Kids learn art of beekeeping

Ryan Wootton, 11, left, and Dylan Mwakasekele, ten, check out bees at the Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith. Picture Ian Rutherford
Ryan Wootton, 11, left, and Dylan Mwakasekele, ten, check out bees at the Newbattle Abbey College, Dalkeith. Picture Ian Rutherford
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IT is a far cry from the usual childhood hobbies of sports and video games – but this pastime does have a real buzz about 

And now two primary pupils from the Lothians are set to become Scotland’s youngest Bee Masters.

Dylan Mwakasekele, ten, and Ryan Wootton, 12, have been learning how to capture a swarm of escaped bees, what a “waggle” dance signifies and how to maintain a hive until it is time to harvest the honey.

In June they will sit an examination at Newbattle Abbey College in Dalkeith to gain the prestigious title of junior Bee Master.

Both boys have been keeping a hive at the college’s apiary and have been mentored by beekeeping experts.

The Scottish Beekeepers’ Association (SBA), which supervises the Beekeeping for Beginners six-week course, wants to address the drastic shortage of young beekeepers and attract new pupils of all ages to the next course starting May 6.

The hobby is highly popular with youngsters in Europe where competition is fierce to be selected as delegates at annual bee-keeping conventions.

Celebrity bee-keepers include Hollywood A-lister Scarlett Johansson, Bez of Happy Mondays, and even fictional detective Sherlock Holmes who retired to the Sussex Downs to take up beekeeping.

Dylan and Ryan were inspired to enrol on the course after their mothers qualified in beekeeping at the college.

Dylan, a pupil at Sciennes primary school in Edinburgh, became interested in beekeeping after attending a few classes with his mother.

“I just decided to follow in my mother’s footsteps. It’s fun, like having pets. You have to look after them and make sure they are healthy.

I do other things like baseball and swimming and I’ve got my Xbox but the bees are great.”

Ryan, who attends Lasswade Primary School, said: “All of my friends, well the ones who love animals, are really interested in what I do looking after the bees and are always asking loads of questions,

“We have a hive in the back garden and I peep in every now and then to check that the queen bee is still there. I like watching them when they come flying home and like looking into the actual hive when they’re busy.”

Ryan’s mother Jenny said: “Ryan had been aware of me going out to classes at the college but when we actually got a hive he became absolutely enthralled and he would just sit there and watch them going in and out.”

Alan Riach, vice-president of the SBA, said: “We have an almighty task trying to get youngsters involved in beekeeping. It used to be a tradition which was handed down in a natural sort of way down the generations.”

BeeKeeping for Beginners, Newbattle Abbey College, 6 May - 10 June, 7pm-9pm, £60, £50 for over-60s.