No, a swarm of killer bees isn’t to blame for the Beekeeping merit badge’s 1995 demise.
The real culprit carries a similarly painful sting, though: a lack of interest and too few merit badge counselors.
As this Utah National Parks Council blog post points out, only 60 badges were earned during the last year Beekeeping MB was around.
Despite the lack of interest in the early ’90s, these days more Scouters email me about Beekeeping merit badge than any other discontinued merit badge. They’re calling for it to be reinstated, and they aren’t the first to do so.
In 2010, a 14-year-old Boy Scout from Oklahoma led an effort to reinstate Beekeeping. While he wasn’t successful, the BSA did announce it would incorporate beekeeping activities and awareness into eight existing merit badges: Bird Study, Forestry, Gardening, Nature, Plant Science, Pulp and Paper, Environmental Science, and Insect Study.
Seems like a logical compromise, but it got me thinking about other discontinued merit badges. Check out 10 fun examples after the jump.
First, though, a reminder that discontinued means what you’d think it does. Scouts can’t earn these. This comes directly from the Guide to Advancement (PDF):
Scouts are not allowed to begin work on discontinued merit badges. If actual and purposeful effort that is more than simply incidental to participation in Scouting activities has already begun by the time discontinuation becomes effective, and work actively continues, then the badge may be completed and can count toward rank advancement. However, presentation of the badge itself will be subject to availability. It is a misconception that discontinued merit badges may be earned as long as the patch and requirements can be found.
10 cool discontinued merit badges
My favorite requirement: “Study a hive of bees. Remove the combs. Find the queen.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: Despite strong grassroots support now, it was discontinued in the mid-90s because of interest and qualified merit badge counselors, as explained above.
My favorite requirement: “Rebind a book of four or more issues of a magazine, using binder’s board and book cloth.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: Its requirements were too specific, I think, which is why it was folded into Graphic Arts merit badge in 1987.
Sadly, in the age of Kindles and iPads these days, book-binding is surely even less popular now.
My favorite requirement: “Bend and weld three links and form them into a chain.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: One of the original 57 merit badges introduced by the BSA in 1911, Blacksmithing simply had outlived its relevance. That is, unless you’re a re-enactor in a renaissance festival.
Fortunately, new merit badges like Welding give Scouts a look at modern careers.
My favorite requirement: “Make a collection of different kinds of advertising from magazines and newspapers. List which ads are: (1) the most helpful, (2) the least helpful, (3) misleading.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: It looks like 1995 was a big year for the BSA’s merit badge offerings. Ten different merit badges, including Consumer Buying, were either discontinued or significantly changed that year. To be honest, without speaking to the individuals who decided to discontinue this one, I can’t say why it would’ve been dropped.
True, teaching Scouts how to be responsible consumers is a part of the Eagle-required Personal Management MB, but consumer education is even more vital today as the Internet has opened more ways for us to be consumers.
My guess is this one wasn’t popular with Scouts and couldn’t be sustained.
My favorite requirement: “Be able to milk.” Merit badge requirements don’t get much simpler than that. (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: The simple answer is that Dairying, which was one of the original 57 merit badges issued by the BSA in 1911, was merged into Animal Science merit badge. There’s a dairying option in Animal Science MB, and there’s even a cow on the Animal Science badge itself.
But I’m sure that our nation’s progression from rural Scout troops to urban and suburban ones didn’t help Dairying’s cause.
Farm Home and Its Planning
My favorite requirement: “Present a drawing plan of sewage disposal for a country home.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: Farm Home and Its Planning wouldn’t get the prize for longest merit badge name (Farm Layout & Building Arrangements has it beat), but it’s close.
This one was rolled into Farm Arrangements merit badge, which itself was discontinued in 1979.
Hog and Pork Production
My favorite requirement: “Confer with meat market men and from their instruction draw a diagram of a hog, and mark and name the parts for butcher classification and sale of pork products.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: Vegetarians, look away now! We continue with the theme of farm-related merit badges with this one that was replaced by the shorter-named Hog Production merit badge in 1959.
Hog Production MB lasted less than two decades before being folded into Animal Science in 1975.
My favorite requirement: “Master 3 of the following combat skills: single stick, boxing, jiu jitsu, wrestling, quarterstaff, and fencing.” That also happens to be the only requirement.
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: According to meritbadge.org, the “Master-at-Arms badge was one of the original 14 ‘Badges of Merit’ issued by the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 in the temporary ‘Original edition’ of the BSA Handbook. It was not included in the 1911 edition of the Boy Scout handbook.”
Self-defense may be a worthwhile skill, but it makes sense that the BSA wouldn’t keep around a merit badge with boxing, fencing and stick-combat for very long. I shudder to think of the medical release form.
My favorite requirement: “If in the country, know the breeds of horses, cattle, sheep and hogs owned on the five neighboring farms.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: One of the original 57 merit badges introduced by the BSA in 1911, Pathfinding was even required for Eagle from 1915 until its departure in 1952. Its focus on knowing one’s way around a neighborhood is still important today, but technology rendered many Pathfinding requirements less essential.
Pathfinding MB was re-released in 2010, only for the year, as part of the historic merit badge program for the BSA’s 100th anniversary. The patch image seen above is from the re-release.
My favorite requirement: “Present a satisfactory specimen of a bird or small mammal mounted by himself.” (Other requirements here)
My thoughts on why it was discontinued: In an organization that teaches the values of preserving and protecting nature, Taxidermy always seemed like an odd fit.
This warning to Scouts was aimed at that cause, but it was probably best to just eliminate the merit badge entirely: “No specimen will be accepted which has not been captured and killed humanely so far as the Scout is responsible and none which has not been killed legally.”
Nut Culture: No, this one isn’t about the study of crazy people. It did eventually become Plant Science merit badge.
Rabbit Raising: Parents everywhere are grateful their sons are no longer bringing rabbits into the home under the auspices of completing a merit badge requirement.
Small Grains and Cereal Foods: A merit badge for eating cereal? This would’ve been the first one I earned. But seriously, this one became Small Grains and then Plant Science.
Wood Turning: “Son, what about the Wood Turning merit badge? Your mother and I could use a new kitchen table.”
I used these unofficial, but nonetheless useful, volunteer-created sites in my research:
Are any current merit badges at risk of being discontinued? Not that I know of, but these were the most- and least-popular merit badges of 2013.