David White of Kennewick paid no mind to the honey bees climbing on his collared shirt or jeans.
The bees seemed equally unconcerned when White recently removed their honeycomb from the wall of a Pasco shed.
Many stayed clustered on it near the eggs that are transforming into larvae, pupae and, finally, adult bees. Some of the new adult bees chewed their way out while the others continued to move over them.
"It's a pretty cruel society," said White, publicity chairman for the Mid-Columbia Beekeepers Association.
The association is offering an introductory beekeeping class through Kennewick Community Education at 6 p.m. Monday at the Southridge High School library in Kennewick.
"To Bee or Not to Bee" will cover honey bees and help people decide if beekeeping is the hobby for them. To register for the $21 class, go to www.communityed.ksd.org or call 222-5080.
The association also is offering a five-week course on beginning beekeeping starting April 14.
The $50 course will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Richland Church of Christ, at 933 Thayer Drive. It includes hands-on experience and membership to the local and state beekeepers' associations. For more information and to register, go to www.tricitybees.com.
White performed his second surgical extraction of a feral beehive in Pasco with help from other beekeepers.
He stood on a ladder in the narrow gap between two sheds so he could reach the hive that Pasco homeowner Joan Crain discovered a few weeks ago when hundreds of honey bees invaded her backyard.
Crain said she called an exterminator first who helped connect her with the beekeepers' group. The hobbyists removed the hive for free, taking the honey, honeycomb and bees along with them.
After making a hole underneath the hive, White puffed smoke into it. The smoke blew back out. That's the bees, he said.
The smoke causes bees to gorge on honey, and White said it helps him keep from being stung.
"They are just like kittens," he said of the bees. "Just watch out for their sharp claws."
White said he will add the bees to his two hives. And beekeeper Noah Zehr of Kennewick said they will re-use the comb.
Honey dripped off the pale yellow honeycomb as White removed it from the shed's wall. It had a subtle sweet taste.
White strapped pieces of honeycomb in a wooden frame that fits into a wooden box about 10 inches deep, 191/2 inches long and 15 inches wide. Ten different frames fit in with just enough room for the bees to move between the honeycomb.
White said a hive may be stacked as high as five boxes.
The beekeepers found tiny varroa mites, no bigger than a speck, in the hive. The mites attach themselves to the thorax of adult bees and suck their blood. Beekeepers are concerned about them because they can be a vector for disease, White said.
White, a field service manager for Kennewick's Divine Realty, finished up by vacuuming bees into a bee box he made. He said saving a hive never means saving all the bees. After all, the hive easily has about 20,000 bees.
And if he didn't get the queen bee, the adult worker bees will make another queen by feeding one of the worker bee brood royal jelly they secrete, he said.
Zehr, a computer technician, started beekeeping about ayear ago. He said he always has been interested in bees. Now,his bees make enough honeythat he doesn't have to buy any at the store anymore. And it's fairly easy to care for them, he said.
One hive can make five gallons of honey a year, which weighs about 60 pounds, White said. But it all depends on the year, and rainfall and available water affects bees like it does crops.
White said he just loves beekeeping.
"You never stop learning about honey bees. In 35 years, the more I learn, the less I know," he said.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org