Classes on keeping bees and gardening offered this spring

Bees and gardens go together like fish and the ocean — you can’t have one without the other.

[blockquote quote=”But you have to remember, worker bees only live about five weeks, so the population is constantly being replenished.” source=”David White, founder of the Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]

That is why a nursery owner, a Master Gardener and members of the Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association are offering a variety of classes in the next few months through Kennewick Community Education.

The beekeeping experts will cover the basics of bees and hives along with harvesting and cooking with honey. While the garden classes span such topics as berries and herbs and low maintenance and organic gardening.

David White of Kennewick, one of the founders of the Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association, will offer a class on basic beekeeping principles Feb. 20.

“It’s to help people decide if they want to take on bee colonies or not,” he said. “They’re not hard, but they do require some basic care, though not as much as a dog or cat.”

White’s been keeping bees for four decades. He was just 21 years old when he saw a film called ‘City of the Bees,’ which inspired him become a commercial beekeeper.

“I decided bees were my destiny,” he said.

It was almost a decade later before White found a mentor willing to share his apiary — beekeeping — experience.

At that point, White was living in his hometown of Pittsburg, Penn.

“I called all the ads I saw in the American Bee Journal asking if they needed any help. One place in California said yes, so I hopped on a Greyhound bus and traveled some 2,000 miles only to find that they really wanted a truck driver to haul the hives from place to place. I really didn’t learn anything about the bees,” he said.

White returned home and after spending a year or two at apiaries in Georgia and Arizona, found a beekeeper in Pennsylvania willing to mentor him.

“He was wanting to retire and hoping I’d buy him out. That didn’t happen, but I worked with him for several years,” White said.

The Pennsylvania beekeeper had 800 to 1,000 hives and used the bees for pollination and honey.

“We did all the work by hand, extracting the honey and bottling it, moving the hives,” White said. “That’s where I learned how to work with bees without any protective gear. Pennsylvania in the summer if really hot and humid, those outfits were just way too hot.”

Also, in his experience, people who don’t know about bees, seeing a beekeeper dressed in protective gear, get more apprehensive about knowing there are beehives in the neighborhood.

“They’re not aggressive, all they want to do is go out and do their work, gathering pollen for the hive and incidentally pollinating plants for us,” he said.

Although an occasional sting is part of beekeeping, he added.

White is one of the founders of Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association, which has about 200 members.

The group meets at 6:30 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month. The group is searching for a location to meet regularly each month, but you can check its Facebook page for meeting updates. The group’s website is

White said getting started in beekeeping costs $300 to $500 and most people will have at least two hives. In the summer when the bees are hard at work, each hive can shelter as many as 40,000 to 60,000 bees.

“But you have to remember, worker bees only live about five weeks, so the population is constantly being replenished,” White said.

White and Todd Gervais, both of the Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association, will be giving a series of classes in February and March through Kennewick Community Education.

Beekeeping classes:

  • Feb. 20 — To Bee or Not to Bee — Backyard Beekeeping

David White will cover the basics of beekeeping, giving students enough information they can decide if it’s the right hobby for them. The class runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the Kennewick High School Library. The cost is $23.

  • Mar. 26 — Beekeeping is Easy Todd Gervais will discuss the five key needs of the hive and how bees can be kept in even small yards. The class is from 9 a.m. to noon at the Kamiakin High School library. The cost is $23.
  • Mar. 26 — Make Your Own Beehives for Next to Nothing Gervais will show how to build your own hives by repurposing materials already on hand. The class is 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Kamiakin High School library. The cost is $17.
  • Mar. 26 — Pure Sweet Honey Gervais will have a variety of locally produced honeys for sampling, recipes featuring honey and information on the healing powers of honey. The class is from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Kamiakin High School library. The cost is $12.


Gardening Classes

  • Feb. 17 — Herbs

Kay will talk about choosing and growing herbs and using them in salads and sauces. The class will be 7 to 8 p.m. at Ridge View Elementary Library. The cost is $12.

  • Feb. 20 — Intro to Organic Gardening

Todd Gervais, a member of the Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association, will talk about growing pesticide-free produce that is resistant to insects, fungus and viruses, as well as non-pesticide methods of pest control. The class will be 1 to 2 p.m. at the Kennewick High School library. The cost is $12.

  • Feb. 20 — Low Maintenance Gardening

Gervais will discuss how to make gardening less labor intensive and how to put the garden on cruise control when you leave town. The class will be 2 to 3 p.m. at the Kennewick High School library. The cost is $12.

  • Feb. 24 — Tomatoes & Peppers Kay will talk about growing the two sometimes challenging veggies. The class will be from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Ridge View Elementary library. The cost is $12.
  • April 27 — Vegetable Gardening Bill Dixon, a Washington State University Extension Master Gardener, will discuss establishing a garden, improving the soil, choosing plants, watering and caring for them. He’ll also cover container gardening. The class will be 7 to 8 p.m. at Southridge High School. Cost is $12.

Pre-registration for all classes is required. Register online via credit card at You may also pay with cash or by check at the Kennewick School District Administration Center, 1000 W. Fourth Ave., Kennewick. The Administration Center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

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