Two Biologists and a Boy: Bee Safe

Based in Jasper, Niki Wilson and her husband, Geoff, love sharing their passion for nature and conservation with their son, Dylan. Having studied everything from mountain pine beetles to mammoths, she brings a unique view to science and motherhood, which she will share regularly in her column here on titled “”Two Biologists and a Boy.”” – Highline

Photo courtesy Niki Wilson.

My six-year old son, Dylan, has developed a phobia of insects:— bees and wasps, in particular. One well-meaning acquaintance, her arm gently alighted on mine, suggested that “when the parents set the example of being afraid, kids pick up on their fear.” Now, I say acquaintance, because anyone who knows me well enough knows that I really dig bugs. I have spent part of my career studying the little beasties. I, ahem, collect photos of mating insects…

Maybe that’s the problem. I assumed sharing my passion for creepy-crawlies would instill in Dylan a level of comfort. “See how the fly is walking, Dylan? It’s called hexapody!” “That’’s not a stinger honey, it’’s an ovipositor so she can lay eggs. See, no reason to fear!”

I was wrong. Phobias are irrational fears, and when he is experiencing them, you might as well throw all reason out the window. He does not hear me when I say ““It’’s okay, they’’re just helping to pollinate the flowers.”” He is worried about being stung (duh, Mom), and that overrides everything.

Hiking in Spain with Dylan, and watching out for bees. Photo courtesy Niki Wilson.

On a recent trip to Spain my husband and I took him on a hike in a beautiful national park near the town of Grazalema. While Geoff and I marveled over the ancient Spanish firs and jutting limestone cliffs, Dylan dug his fingernails into our legs letting out little yelps when a bee came too near. I worried then that one of the memories he would carry from this “trip of a lifetime” would not be of Moorish palaces, olive groves and oceans. Instead, it would be of a hellish bee-infested national park he was forced to endure at the evil hands of his indifferent parents.

That is, of course, ridiculous. He had a great time boogie-boarding, meeting other kids and playing soccer in the beautiful town squares we encountered everywhere we stopped. He loves museums, especially those with swords, guns and stories of dueling and bull-fighting. He is a great traveler, likes trying new food and is pretty easygoing in general. He just doesn’’t want to hang out with bees right now.

Photo courtesy Niki Wilson.

A close friend told me that for one entire summer of her youth, she would only go outside in a K-Way jacket with the hood cinched tightly around her face, even when it was really hot. Apparently this technique made her feel “bee-safe,” despite the paper-thin material protecting her from their sharp behinds. Her parents just let her do it, and in a year, she didn’’t need the K-Way anymore.

After mulling it over (and okay, some internet research), I have reminded myself that my job is not to make Dylan okay with bees. It’’s to help him be okay with himself. Don’’t sweat the small, buzzing, crawling stuff. He’’ll get there on his own time. He always does. And the way it’’s been raining up here in Jasper, we may not need to worry about bees too much this summer anyway.

Niki Wilson

Niki Wilson

Niki Wilson is a contributing editor and writer for Highline Magazine. A writer, journalist and science communicator, she makes her home in Jasper, AB. Other publications include: Canadian Wildlife Magazine, BioScience, Natural History Magazine and the Science Media Centre of Canada, Earth Touch News Network, the Fitzhugh, and Experimental Popular Science. Find more at, or on twitter @niki_wilson.


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  1. NIki … so proud to say that you are my cousin..will also follow your blog..hugs

  2. I love your sense of humor, your love of nature (and Dylan!!!), and your voice. Your spirit shines through in this blog–and I’ll be following you wherever you go. Keep writing!

  3. Such a cute story, Niki. I’m sure he’ll grow out of it, with parents like you guys :)