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West Plains Beekeepers Association seeks to keep residents informed

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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The cold bite of winter may be in full swing, but the West Plains Beekeepers Association looks to create some buzz with an educational event later next week.

The group will host two presentations Saturday, Jan. 28 in Show-alter Hall at Eastern Washington University, one from 9 to 10:40 a.m. and another from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"One of the problems we're facing is that people don't know the difference between wasps, hornets and yellow jackets," Jack Miller, president of the group, said.

Miller, who is also on the Spokane County Planning Commission, said the momentum for the presentation began when the county was faced with a decision regarding beekeeping. Numerous complaints had been received, and an ordinance had been drafted without any knowledge of beekeeping, he said. When the time came for the ordinance to be presented to the public for their opinion, beekeepers filled up the room.

The draft was taken back to the drawing board, and a new one was crafted, taking many of the comments into effect.

"The reason it all started was that people complained about bees. But when we looked into it and checked the records of some of the places that handled the complaints, it was something like 90 percent of the complaints about bees weren't honeybees," Miller said.

With their presentations at Eastern, the group hopes the public walks away more informed about the differences between bee-like insects and how to handle a honeybee swarm, if one occurs on their property.

Of the group's nearly 40 members, Miller said six will participate in the presentations, while others help with various aspects of the event.

Students from North Central High School will also take part in the The Millers have numerous examples of different species, including this bald-faced hornet. event, sharing the different DNA of bees and the flowers that they seek out to pollinate.

The group will follow the event with four separate sessions at libraries throughout the region, including one at the Cheney Library, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.

Currently on the West Plains, Airway Heights is the only city with an ordinance prohibitingbeekeeping, Miller said. While the county is in the process of getting ordinances consistent, he hopes that the group's presentations lend some more information to the public.

"If you don't have (an ordinance), somebody could complain about a nuisance," he said.

From there, beekeeping could disappear, leaving many local gardens and crops suffering in its wake.

"If ordinances prohibiting beekeeping were enacted out here, its effect would be on gardens and orchards. The fruit and vegetable production would also be affected," he said. "When the (Spokane) Valley put in their ordinances, gardeners said they noticed a difference from before."

The difficulty of keeping bees depends on the area. Miller previously had bees in the Spokane Valley, which is much easier than beekeeping on the West Plains. The Valley, he argues, has much more water available.

"Out here it's a little more of a challenge," he said of the water content on the West Plains, which makes for less consistent fodder for the bees.

Miller hopes that the presentations at Eastern appeal to those who have a casual interest in bees, or are looking for ways to tell the difference between a bee and a wasp, hornet or yellow jacket.

"They'll leave with a better understanding of them," he said.

Eastern Washington University's Office of Student Involvement and Leadership is a co-sponsor for the event,

The West Plains Beekeepers Association is relatively new to the area, Miller said, but is rapidly gaining new members and hopes to extend its network throughout the region. They gather once a month in Medical Lake for an educational session and a meeting.

For more information, visit their website at

James Eik can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: January 19, 2012

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