Minding your own beeswax

If the thought of colonies ofswarming bees doesnt elicitan automatic shudder, theUSF Botanical Gardens offers a unique class every third Saturday that teaches tools useful to thoseinterested in pollination, sustainability and the art of beekeeping.

Director of the USF Botanical Gardens Laurie Walker said the gardens have offered beekeeping workshops since 2008.

Beekeeping, she said, has many practical applications.

Every third bite of food you eat is thanks to a bee, she said. Without bees, we would have no food.

The workshops first started when advanced master beekeeper Gary Van Cleef wanted to share his passion for the art.

He brought the first beehive to USF in hopes to spread awareness and education of bees and integrative pest management to the community, Walker said.

The hands-on workshop started with about 15 people, a number that has doubled during registration this year, with two more weeks before the first class.

VanCleef has since left his position at USF to become one of the Florida Beekeeping Associations bee inspection supervisors, and
Anthropology professor Brent Weisman has taken his place as advanced master beekeeper for theworkshops.

I had my first beehive in the early 1970s after reading a book on bee communication by Karl von Frisch, he said. Ive had bees on and off ever since and have beenvolunteering at the USF apiary for about a year.

Weisman said he hopes to show participants that beekeeping is arewarding hobby that grows successfully when beekeepers are armed with the proper skills and techniques.

After completing the required coursework, which includes learning about hive building, queen rearing and honey extraction, participating members will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge by taking the state beekeeping certification.

While many people may behesitant to work with bees, Weisman said the class is safe and ultimately beneficial for the environment.

Students might find thatbeekeeping is the perfect way to relax and connect to the natural world, said Weisman.

The workshop, which begins onJan. 19, is open to the public andcontinues every third Saturday of each month, with a per class fee of $10 for the public and $8 for members of the garden.