Does anyone know of any beekeeper apprenticeship program? Either in North America or Europe. I am really interested in pursuing this "hobby" but am not sure that I could go through a whole graduate entomology program.
Perhaps if you contacted the University of Georgia College of Agriculture? I think Dr. Keith Delaplane works there. He does much research with bees. It's a long shot--but worth a try. Or for that matter any of the bee labs?
You are lucky! Keith Delaplane at UGA has been putting on an annual "Beekeeping Institute" at Young Harris College for the last 12 years. It is generally the last week in May or 1st week in June. Two years ago, they instituted the Master Beekeeper Program which is a multi year process of acheiving what ever level of expertise you wish. It go as follows: Certified (1st year), Journeyman (2nd Year) Master (3rd or 4th year) and Master Craftsman (5-6 years +). Each level has both practical examinations and written exams. For the Journeyman and higher levels, you are required to perform so many units of public service to non beekeeping, beekeeping and school groups; serve as an officer of a beekeeping club, etc. The "Master" and "Master Craftsman" levels require research projects, publication of articles in national or regional beekeeping mags, radio or TV presentations, etc.
It obviously gets tougher as you "climb the ladder". Dr. Delaplane mentioned that by the time one acheives the "Master Craftsman" level, the beekeeper will have the equivalent knowledge of a graduate student with at least a master's degree.
I am currently at the journeyman level an feel it will probably take me at least three to four more years to get to the "Grand Poopah" level.
EAS also has a Master Beekeeper Program. Not to take anything away from it, It could be gotten is a shorter period of time than the UGA program due to different requirements. However, some scrutinizing takes place (written recommendations to their committee) before you may be considered qualified to take their test. I plan on attempting to do that as well in the coming years.
The main goals in Master Beekeeping programs is to establish standards of acheivement for "experts" in the field of beekeeping and to establish good "Bee Ambassadors". These programs are very educational, challenging and rewarding.
I'm not sure the final goal that your looking for. Education certificate/title, or practical hands-on experience from a business/operations stand point.
One angle would be the commercial/business side of it. Of all the areas to live in, Georgia is loaded. There are some big beekeeping operations and bee suppliers right in your back yard. Do a search on whitepages.com or yellowpages.com. If your going for some business aspect, I would go that angle. I have considered EAS and the like and a better beekeeper I would probably be, but I'm not convinced from a business point it would really help.
Books, county/state clubs, websites such as this, magazines and a strong open mind, all contribute to good beekeeping. I am considering a class on queen rearing. Other than that and perhaps worldly knowledge of business, I can't see how a certificate saying "Master beekeeper" can make that much of a difference. I am looking at this at a money making angle so you know I'm not trying to offend anyone who may put more on the title/certificate/pride aspect of this.
What is it you want out of an apprentice program?
I think Bjorn is absolutely correct. You need to decide what your goal is.
If you want to be a researcher, you basically are looking at a minimum of 4 years formal education to be an entomologist.
If you keep a minimum number of colonies but really want to fine tune your beekeeping skills, then EAS would be great.
If you are looking at it from a business angle, you can either start really slow and work your way into more and more colonies as your skills progress or you work for a commercial beekeeper and perhaps purchase an established business in a couple of years.
And if you truly want to start as a "hobby", just keep reading, buy a book or two, and join a club. The bees don't check to see what your degree is, and when you order your first bees, the supplier isn't going to check either.
I served my "apprecticeship" with a commercial beekeeper 11 years ago. Now I staring anew with no misconceptions about the labor and rewards.
What I learned:
Bees don't "think" They respond and adapt to stimuli.
stings are part of the business. After a while they are more of an annoyance than a problem.
It's hard dirty work if you have a lot of hives
It's pleasurable relaxing work if you allow it to be.
There are as many methods of keeping bees as there are beekeepers
Beekeepers are an independent lot
Beekeepers, for being an independent lot, tend to want to do what others are doing
Beekeepers, being an independent lot, tend to do what they want
Beekeepers, being an independent lot, want to figure things out for themselves.
Beekeepers, although they tend to be independent, tend to follow trends and fads.
Since I am a new beekeeper, I want to do things that don't harm my bees, and I find there is a wealth of information and misinformation out there. There is a lot of contradictory advice. Getting the basics from a university entomology apiary program will get you going. Joining a local club and state chapter will give you access to good folks, information and help.
Nobody(not even the "experts") knows or understands all there is to know about bees. I'm trying to learn all I can about natural bee biology and behavior, matching that with what I observe, tempering that with what I read and trying to be be cautious about what I hear.
