North Carolina State University professor John Thomas Ambrose, well-known to students for his popular Introduction to the Honey Bee and Beekeeping class, has died at age 70.
He was the newly elected president of the North Carolina Beekeepers Association at the time of his death.
Ambrose’s interactive teaching methods drew many students to take his class. It eventually became one of the most popular biological science electives on campus, enrolling about 200 students each semester.
“By far, anyone will tell you the most memorable thing about the class was the swarm demonstration,” says Kelsey Schmitz, a sophomore studying history and anthropology who took Ambrose’s beekeeping class last spring. “He would make the bees swarm by picking up a big stick with them on it and flinging it around it in the air. It was so cool. He was so comfortable around the bees.”
Ambrose joined the faculty of the Entomology Department in 1975 after grad school at Cornell University studying under Dr. Roger Morse. He came on board as an assistant professor with responsibilities for developing both extension and research programs in apiculture.
In his research position, he developed and provided research-based information to support the important commercial and hobbyist apicultural interests of the state and the critical role that bees play in the pollination of many of its most important horticultural commodities.
As part of his extension activities and through his close association with the North Carolina Beekeepers Association and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Ambrose, in 1982, initiated one of the country’s earliest and arguably strongest and largest master beekeepers programs. He later used this model to further develop the Master Beekeeper program for the Eastern Apicultural Society, a position he held until the mid-1990s.
North Carolina’s program was designed to teach beekeepers to train other beekeepers through a carefully structured, tiered educational program, it served as a model used by many other states as they developed their own master beekeeping programs.
In his research program, Ambrose focused initially on pollination biology and social behavior of honey bees, but the scope expanded over his 25 years in the department to include a wide spectrum of issues critical to bee biology, production and health.
Two years after joining the university, he added the teaching of basic and advanced courses in apiculture to his research and extension responsibilities. He developed a distance education version of the course in the mid-1990s which was offered each summer with regular enrollments of 50 additional students a year.
Ambrose is survived by his wife Judith and daughter Caroline and son Zach.