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. 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.”
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.”
“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.“
“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.
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.”
The course, set from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and conducted by CAMBP director and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will cover the scientific "hands-on" portion of the journey level of the CAMBP.
"We will offer the attendees an opportunity to familiarize themselves with dissecting tools and microscopy, examine specimens under the microscope and perform dissections," Niño said. "Participants will explore in detail the anatomy and physiology of the honey bee."
Attendees will learn how to identify and examine distinct parts of external and internal honey bee anatomy, including ocelli, body segmentation and corbicula, as well as honey bee circulatory, digestive, nervous, respiratory, reproductive and glandular systems. They will compare different body parts between different honey bee castes (queen, drone and worker bee.)
Registration for the course is $200. It includes a continental breakfast, snacks, and a catered lunch. Click here to register.
CAMBP also is sponsoring a varroa management course on Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Laidlaw facility. That class is filled. “We will be offering another in May/June 2020,” said CAMBP program manager Wendy Mather. “It's so wonderful to see how serious beekeepers are about varroa mite mitigation. Beekeepers are a caring community."
CAMBP uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. The Master Beekeepers serve as knowledgeable ambassadors who disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health and responsible beekeeping.
"We've just completed our apprentice exams for this year!" said Mather. "In 2019 we have 26 new CAMBP apprentices in San Diego, 34 in Davis, and we are welcoming our first 22 journey level members!"
The California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP), directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, is hosting two short courses in early August: one on “Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” and the other, “Working Your Colonies.”
Each will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 1.
“These courses are foundational to beekeeping husbandry excellence,” said Wendy Mather, program manager. “They are great for folks who are thinking about getting bees next season, as well as those who currently have bees and want to ensure they're doing whatever they can to ensure the success of their hives.”
The classes are not required to become a California Master Beekeeper, but are highly recommended, as “they will help folks prepare to become a science-based beekeeping ambassador,” Mather said. Instructors are Elina Niño and CAMPB educational supervisor Bernardo Niño, a staff research assistant in the Niño lab.
Planning Ahead for Your First Hives
“Planning Ahead for Your First Hives” will take place Saturday, Aug. 3 and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what's necessary to get the colony started and keep it healthy and thriving. They will learn about bee biology, beekeeping equipment, how to install honey bee packages, how to monitor their colonies (that includes inspecting and monitoring for varroa mites) and other challenges with maintaining a healthy colony.
The course is limited to 25 participants. The $105 registration fee covers the cost of course materials (including a hive tool), lunch and refreshments. Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/572.
Working Your Colonies
“Working Your Colonies” will take place Sunday, Aug. 4 and will include both lectures and hands-on activities. Participants will learn what is necessary to maintain a healthy colony. Lectures will cover advanced honey bee biology, honey bee integrated pest management, and products of the hive. Participants also will learn about queen wrangling, honey extraction, splitting/combined colonies, and monitoring for varroa mites.
The course is limited to 25 participants per session. The $175 registration fee covers the cost of course materials, lunch and refreshments. For more information or to register, see https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/559.
Participants can bring their bee suit or veil if they have one, or protective gear can be provided. All participants are to wear closed-toed and closed-heel shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
The California Master Beekeeping Program uses science-based information to educate stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping. For more information, contact Mather at email@example.com.
Or you may have seen her volunteering at the annual California Honey Bee Festival in Woodland, an all-day program co-sponsored by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center.
Or you may have seen her volunteering at the UC Davis Pollinator Education Program at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven and the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
But if you enroll in the California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) at UC Davis, you definitely will see her—and know her as Wendy Mather, the program manager.
CAMBP, based in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, educates stewards and ambassadors for honey bees and beekeeping.
Members of the program serve as knowledgeable ambassadors who disseminate science-based information about the importance of honey bees, preserving bee health, and responsible beekeeping, Niño said.
Mather succeeds founding CAMBP manager Bernardo Niño, who now heads bee research and development at UBEES Inc. He continues to works with CAMBP as its educational advisor.
