No matter if people find them frightening or a friend, people can learn more about honeybees and how to care for them at the fourth annual Brazos Valley Beekeepers Association's Beekeeping School.
The school is scheduled for Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Texas A&M Agriculture and Life Sciences Complex at 600 John Kimbrough Blvd. and the nearby AgriLife Center at 556 John Kimbrough Blvd., both on the A&M campus.
For the second year the school will be cosponsored by Texas A&M University's Honeybee Lab with many of the graduate students lecturing and putting on demonstrations during the event.
"It's kind of just a natural fit," Chris Barnes, chairman of the fall beekeeping school, said. "We're a local club, but we have this big research resource here close to us, which most local bee clubs throughout the state don't have."
Barnes, along with his wife, Dalene, and a handful of others established the Brazos Valley Beekeepers Association after learning the nearest one was in Brenham. Developed in the same style as the Brenham club, Chris Barnes said, the founding group decided to develop a youth program and the Beekeeping School came about as a means to fundraise for the program.
The beekeeping school put on in Brenham was the event that spurred the Brazos Valley group to form.
"I actually had no interest in beekeeping when we first got started. This was supposed to be my wife's idea. She signed us up for the beekeeping school in Brenham," Barnes said, noting his reason for going was just to not waste the $80 registration fee. "The first class I walked into talked about getting the ag exemption off your property taxes. That kind of caught my attention really fast. It was like, 'You know what we don't even have to make money off the bees, and we're still having something beneficial.' That was my reason."
Most people, though, he acknowledged get into beekeeping as a hobby or lifestyle to help pollinate their garden or get fresh honey.
With between 400 and 500 registered, as of Tuesday morning, Barnes said, attendees each year range from those just getting interested in beekeeping to people who have years of experience.
The classes range from beginners sessions to more advanced topics and the business side of beekeeping. One of the sessions this year, he said, will focus on plants and trees to grow to attract native bees and other pollinators.
Juliana Rangel, head of A&M's Honeybee Lab, encouraged people who are interested but have not started beekeeping to attend the school, so they can learn about bees in general and their importance in nature and understand just what it takes to become a beekeeper.
"Hopefully people are going to walk away with definitive answers to potentially keep bees for the first time or to learn something new about the bees that they already have in their backyard," she said. "And hopefully they'll learn also about the type of research we're conducting at the lab."
While the school is aimed for adults and older teenagers, the youth program is targeted at middle school and high school students.
The two-year program allows students to learn about bees and beekeeping through academic and outdoor activities. Then, in the spring of their first year, they receive their own beehive, bee suit, tools, a smoker and gloves.
By the end of the second year, after working with a mentor, the students learn how to split their hive and add a new queen to grow the apiary or collection of hives.
In total, the students get about $600 or $700 worth of equipment, Barnes said, and the beekeeping school helps pay for the equipment that is not provided by beekeeping supply vendors, some of which will be at the event Saturday.
People can still register online at www.bvbeeks.org or at the door starting at 7:15 a.m. Saturday. Prices are $60 for adults, $100 for couples and $15 for teens attending with an adult.
Registration for the youth program will begin next summer. For more information, contact Barnes at email@example.com.