At North Plains Library, bees are everyone's beeswax
Some think that beekeeping is the exact opposite of what you should do with bees. But for Jeff Clark, a long time rural north Washington County resident right outside of North Plains, it's been a hobby for 10 years.
"We had bees move into the wall of our house," he said. "I started catching swarms that year and keeping bees."
Clark wants to share his knowledge and will be leading a free class at the North Plains Public Library on
Saturday, Feb. 4 that serves as an introduction to beekeeping. The session will cover a wide range of topics, including hives and equipment, the cost of getting started, local rules and regulations, and resources for more information about local bee groups and bee schools.
Clark served as the president of the Tualatin Valley Beekeepers Association in the past, but has since stepped down. He's currently working on his certification as a Journey Beekeeper for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program, a cooperative effort between Oregon State University Extension Serive and the Oregon State Beekeepers Association.
He is a certified apprentice in the program, as well as a mentor to new apprentices.
Clarks says he enjoys all aspects of beekeeping.
"There's the knowledge, helping another species, woodworking, helping other folks learn about bees ...food security," he said. "The decline of pollinator populations, including honeybees, has a significant impact on our local, national and worldwide food supply. Bees are an indicator of the health of our local environment."
According a Slate article published in July of last year, the number of honeybee colonies peaked in 1989 at 3.5 million colonies. In 2008, two years after colony collapse disorder was first characterized, that number dipped to 2.4 million, which was the worst year for honeybee populations in recorded history. Since that low point, honeybee populations in the U.S. have climbed at a modest pace and now stand at about 2.7 million colonies.
Leading honeybee health experts still warn that continued improvement is necessary if the world is to maintain both the health of honeybees and the diverse food tastes people currently enjoy thanks to pollination. In short, a honeybee extinction could carry harsh consequences; about one-third of all crops on the planet — including almost all fruits and non-grain vegetables — are pollinated by honeybees.
The most challenging part of beekeeping, according to Clark, is helping the bees stay healthy given the diseases, parasites, loss of habitat and pesticide pressures that they're dealing with. His favorite part of the hobby happens in the springtime, when he gets to catch swarms of bees throughout the Tualatin Valley with his daughter.
"It's hard work but it's good to be able to spend more time with family while helping the bees," he said. Clark also works part time at the North Plains Library and offered to teach the class as part of the library's program.
"It's important to check local regulations where folks are planning to keep bees. Many cities and the county recognize the importance of pollinators and are supportive of those who are trying to help provide homes for honeybees," he said. "If you live in an agricultural area, bees will have to be moved frequently to keep them from being poisoned by pesticide application."
For those even more interested in bee preservation, a screening of "More Than Honey" is slated for Jan. 31 ahead of Clark's class.
The documentary is an international award-winning film about honeybees that offers spectacular film footage of bees and bee-keeping around the world, along with thought-provoking commentary on what is causing bee populations to dwindle.
Bee Smart: Learn more about beekeeping
WHAT: Screening of documentary "More Than Honey"
WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 31, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Jessie Mays Community Center, 30975 N.W. Hillcrest St., North Plains
DETAILS: Free. Tualatin Valley Beekeepers Association will provide popcorn, snacks, sweet treats, and seasonal beverages.
WHAT: Intro to Beekeeping, presented by Jeff Clark
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 4, 2-4 p.m.
WHERE: North Plains Public Library, 31360 N.W. Commercial St.
DETAILS: Free. Learn about the cost of getting started, equipment, local rules and regulations and were to find more resources.