“CAMBP is designed for beekeeping at the urban and homesteader levels, and small hobbyists,” Mather said. “We work with beekeepers and bee clubs throughout the state to ensure an ongoing interest in keeping bees healthy.”
In 2016, 56 participants successfully passed the Apprentice Level exams and became Master Beekeepers in the Class of 2016. In 2017, 40 more joined them. Next on tap is the Apprentice Level exam for the Class of 2018. The prospective members, who all pre-registered earlier this year, will participate in the CAMBP Apprentice Exam Review on Saturday, Sept. 15, with the exam set on Sunday, Sept.15. Both will take place in the Laidlaw facility on Bee Biology Road.
Mather, an El Dorado Hills resident, has been keeping bees since 2007. “I learned from the Tech Transfer Team at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, on the job from my former boss at Nature's Own Design (NOD) Apiary Products, the manufacturer of Mite Away Quick Strips, and from the many customers I have had the honor of working with in the field.” While at NOD, she also served on the Honey Bee Health Coalition. She holds a Journeyman Beekeeper Certification from the University of Montana.
Born and raised in Montreal, Wendy moved to the Toronto area in her late teens. “I've always loved bees,” she said. “I've always loved watching bees forage, but I never imagined becoming a beekeeper! I was invited to cover a leave of absence for a position that required some apiculture knowledge, and was given a couple of hives to 'bring me up to speed'! I've been keeping bees ever since.”
Active in eight beekeeping or bee-affiliated associations, Mather is a member of CSBA, Delta Beekeepers, Sacramento Area Beekeepers, Nevada City Beekeepers, Colorado State Beekeepers, American Beekeepers Federation, American Honey Producers Association and the El Dorado Beekeepers' Association (she is a past secretary).
Beekeeping runs in the family. Wendy and her husband, Darrell, kept an apiary with 24 colonies in Cold Springs, Ontario, Canada before they moved to California. "Darrell and our eldest daughter, Aislyn, and I all took the 'Introduction to Beekeeping' offered through the Tech Transfer Team at the University of Guelph," Wendy said. "Darrell and I took that course twice. Darrell has successfully raised queens, too!" The couple and their three daughters participated in the extraction, packing and labeling. "Extraction weekend was also a great time for the extended family to gather and enjoy fun times together during the sweet harvest," Wendy recalled.
California Master Beekeeper Program Grant
"Honey bees are arguably the most important managed pollinator and are used as the primary pollinator for over 30 crops in California many of which are considered specialty crops such as almonds," wrote Niño in her successful grant application. "Therefore, the food security of our state and our nation depends largely on robust and healthy honey bee populations. However, in recent years, U.S. beekeepers have been reporting annual colony losses of up to 45 percent. These losses are attributed to many pathogens and pests associated with bees, as well as pesticide exposure and lack of access to plentiful and diverse forage."
"Colony losses have also prompted those who have never kept bees before to try their hand at beekeeping in an effort to help honey bee conservation," Niño pointed out. "Currently, in California there are an estimated 11,000 backyard and small-scale beekeepers, with many of them belonging to one of 35 beekeeper associations within the state. While these associations often serve as hubs of information transfer, the information provided is not always accurate or supported by research findings. Considering the importance of California to the US agriculture and the fact that almost 80 percent of the U.S. colonies start their pollination and honey production routes in almonds, it is clear that there is an urgent need to develop a comprehensive, science-based, and state-wide apiculture curriculum."
The statewide funding that CAMBP received will enable the program to
- expand to the intermediate and advanced levels of the curriculum
- create partnerships with advisers in UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) offices throughout the state (UC Davis currently has collaborators in Fresno and San Diego);
- begin creating comprehensive web-based resources such as a library of online materials including an online classroom; and
- support the expansion of the program's educational apiary.
Those interested in enrolling in the California Master Beekeeper Program can find more information about the Apprentice Level at https://cambp.ucdavis.edu/levels/apprentice.
She is staffing one of five interactive learning stations assembled in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, to teach third-graders from Amador County the importance of bees and other pollinators.
