The Lewis County Beekeepers Association (LCBA) is holding free orientations on getting started in beekeeping and has created a beekeeping curriculum that is currently being taught at Centralia College.
“I love to just go out to my hives with a cup of coffee and just watch them coming and going. I love to watch the way they fly, the way they interact with each other. They are beautiful to watch and their behavior is intricate and fascinating,” said Susanne Weil, when asked why she enjoys keeping bees.
Weil, an English and humanities professor at Centralia College and the Secretary of the LCBA, has been keeping bees for about a decade.
“It’s animal husbandry really. What you do as beekeeper … during the year is keep tabs on the needs the bees have and make sure they have what they need,” explained Weil.
The LCBA holds workshops on how to take care of bees in the winter and help them to transition into spring successfully.
“They don’t actually need (humans) to survive but we have a really nice symbiotic relationship with the honey bees,” said Weil.
The LCBA has a club apiary in Chehalis that they use for workshops. They were able to produce enough honey to sell it as a fundraiser at their upcoming holiday potluck on Dec. 7 and will be donating some to veterans in the area that have supported the LCBA Youth Scholarship Program. The LCBA is a nonprofit group and they do not see themselves as honey sellers.
From 10 a.m. to noon on Jan. 4, the LCBA is holding free workshops called “Getting Started in Beekeeping” at Centralia College. The workshops cover topics including: the benefits of beekeeping, “Bee Biology 101”, equipment needed, setting up your apiary and harvesting honey. More information can be found on the LCBA website under upcoming events, lewiscountybeekeepers.org
On Jan. 11 a beekeeping course begins for its third year in Centralia College’s Continuing Education program. The curriculum for the course has been vetted by a consulting entomologist. Wiel and her husband, Peter Glover, wrote the curriculum for southwest Washington specifically.
“Our microclimate is unique and moisture is a big challenge for bees and so we decided it was important to write a handbook that is tailored to Lewis County,” she said.
The LCBA started the youth in beekeeping scholarship in 2014.
“The whole point of the scholarship is to encourage young people to get involved in beekeeping because beekeeping has gotten to be kind of a gray-headed craft. We’ve been actively trying to recruit younger people to get involved,” said Weil.
The students have to apply for the scholarship and if they are successful, then the LCBA gives them free tuition to the class, buys their equipment, buys their bees, and provides them with a beekeeping mentor throughout the year. The scholarship recipients have a service obligation to the club including volunteering at the LCBA exhibits at the southwest Washington Fair and the spring youth fair. They also attend the monthly meetings.
Of the twelve youth scholars that have received the scholarship since 2014, nine of them are still keeping bees after the end of the program. The winners of the 2020 scholarships will be announced soon.