- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Amy Hustead of Grass Valley, a veteran beekeeper who also happens to be the first and only beekeeper in her family, is now certified by the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), headquartered at the University of California, Davis, as its first-ever Master Beekeeper.
She is no novice. She knows bees. She's a seven-year beekeeper and president of the Nevada County Beekeepers Association.
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. Her 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. 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.
Meet Amy Hustead
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.”
“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.
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.”
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
You don't want to just keep bees, you want to devote your life to learning more about them and understanding them. And you want to engage in public service.
“Any universal and immutable scale with which to measure mastery of a human pursuit is at best elusive,” says Master Beekeeper Mea McNeil of San Anselmo, who doubles as a journalist, writing for beekeeping journals and other publications. “For those whose lives are devoted to understanding the wonders that are bees, every research answer begets a new question. So it is that an array of Master Beekeeper programs have been developed to bring dedicated beekeepers to a sophisticated level of knowledge that is defined by each course.”
McNeill, who is also an organic farmer, wrote those words for an article published 10 years ago in The American Bee Journal. Roger Morris of Cornell University taught the first known Master Beekeeping course, she related, and the first Master Beekeeping certificate went to beekeeper Peter Bizzosa in 1972.
The good news is that the University of California, Davis, is now planning its first-ever Master Beekeeping course. There are no times and dates. Not yet. It's all in the beginning stages, says Extension apiculturist Elina Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
If you want to get on the Master Beekeeper list, send an email to email@example.com from your email address or the address you want subscribed. In the subject line of your message, type in: subscribe camasterbee Firstname Lastname.
“I completed the Master Beekeeping Program at the University of Nebraska under Dr. Marion Ellis,” McNeil said, adding that it was quite comprehensive. “I learned enough about bees and beekeeping to become humbled at the vastness of the subject. An important component of that program is service, so, as a working journalist, I began writing about the bee world as a result.”
In her journal article, McNeil described several programs, but pointed out that “No two programs may be alike, but they spring from a common philosophy: the bees are precious and necessary, and those who know them well will serve to help them thrive. Most intend to create ambassadors for the bees, a mission to bring the public into greater awareness of their importance.”
These are university-level courses--extensive, detailed and challenging--with written, lab, oral and field exams. You have to know the material and be comfortable in explaining it. You may have to, for example, identify “a blob of unidentifiable substance” and “describe the cause and how to prevent it,” as McNeil wrote. One blob turned out to be “chewed up bees from skunks sucking the juices from bees, then spitting out bee parts.”
Take the Master Beekeeping Program at the University of Florida. It's an ongoing program that spans a minimum of five years. Participants work toward “advancing to the next level by reading books, demonstrating public service credits, participating in research projects, or extension programs, etc.," the website says. "In order to enter the program, you must begin by taking the written and practical examination for the Apprentice Beekeeper level." Master Beekeepers serve as an arm of the Extension services.
Meanwhile, in addition to the pending Master Beekeeper course, UC Davis offers beekeeping and queen-rearing courses for novices, intermediates and advanced beekeepers. If you're interested in joining the beekeeping course list, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the address you want to subscribed to the list. In the subject line, type: subscribe elninobeelabclasses Firstname Lastname.