University beekeeping programs buzzing

Extension creates new club in Douglas County and Experiment Station helps veterans with PTSD

Beekeeper tending to beehive

The Douglas County beekeeping site houses 30,000 bees of two varieties. Photo by Kim Steed Photography.

University beekeeping programs buzzing

Extension creates new club in Douglas County and Experiment Station helps veterans with PTSD

The Douglas County beekeeping site houses 30,000 bees of two varieties. Photo by Kim Steed Photography.

Beekeeper tending to beehive

The Douglas County beekeeping site houses 30,000 bees of two varieties. Photo by Kim Steed Photography.

Beekeeping in Nevada’s Douglas and Washoe Counties is on the rise, thanks to the efforts of the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.

Bee & Pollinator Club

In Douglas County, Lindsay Chichester, Extension educator with the College's Extension unit, began the process of creating the Douglas County Bee & Pollinator Club after a needs assessment survey showed community members had a high interest in learning beekeeping. Douglas County requires that bees, like other livestock, are kept on an acre or more. To meet both county requirements and community demand, Chichester worked with the Great Basin Beekeepers of Nevada and Wild Harmony Ranch to set up five  hives for community members to have a location where hands-on learning and demonstration can occur. In addition, Chichester also took classes and attended trainings so she could teach beekeeping classes to community members. 

“Beekeeping is really similar to what youth in 4-H learn when raising livestock,” Chichester said. “You have to focus on the well-being of the bees and learn proper care, read their temperament and understand weather cues and nutrition. So many of the same principles from raising sheep or beef apply to beekeeping.”

To help promote the new program, Chichester also worked with the Carson Valley Arts Council to host a beekeeping-themed art contest. Six artists were invited to paint one of the beehives, with each artist receiving a small stipend for supplies and time.

The Douglas County Bee & Pollinator Club will officially launch in the fall. Other program partners include Pinenut Livestock Supply and Kim Steed Photography. For more information about the club, email Chichester at lchichester@unr.edu. 

Bees4Vets

Another program, called Bees4Vets, is hosted at the College’s Experiment Station unit in Reno at the Main Station Field Lab. Bees4Vets is a nonprofit organization that aims to help military veterans and first responders recover from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury. The program, created and run by Daniel and Ginger Fenwick, trains up to 10 veterans and first responders a year to manage the hives at the Main Station Field Lab at no cost to the participants. Participants learn several aspects of beekeeping, such as the lifecycle of a bee, how to harvest honey, how to render wax and how to continue with beekeeping at home. At the end of the course, participants wishing to continue beekeeping have the opportunity to keep the protection jacket, gloves, hive tool, smoker and book they received during the program and are given a full hive including all of the hive equipment and bees. 

“We’ve had really positive feedback from our participants,” Ginger said. “We’ve seen our participants take great strides in their personal recovery journeys by being in our program. A lot of people with PTSD have trouble with their focus and staying in the moment, but with bees you have to stay present.”

The Fenwicks hope to incorporate more educational opportunities into the program, as well as increase the program’s participant limit.

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