Beekeeping & Pollinator Programs in Prisons

Beekeeping association partners, staff from every prison, incarcerated beekeepers, and the SPP team from Evergreen came together for an inspirational day-long beekeeping summit at WCCW. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Beekeeping was a part of SPP programming from the beginning. Three prisons kept honeybees starting in the early-to-mid 2000s and continue to this day. A new wave of interest in beekeeping came with SPP’s current Co-Director, Steve Sinclair, and his enthusiasm for beekeeping was echoed by plans to start new programs across the state. In March 2017, SPP beekeeping partners came together for a full-day a beekeeping summit at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). Nearly every facility was represented and we were joined by Washington State Beekeepers Association (WASBA) leadership, local beekeeping clubs, and state agency pollinator enthusiasts and experts; the event further catalyzed a beekeeping boom: in the summer of 2018, barely a year later, 11 of Washington’s 12 prisons hosted beekeeping programs! There are even a few extras… more details here.

Beekeeping Education

The first class of incarcerated Journeyman beekeepers in the state (in the world??) pose at their graduation ceremony. Photo courtesy of AHCC.

Following Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s lead, every new and long-time program now includes formal beekeeping education and certification. In just a few years, 323 incarcerated individuals have become WASBA-certified beginner beekeepers! Local beekeeping experts give their time to instruct these classes and guide field work, and we cannot thank them enough. Some of these folks volunteer independently; for those who represent organizations we also thank:

Only a few months after being introduced to honeybees, this beekeeper from Cedar Creek Corrections Center shows happy confidence as he handles a full frame. Photo by Laurie Pyne, McNeil Island program coordinator.

Several programs (WSP, for example) are taking on new challenges: raising queen bees, contributing to scientific research, and working toward journeyman-level certification, so that incarcerated individuals can be course instructors. A team of beekeepers at AHCC has gone even further: 15 inmates have graduated as journeyman and created the first draft of the journeyman manual that WASBA will distribute state-wide!

Guidance on how to run these programs is available in SPP’s Beekeeping Guide. More about the basics on beekeeping programs, guidance on bee safety, and cool facts about honeybees on this page!

Contributing to these unprecedented successes, every bee program is supported by pollinator plantings. Honeybees and other pollinators have access to pesticide-free flowers for their nectar and pollen. Programs are both beautiful and productive!

Blogs on Beekeeping

Learning about gentleness from honeybees (2019)

Beekeeping is Freedom (2019)

MCC-SOU graduates Beekeepers: their excitement is contagious! (2019)

Playing a small part for incarcerated men who “deserve no less” (2018)

More Beekeeping than Ever! (2018)

Beans to Bluebonnets (2018)

Beekeeping at Clallam Bay (2018)

McNeil Island’s Newest Residents (2018)

First Journeyman Beekeepers Have Graduated From AHCC! (2018)

Beekeepers are hard at work at Stafford Creek (2017)

Busy as a Bee at WSP (2017)

Bees at MCCCW – Photo Gallery (2017)

Clallam Bay Corrections Center – First Beekeeping Graduates! (2017)

A Day for Pollinators in Prison (2017)

Summit for Beekeeping in Prison (2017)

The Honey Bees are a Buzzin’ at Larch Corrections Center (2016)

Honeybee love (2016)

Buzzing With Success: Bees Help Inmates Learn Marketable Skills, Build Self-Esteem (2015)

First Beekeeping Certification in-prison for SPP-WA (2014)

Beekeeping Behind Bars (2013)

Interview with Officer Glenn Epling, New Beekeeping Project Lead at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (2013)

Beekeeping prisoners: Science inside the fence (2009)

Beekeeping at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center (2009)

Beekeeping: More than honey (2009)

Beekeepers at Airway Heights Corrections Center pose with their hives. Photo courtesy of Kay Heinrich.