A Curious Beekeeper considers Beekeeping Education

In Maine we tend to have our bee schools in the winter, when working with bees just isn’t something that is going to happen. The classes, offered by Beekeeping Clubs, Cooperative Extension, Adult Education, special interest groups and knowledgeable individuals appeal to those who learn best by having an actual instructor and a place to go to.

Other people learn best by seeking out learning via the Internet. They may choose a program like that offered by the University of Montana’s School of Extended & Lifelong Learning that have multiple programs that build toward the Master Beekeeper designation. You might think that internet learning sounds great, but you need to be tested by a person you can see. With real bees.

Others will read everything they can get their hands on, watch YouTube videos, or just dive in and start keeping bees.

I think it was PBS’s Miss Frizzle of Magic School Bus Fame, who said “Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!”

There are different learning styles – of that there can be no doubt – and there are Facebook Groups (like NorthEast Beekeeping) and Internet Forums where people can post pictures and ask questions.

Or you can find that person where you work whose daughter used to keep bees….

Or you can practice your queen spotting and disease diagnostics by looking at pictures and sharing comments with others.

Some still wonder: “How tough can it be? You put bees in a box and they pollinate your garden.”

It was pointed out this week that you don’t need a license to be a human parent (in the US at any rate) and having the government involved in certifying you to keep bees doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Some countries have a well-defined curriculum offered by a National Organization (like the British Beekeepers Association), but we don’t have that here. I understand the Maine State Beekeepers Association is working on something – and while who knows what they’ll come up with, I suspect it will be along the lines of course lengths, and topic areas that should be included.

But right now, there are a cornucopia of places you can learn about bees. The opportunity for a National Organization to specify a curriculum passed some years ago. We’re in the midst of a proliferation of groups certifying Master Beekeepers. I wonder how many will still be operating in ten years. That leaves you responsible for your own beekeeping education. That doesn’t strike me as a bad thing.

It can get incredibly complicated. Maybe you’re someone who desperately wants to help breed a bee that will survive everything while producing lots of honey. Maybe you think the bees are capable of sorting things out themselves. My point is that there are a diversity of approaches and attitudes towards bees and beekeeping. And then we’re people – and that means we all have opinions on how beekeeping should be done.

(If you know a sure fire way to keep bees from swarming that does does not involve splitting AND inspecting, I want to talk with you.)

That all said, we need people brave enough to present on topics where the person isn’t an expert, but capable of researching and sharing. LL’s patent comes to mind.

So bee curious. It could be the BBKA Microscopy Course is something that resonates with you. Bees for Development might be your thing. Or being the extra set of hands your neighbor needs (or wants) when harvesting honey for the first time.

Just beware absolute declarations except for terminology. (Though I’ve made a few in my time)

If your club relies on homemade goodies for snacks, It could be you’re into baking. (I like chocolate chip cookies, thank you!) Or maybe organizing the name tags is what you want to do.

Whatever, as the younger folks are fond of saying. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Andrew Dewey