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 class, set from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7 in the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Center on Bee Biology Road, will be taught by Extension apicuturist Elina Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty and director of the California Master Beekeeper Program, and lab assistants Robin Lowery and Nissa Svetlana Coit.
“Robin and Nissa will be leading us through the practical part of the wax working day,” announced Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeepers Program. “This class is perfect for the hobby and sideline beekeeper and for other individuals interested in learning the basics of working with wax.”
The instructors said the class "will be a creative and science-based class learning the what, why and how of beeswax, making candles, lotion bars, beeswax food wraps, lip balm and dipped flowers to take home.” The products are wonderful for holiday gifting, they said.
As a bonus, the instructors will provide an overview of the honey extraction process, and learn bottling, labeling rules and regulations, and how to perform a honey tasting.
Class participants will have an opportunity to make candles with wicks, use molds, pour wax into jars or cans, dip flowers in wax, and make hand lotion, chapsticks, and wax reusable food wraps.
The two lab assistants are daily exposed to bees, beekeeping, and all things related to honey bee husbandry, said Mather. Lowery, a two-year beekeeper, assists with managing the apiary and the research at the E. L. Nino lab. "She has been making gifts for special occasions for over 15 years and looks forward to modeling how to dip and roll candles, make sealing wax, lotion and lip balm, and wax food wrappers," Mather said.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by worker honey bees, which have eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments. Hive workers collect the wax and use it to form cells for honey storage and for larval and pupal protection. When beekeepers extract the honey, they remove the wax caps from the honeycomb frame with an uncapping knife or machine.
Beewax has long been used for making candles (they are cleaner, brighter and burn longer than other candles) and for cosmetics and encaustic paintings. Wax food wrappers, used to wrap sandwiches and cover bowls of food, are environmentally friendly, sustainable, economical, and a reusable alternative to plastic bags. Statistics show that globally, people use an estimated one trillion single-use bags every year, or nearly 2 million a minute. While beeswax is a natural wax, plastic bags and plastic bags contain chemicals, and there is concern that chemicals can leach into the food.
The $235 registration fee covers a continental breakfast, snacks, lunch and refreshments, and materials. Participants make and take two of each item. The registration deadline is Nov. 23, said Mather, who may be reached at email@example.com for more information. To register, access https://registration.ucdavis.edu/Item/Details/589.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The third annual California Honey Festival, sponsored by the City of Woodland and the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 4 in downtown Woodland. It's free and family friendly.
Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, says the event will include a cooking stage, a UC Davis educational stage, a kids' zone, a refreshment zone (beer and wine) and live entertainment.
Among the featured attractions will be a screened bee tent, where festival-goers can see beekeeper Bernardo Niño, staff research associate III in the Elina Niño lab in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, open the hive and point out the queen, worker bees and drones. Bernardo is the educational supervisor of the California Master Beekeeper Program, directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Niño and operated by the Niño lab.
"Bernardo will be taking the girls through their paces three times during the day," Harris quipping, referring to the worker bees. This will be at 11 a.m., 1:15 and 3:30 p.m.
Kitty Bolte from the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, the first speaker on the UC Davis Educational Stage at 10:15, will welcome Woodand as a "Bee City." Plans also call for UC Davis to be named "Bee University" on Saturday, Harris said. "Rachel Davis, director of the Gateway Gardens, Arboretum has been spearheading this designation."
Pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will speak on "The Huge Impact of Native Bees" at 12:30 p.m. on the UC Davis Educational Stage.
The UC Davis Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven will feature a pollinator garden installation highlighting what and how to plant for pollinators, along with displays about common bees found in gardens, said Christine Casey, academic program management officer and manager of the half-acre garden, located on Bee Biology Road. She also will be speaking on bee gardening at 2:45 p.m. on the UC Davis Educational Stage.
The UC Davis area, located in the Woodland Opera House Plaza, in the middle of the festival activities, will be abuzz with new additions, Harris said. Newcomers to the festival include the World Food Center Plant Breeders, UC Davis entomology students. (See schedule.)
California Master Beekeepers will be teaching on the educational platforms at the festival. The Pollinator Posse of the Bay Area, headed by Tora Rocha and Terry Smith, will be on hand to explain the importance of pollinators and what everyone can do to help them.
Live entertainment will include Jayson Angove, Jessica Malone, Big Sticky Mess, Bocado Rio, Case Lipka, David Jacobin, Katgruvs, accordionist Jared Johnson, The City of Trees Brass Band and Double X Brass Band. Other live entertainment includes Space Walker and the Hand Stand Nation.
The festival, launched in 2017, aims to cultivate an interest in beekeeping, and to educate the public in support of bees and their keepers, according to Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. Last year's festival drew 30,000 people and some 16 California honey companies.
The California Honey Festival's mission: to promote honey, honey bees and their products, and beekeeping. Through lectures and demonstrations, the crowd can learn about bees and how to keep them healthy. Issues facing the bees include pests, pesticides, diseases, malnutrition, and climate changes.
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.