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UC's Master Beekeeper program issues first certificate

The program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.

Kathy Keatley Garvey, Senior writer

September 22, 2020

5 Min Read
UC's Master Beekeeper program
Master Beekeeper Amy Hustead, right, and a helper work the hives. Hustead is the University of California program's first Master Beekeeper.Kathy Keatley Garvey/UC-Davis

She “bee” the first. 

Despite COVID-19 pandemic precautions and constraints, the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), headquartered at the University of California, Davis, has certified its first-ever Master Beekeeper:  Amy Hustead of Grass Valley, a veteran beekeeper who also happens to be the first and only beekeeper in her family.  

Hustead, president of the Nevada County Beekeepers Association and a veterinary technician, recently passed the Master-level beekeeper certification process.

CAMBP, founded and co-directed by Extension apiculturist  Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. It offers three levels of certification (Apprentice, Journey and Master). Niño launched the first Apprentice class in 2016.

Hustead's passion is education and outreach, said Niño and CAMBP manager Wendy Mather.

Hustead's Master Capstone project involved teaching two, three-hour online CAMBP classes (“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives,” and “Working Your Colonies.”)  She designed, developed and successfully delivered "Intermediate Backyard Beekeeping," an in-depth, online, four-hour course on science-based beekeeping for the hobbyist and sideliner. 

Related:UC experts suggest ways to ease California's fire crisis

Topics included winter and spring preparation, swarm prevention, active swarming, splits and nucs (nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small colonies created from larger colonies), diseases, nutrition, maximizing honey production, and harvesting honey, wax, propolis and pollen. 

Amy Hustead, a wife,  mother of 9-year-old twin boys, and a seven-year beekeeper, said she really enjoys CAMBP. “It has allowed me to meet some really excellent beekeepers. I plan to continue to teach classes and help educate people on the biology of bees.”

Highly praised for her work, she has drawn such comments as "the class exceeded my expectations”; her “lecture style is professional, yet warm, which is needed in the context of Zoom classes”; and she “keeps an open mind about other beekeepers' goals.” Wrote another: “Amy is very informed and easy to follow, and shares her information with the right amount of applicable detail for the intermediate.” 

Fascinated with bees

What fascinates Hustead about bees? “When I was in college I studied sociobiology, which is a field of biology that explains social behavior in terms of evolution,” she said. “I have always been fascinated by the cross section of evolution and behavior. Bees are the epitome of social insects. Everything they do is for the good of the whole.” 

Related:Watch cows’ health after wildfires, scientists urge

“I dabbled in homesteading when I first moved to the foothills, and like a lot of people, started out keeping chickens. I think I wanted to get goats but my husband was not on board, so I decided to get bees instead.” 

As a veterinary technician, she works in low-cost spay and neuter programs. "I also volunteer with an organization that provides veterinary care to pets of homeless and low-income people in the Sacramento area." 

Bees keep her occupied at several locations. “I have between 15-20 personal colonies at three different locations,” Hustead related. ”I also manage a few colonies for other people.” 

As it turns out, this year is not a good year for bees. “Mostly my bees aren't doing well this year,” she said. “The nectar flow was non-existent, and the recent fires haven't helped. For the first year ever I am harvesting no honey from my yard at home.”

Hustead home-schools her twins. “I am very serious about home-schooling my kids, and part of our curriculum is extensive travel.” The Hustead family has visited a number of states in the nation, and has already been to Mexico, Ireland, Costa Rica. “We are planning a Europe trip as soon as possible.“ 

Since late 2016, CAMBP has certified 206 Apprentices and 22 Journey-level beekeepers, who have volunteered more than 24,510 service hours in science-based education and outreach in beekeeping and environmental stewardship. Total value of the service hours: $623,289. Total number of individuals served:  98,618. 

“This year, despite COVID-19 constraints, the California Master Beekeeper Program continues its mission of using science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping, by moving its courses and exams online,” Mather said. 

Online exams

CAMBP's current 53 Apprentice candidates will take their online exam Sept. 12. To pass, they must score at least 75 percent. “Candidates will upload videos or partake in 'live from their apiary' Zoom sessions to satisfy the requirements of the practical rubric,” Mather said. 

The Journey-level candidates have completed the online written portion of their certification and their videos and Zoom practicals are in progress. “So far, we're proud to announce that all 15 Journey level candidates scored above 80 percent on their written exams, and their videos and Zoom practicals are looking great!” Mather commented.

The Master level usually takes an average of five years to achieve. Some candidates choose to remain as Apprentice or Journey-level beekeepers. CAMBP offers pre-approved Master Capstone Tracks, but also encourages candidates to follow their passion if their favorites are not on the list, which includes: 

  • Native Bees and Pollinator Gardens

  • Commercial Beekeeping

  • Scientific Research

  • Education and Outreach

  • Policy for Honey Bees and Native Pollinators 

Seven Master-level candidates

The seven Master-level candidates for the 2020-21 season are pursuing a variety of projects, including mapping drone congregation areas, authoring a book on the history of honey in ancient Greece, establishing a pollen library for the state of California, starting a commercial beekeeping business, and training a “detector dog” in the apiary.

To maintain active status as a Master Beekeeper with CAMBP, members are required to perform and log 25 hours of BEEs (Beneficial Education Experiences).  Hustead will perform a minimum of 25 volunteer hours annually. Her volunteer service, at the minimum, is valued at $25.43 per hour or about $600 per year. 

“Amy will have no problem doing that as she's active as the president of her local beekeeping club,” Mather said, “and she mentors many new beekeepers to help them become science-based stewards and ambassadors of honey bees and beekeeping.” 

For more information about CAMBP, see its website and also background information on its founding and subsequent funding from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR).

Source: University of California, Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

About the Author(s)

Kathy Keatley Garvey

Senior writer, UC-Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology

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