Brutscher discusses the residents of the hive: the queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males). The third-graders, sitting, standing or kneeling in the garden, listen to her wide-eyed.
“Who knows what the job of a drone is?” Brutscher asks.
A hand shoots up. “The drones protect the queen!” a boy declares.
“The drone's only purpose is to mate with the queen,” Brutscher tells him. “The worker bees or females guard the hive.”
The students learn that the honey bee colony is a matriarchal society. The females do all the work, performing specific tasks with job titles such as nurse maids, nannies, royal attendants, builders, architects, foragers, dancers, honey tenders, pollen packers, propolis or "glue" specialists, air conditioning and heating technicians, guards, and undertakers. The queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day during peak season.
The third graders then suit up, donning assorted beekeeper protective gear. They pose gleefully in oversized suits while adults on the tour--teachers, parents and mentors--photograph them.
Overall, it was a honey of a day at the haven, a half-acre public garden installed in 2009 on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. Divided into small groups, the students excitedly buzzed from one learning activity to another, not unlike bees buzzing from one flower to another.
Statewide Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, explained pollination and how honey bees differ from such generalists as bumble bees and such specialists as squash bees. She invited the students to build their own bee, using pipe cleaners of various lengths to mimic how they are able to pollinate flowers. The youngsters also tasted apples, blueberries and almonds. Honey bees, she told them, pollinate one third of the food we eat.
Charley Nye, beekeeper and manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, zeroed in on the products of the hive. “When we see bees flying around, what are they doing there?” he asked.
“They're out gathering nectar and pollen,” responded one youngster.
The students and adults liked the meadowfoam the best. “It tastes like cotton candy!” one girl said, slowly savoring the flavor she found reminiscent of a county fair. Most considered the almond honey "a little bitter and acidic," Nye said, but a few favored it because "it's not so sweet."
Wendy Mather, California Master Beekeeper Program manager, showed the youngsters a bee vacuum device and how to catch and release bees. “They gently collected, viewed and released the bee specimens,” Mather related. The other half of her group crafted seed cookies, decorated pots, and planted seeds for pollinators. They also viewed the bee and syrphid (hover) fly specimens loaned by pollination ecologist Neal Williams, UC Davis professor of entomology. The hover fly, sometimes called a flower fly, is a major pollinator.
Another station focused on solitary bees: leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees. The students painted nest boxes and learned how the native bees differ from honey bees. Honey bees are not natives of America; European colonists brought them to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1622. Honey bees did not arrive in California until 1853, the year a beekeeper installed colonies near San Jose.
Marcel Ramos, lab assistant in the Elina Niño lab, opened a hive inside a netted enclosure and showed the students the queen bee, workers and drones and pulled out frames of honey.
The event received financial support from the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Programmatic Initiative Grant, the Scott and Liberty Munson Family, and matching funds from Microsoft.
“This program was developed to ensure that our young scientists and future voters are aware of the importance of pollinators to our food production and ecosystems," Niño said. "We are also very excited to partner with programs across the university to recruit and support UC Davis students in becoming interns and mentors for the program. This program has already generated so much excitement with the kids and we want to provide this opportunity to as many schools as possible.”
Ron Antone, chair of the Farms of Amador and an Amador County Master Gardener, coordinated the Amador County visit, which drew third-graders from four schools: 67 from Plymouth and Sutter Creek elementary and "about the same number" from Pioneer and Pine Grove elementary. “The tour was coordinated and funded by Farms of Amador,” he said. “We are also associated with the Amador County Farmers Market Association."
“The program presented by Elina and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven team was an incredible experience for all involved: students, parents, teachers and mentors from Farms of Amador and Amador County Master Gardeners," Antone said. “I could not have imagined a more successful trip."
Neither could the students. It was all that it was cracked up to "bee"--and much more.
- Elina Lastro Niño website
- California Master Beekeeper Program
- E.L. Niño Bee Lab, Facebook
- Amador County Master Gardeners
- Farms of Amador
- Amador County Farmers Market Association