Bilingual class offers Iowans a chance to explore the buzz around beekeeping

Farm and Food

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From a high school summer job in Idaho to a lifelong career in Iowa, the enthusiasm and experience Randall Cass has in all things bee-related has helped him realize how fortunate he is to have found a position at Iowa State University (ISU), where his job as a bee extension specialist lets him to do both research and extension.

Part of Randall’s duties include helping others understand bees and how to work with them, including hosting events that are educational and open to the public.

On June 4, he will team up with the Center for Rural Affairs and Muscatine County Extension and Outreach to host “Explore Beekeeping” in Muscatine, Iowa.

This free, in-person class presented in English and Spanish will teach participants about bee biology, how a hive functions as a system, and how much it costs to start beekeeping. A hands-on presentation will include the chance to see inside of a live hive.

Kirstin Bailey, senior project associate with the Center, is a beekeeper herself, and hopes this event will bring together a variety of people to learn more about the entire process.

“I love keeping bees for many reasons, but at the core I love how it grounds me in the seasons, and forces me to look around and consider my landscape,” she said. “I am always paying attention to what floral resources are available, appreciating the flowers of the season, and if there are enough water sources. Every time I look at my hives I notice something different or find a new part of their system I was not aware of before—bees are so complex and have a very intricate system.”

Kirstin said the event will be great for those who have been thinking about keeping bees and an excellent opportunity to be around bees safely.

A main goal of the project is to explore the amount and type of interest in beekeeping among Spanish-speaking communities in Iowa and Nebraska. Randall said he hopes it will lead to development of multiple resources for Spanish-speaking beekeepers in the region, including handouts, extension videos, and more.

He said many Spanish speakers live in the Muscatine area, and there’s no beekeeping club at this time.

“This is our first time offering bilingual beekeeping programming at ISU, and I am very excited to see if we can meet the needs of a new audience,” said Randall. “I hope to see a mix of folks at the event. Beekeeping is a fun hobby but can also potentially turn into a business to generate side income. I think that is exciting, and I hope to present both types of beekeeping to folks and potentially inspire more Iowans to start keeping bees.”

Heidi Hoffman, Muscatine County director for ISU’s Extension and Outreach, agrees.

“We would love the people of Muscatine County and the surrounding areas to come learn about a new opportunity and possibly find a new hobby or business venture that they have fun doing,” she said. “We are going to look at the economics behind it, the costs to invest to start, and the money one can make after their first year in beekeeping.”

The class also offers a great opportunity for the Center to work with ISU and the county extension and outreach, Kirstin said.

“We have experience doing this work in Nebraska, and are excited to meet new beekeepers when we bring ‘Explore Beekeeping’ to eastern Iowa,” she said. “My hope is that people who have been thinking about keeping bees are able to make that decision, and that we inspire those who want to keep bees to learn more and become better prepared.”

All participants will be offered a beginning beekeeping book, light refreshments, and a chance to win prizes through a drawing.

“Explore Beekeeping” will be Saturday, June 4, 2022, 10 a.m. to noon; registration is required by June 3. For more information, or for help with registration, contact Kristin at or 402.870.2390.