Bee lovers can now start their journey to becoming Master Beekeepers through a new online training program from the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab.
“The number of people keeping bees in Florida increased about 500% since 2006, so there is a demand and need for beekeeper education,” said Jamie Ellis, the Gahan professor of entomology and director of the lab.
“However, not everyone can do an in-person training,” Ellis said. “Our online Apprentice Beekeeper training is the first of four certifications beekeepers can achieve through our Master Beekeeper Program. It will help many more beekeepers adopt beekeeping best practices and educate the public about bees.”
The online course is self-paced and includes eight modules that cover beekeeping basics, such as honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment and hive management. All who enter the program start at the Apprentice level regardless of their previous experience.
No previous beekeeping experience is required, and there are no maximum or minimum age limits.
However, trainees must show they are serious about keeping bees. In addition to completing the modules, participants must currently keep bees and must have kept bees for at least a year at any point before achieving a given level in the program.
Users complete the course by passing a hive inspection practical assessment, which can be done remotely by video recording or in-person at annual beekeeping events in Gainesville, Florida. In the assessment, beekeepers demonstrate how to perform beekeeping activities such as lighting a smoker and inspecting a bee colony.
“About 400 people have become Apprentice Beekeepers since the start of the program, but there are far more people we can reach,” Ellis said. “After a deep look into our program and many conversations with many beekeepers, we realized we needed to make a program more accessible while still providing in-depth, research-based information directly to beekeepers. An online course was the best way to respond to this need.”
Honey bees aren’t just kept for their honey, Ellis said.
“As pollinators, honey bees play an important role in growing the food we eat. Commercial beekeepers ship hives around the country where they are used to pollinate crops,” Ellis said. “Commercial and hobbyist beekeepers alike are passionate about maintaining the health and sustainability of honey bees, which is why they come to us for the latest research and education on these critical insects.”
The Advanced level online course (level 2 of the UF/IFAS Master Beekeeper Program) will be completed by summer 2020.
The Apprentice Beekeeper course is part of a growing online catalogue of offerings from UF/IFAS Extension Online Learning, where users can find online training and professional development opportunities related to agriculture, natural resources and communities to anyone, anywhere, any time. New research-based courses and modules are continually added to the catalog of offerings developed by UF/IFAS experts. Learn more at https://ifas.catalog.instructure.com/.