Bees are pretty remarkable creatures that get a bad rap and the West Plains Beekeeping Association is out to try to change their reputation and perception.
In a series of classes that begin Saturday, Nov. 2 and continue the following two Saturdays, the curious public is invited to be part of a beginning beekeeping course that take place at the Pizza Factory in Medical Lake from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost is $30 plus $10 for Washington State Beekeeping Association Test Booklet. To register, call 509-863-5666 or for more information visit www.wpbeekeepers.org.
"We're mostly for the hobbyist beekeeper, people interested in keeping bees because they're interested in them," West Plains Beekeepers spokesperson Margo Buckles said. "They're fascinating insects."
The classes are the first step for someone interested purely out of curiosity, or in pursuing the avocation as Buckles has since joining the group three years ago. There are no commercial beekeepers in the group.
There are three levels of beekeeping in the state starting with apprentice, where the West Plains classes will initially take you. The next level is that of journeyman and finally master.
Like the plumbing and electrical trades, to become a master the first step is be an apprentice. Next comes being a journeyman, which requires two years of beekeeping experience and a record of having observed a hive for a year.
Finally there's master. "There are very few masters in the state of Washington," Buckles said. But the WPBA has one in one of the group's founders, Jim Miller.
"Mostly when people think bees they think I'm gonna' get stung," Buckles said. The reality is, she said, "If you keep bees you are going to get stung." In two years in the practice, Buckles said she's maybe been stung six times. "Mostly my fault," she admitted.
For all their bad rap, "They are incredible honey producers," Buckles said. Bees will not come out of the hive to sting you unless you've done something to disturb them, Buckles said.
Honey bees are not native to the United States, but are a crucial element in segments of agriculture. They arrived in North America in the mid-1600s, Buckles said.
In California, for example, Buckles said the almond crop is exclusively bee-pollinated. In the Central Valley of Washington it would be the cherry crop.
Buckles' interest is one that was rekindled a few years ago after she took classes on the East Coast. Recent visits to the Spokane County Fair and its beehive displays cemented the interest.
Two years ago Buckles and husband, Kevin Oldenburg, took a class about the activity through the Inland Empire Beekeeping Association.
Another series of classes will take place in the spring with a different focus, including putting bees in the hive. "It's one thing to sit in the class and learn about the stuff, it's another thing to see it in action," Buckles said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.