At the HAS conference, Clarence Collison spoke about the EAS Master Beekeeping program. Many people have taken the exam, which consists of 3 parts: lab, field and oral. It was amazing how few people passed compared to the amount of people that took it. But as someone pointed out it is meant to set up a high standard. I took it as a personal challenge. ONE day I hope to take the exam---maybe after I get my kids to college. So I have 10 more years to prepare!
PS: HAS is looking at setting up a Master Beekeeping Program
I also was at the HAS conference and had a chance to listen to the requirements for the EAS program. As Denise has said, there are the lab, field, and oral. There is also a writen exam as well as a requirement to have been beekeeping for at least 5 years as well as the afore mentioned recommendation.
I also had the privilege of attending the Beekeeping Institute in Young Harris which as someone mentioned has it's own Master beekeeping program. This program recommends one to have had bees for a year to actually start in the Master program, but does not require anyone to have bees to attend. They do provide an excellent hands on oppertunity for someone just trying to get involved to get some hands on experience, and this can then be a stepping stone to 1) getting your bees, 2)finding a mentor or at least someone whom you can call who is fairly close to your area and can help with some "area specific" problems (for those in the GA area) and 3) get you ready for the Master Beekeeping program if you should chose that route.
I am hoping to get to the top of this ladder and use the experience gained with the Georgia Beekeeping Association to qualify for the EAS, and if needed for the HAS programs... you can never learn everything, and there is always more to learn. (And having papers to prove your knowledge doesn't hurt, say if you want to apply for your local bee inspector's possition or teach in other contries)
I agree with some of the other's comments. A certificate won't put another dollar in your pocket or make your honey any more valuable on the store shelf. I'm doing it simply because of the challenge, nothing more.
As a matter of fact, I learn more from spending a day with a commercial beekeeper than from any book or seminar.
One of the problems with the exams is that many of the questions are centered around the biology of the honeybee and has nothing to do with your ability to better manage colonies. Who really cares how many segments are in a bee's eye other than a PhD in entomology?
Most of the large commercial beekeepers do not have any kind of certificate nor would try to pursue such.
To each his own.
I always wonder how I would do on one of their tests. I think I know all the "standard" answers. Since I don't agree with some of them I don't bother to keep up on what the current "standard" answer is.
That's just it. Part of the trick is to learn the standardized university answers. For some of the questions I missed because my words didn't match theirs. I wasn't necessiarily wrong, but did not answer it in the correct prouse.
It's hard taking a test when the "real" correct answer should be: "it depends" or "not always" where incorrect answers have the words "absolutely" or "always"
<<you can never learn everything, and there is always more to learn.>>
As I told my friend I mentored in NY, who is still knocking himself around for losing his first two hives to a nasty winter:
"You can not be a perfectionist with bees. They will not allow it."
I took the 1st level certified test at tne NC Beekeepers Association summer meeting last week. One of the questions on the T/F section was:"Honey bees have 6 legs and one pair of wings" Well, that is true. They also have another pair of wings, so is the answer true or false? If they had said "only one pair of wings" the answer would be false. I think they need to standarize the test nationally. Another question dealt with the "complete metamorphous" of the honeybee from egg to larvae to pupae to adult. There is no such mord as "metamorphous." I scratched it out and corrected it to "metamorphosis." I wonder if I'll get credit?
Anyway, I plan to pursue my Master Craftsman Beekeeper certification just because I might accidentally learn something along the way....
>"You can not be a perfectionist with bees. They will not allow it." Denise
I like that. It's true.
>"Honey bees have 6 legs and one pair of wings" Well, that is true. They also have another pair of wings, so is the answer true or false? If they had said "only one pair of wings" the answer would be false.
I hate questions like this because I have to decide if they don't understand english or if they are trying to fool me. My guess is that the answer they wanted was false.
But you are correct, it should have said something to the effect of "exactly six legs and two wings" or something to that effect.
After all, you can say that most of us have four fingers on each hand and it would be true. Even though most people would say we have five. It's a matter of technicalities.
>So when I screw up, my wife should ask "Are you only using one brain cell" instead of "Are you using your only brain cell"? I'm confused on this one.
>(Uh oh. I just know that Michael B. will preface his answer with "Well, it depends...).
Well, it depends...
Do you only have one brain cell? Or are you in the habit of only USING one brain cell? I'd say that your sense of humor would indicate you have a few extra around somewhere.