he greater Sacramento region may be home to as many as 4,000 hobby beekeepers, estimates Nancy Stewart, owner of the long-time family-run business Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies. Although the store doesn't officially keep track, Nancy says many of these beekeepers are families with children.

Children, starting at about 5 years old, can be beekeepers too. I began educating my grand-nephew, Finn Pegg, about my hives when he was 2, primarily for safety reasons. Along the way he developed a sense of curiosity about the hive, especially upon hearing stories about how there are robber bees, queen bees, guard bees and even nursery bees.

Together we read Lela Nargi and Kyrsten Brooker's The Honeybee Man, a story about Fred, an older man who keeps bees on his rooftop in Brooklyn. Through learning about what Fred does with his bees, Finn became even more curious to see the bees inside the hives in my yard. When he was almost 5, I got him a beekeeping suit.

Bees are responsive to the beekeepers' emotional signals, I told him, so we need to be very calm and move slowly when we work the bees. One morning with good weather, about 10am, we suited up and worked them for the first time. He showed no fear, held the smoker and the hive tool, and concentrated while we looked through three hives.