What started as a high school interest for his daughter has since swarmed into a 10-year hobby for Vigo County resident Kris Bilyeu.

Bilyeu manages a bee hive at his southern Vigo County home, saying bees play an important role in pollinating food and flowers, as well as providing honey.

“One third of our diet relies on honey bees [for pollination], but other bees also pollinate” foods such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli, as well as blueberries, cherries and almonds, said Bilyeu, president of the Clay County Beekeepers Club.

“One bee can produce 1/12 of one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime, so it takes a lot of bees to make honey,” Bilyeu said, adding the lifespan of a bee during summer months is about 35 days. Bees are very important for pollination, he said.

Traditional and urban beekeeping is on the rise, Bilyeu said, something evident he said as the Terre Haute City Council last May approved an ordinance that allows beekeeping within city limits and allows residents interested in taking up the hobby to get a license for free.

Now the Wabash Valley Bee Club and Clay Beekeepers Club are partnering to provide a “bee school” on Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Terre Haute Regional Airport, 581 S. Airport Street.

The event will provide beginning beekeepers basic beekeeping techniques and include hive management and pest control. Cost is $20 per person and $30 per couple and $10 for children under 18. Lunch and a one-year membership to a bee club is included. To register, call Leslie at 812-249-5671 or email at hautehoneyfarms@gmail.com.

There are a lot of challenges now, as keeping bees is not like it was 30 years ago, Bilyeu said, as bee management is important to ward off pests and disease, such as from a varroa mite that “acts like a tick on a bee and makes the bee hive susceptible to other diseases making it difficult for bees to live through the winter.”

As a way to demonstrate the importance of bees, the clubs are encouraging people to book tickets online for the on-demand film “The Pollinators” to be shown Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the AMC Terre Haute Showplace 12, said Ryan Wickens, president of the Wabash Valley Bee Club.

“It is an on-demand film and we need at least 50 people to buy tickets. If that threshold is not met, you will not be charged for the ticket,” Wickens said. The film, he said, follows migratory beekeepers and their truckloads of honey bees as they pollinate the flowers that become the fruits, nuts and vegetables.

Tickets can be booked at online attickets.demand.film/event/9088.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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