year old was fully protected in his suit) helped his dad pick and hold the frames they would harvest that day. In between the National Geographic-worthy lesson on bees, Dave told me a bit more about this hang out time with his boy.

Why bee-keeping?

“As a working dad, I’m always looking for ways to combine things I’m passionate about with my son. If you can kill two birds with one stone – hanging out with my kid and doing something fun at the same time, that’s a win.”

Be honest – how are Harley’s bee-keeping skills?

“Truthfully? Not great. But he thinks he’s the ultimate bee-keeper, which is pretty cute. We drove past a billboard the other day with bee-keepers on it and he said, ‘Those are bee-keepers, Dad. Like you and me!’ It’s pretty special to watch him at this age, learning who he is and building his identity around what he’s seen dad do.”

I grew up in a city but had a definitively different childhood from Harley – what do you love about this set-up you’ve built in your backyard? 

“I love that even though we live in suburbia, that there’s still room for chickens and bees. Harley spends most of his days in the garden collecting eggs, digging holes and wiping mud off his boots.

One of the bigger challenges that I’ve had to make peace with is not being precious about the garden. Sometimes you just have to let him dig up your favourite plant, break pot plants or stomp mud through the house. Allowing Harley to experiment and enjoy the world around him has meant letting go of having an ordered household and embracing the inevitable (muddy) chaos.

But it’s pretty amazing where he goes when he’s given space for his imagination to run wild. I found him with a wooden box and bits of scrap wood one day, telling me proudly that he was making his own beehive. So a shoe box becomes a beehive, a piece of 4×2 becomes a highway for his cars, and the compost heaps becomes a construction site for his diggers.”

By the end of the process, I had developed a newfound respect for bees, learned they had a flight path and standing in their flight path meant bees would definitely fly into my head, and came away with a jar of delicious honey too. Little Harley, on the other hand, scored himself five generous handfuls of honey and was on a sugar-high. A Saturday morning well-spent, I’d say.

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