This past weekend our local bee club hosted a free school for new beekeepers, and over 160 people attended. Beekeeping continues to rise in popularity as more people develop an awareness of the need for these precious pollinators. No longer is beekeeping a fringe hobby for survivalists and environmentalists. Bees and bee supplies can now be purchased at Tractor Supply Co, a large scale retailer. Even Barbara Millicent Roberts better known as Barbie is keeping bees. A good friend of mine saw this Beekeeper Barbie in a store and sent me a picture of Barbie in all her plastic glory.
I have never been a big fan of Barbie for two reasons. The first is that I think she perpetuates restrictive stereotypes for young girls. The second is because Barbie reinforces the belief that the standard for feminine beauty is long, flowing blonde hair. Since I have short, brown hair this bothers me. In Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, Fey humorously discusses the societal bias in favor of blonde hair. She suggests that everyone start using the phrase “yellow hair” instead of blonde hair since people usually say “brown hair” when referring to brunettes. Fey argues blondes get preferential treatment, and even her preschool daughter figured that out without being explicitly told. I decided it was time for me to give the disproportioned, yellow-haired icon a chance since she was willing to install a bee hive behind her Dream House.
A Google search of Barbie revealed that she has had many careers over the years including astronaut. Barbie aficionados probably already knew this, but news of Barbie’s many vocations never reached me in 1970’s rural Kentucky. I thought she was independently wealthy and had nothing better to do than lay around the Dream House all day and occasionally go out for a spin with Ken in the Dream Car. Now Barbie has a variety of careers that she is helping young girls explore. She even has a YouTube channel and made a video teaching kids about bees and explaining the reasons why she decided to start an apiary. Of course there are several other related videos that are not official Barbie videos. My favorite is probably Beekeeping Barbie Works the Africanized Colony. Dark humor has always appealed to me.
The toy has some interesting features. Barbie’s hive is a Flow-Hive design, which is different from the standard wooden Langstroth Hives that many beekeepers use. The selection of the Flow-Hive makes me think that Barbie likes to apply new technology and not necessarily stick with what has always been done. That hive has a window that lets you see bees performing the waggle dance. The waggle dance is how bees communicate to other bees the location of nectar sources. The hive also has a frame of drawn comb that a child can pull out of the hive to view just like in a real hive. Barbie is even dressed appropriately and is wearing boots, jeans, a bee jacket, gloves, and a veil. Barbie seems to be a legitimate beekeeper.
Hopefully Beekeeper Barbie will help educate kids about how honey is produced and why bees are important for pollination. Along the way she may also show girls that it is ok to put on boots and work outside. The only thing Beekeeper Barbie is missing is her oxalic acid applicator because if Barbie doesn’t treat her bees for mites they won’t make it through winter.