Midwest Master Beekeepers

By: Moneen Jones

The MO Master Beekeeper Certification Program is now the Midwest Master Beekeeper Certification program thanks to a collaboration with the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation (MCHF), a non-profit organization.

The MCHF approached Dr. Moneen Jones this past summer in hopes of building a relationship between the two entities. The result is a program that educates beekeepers with a standardized curriculum, includes a substantial increase in education of the public on bees and other pollinators, and covers the Midwestern states of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and Kansas.

Changes made in the past year include the following points. Now, anyone can take the first three level classes (i.e. Basic, Apprentice, Journeyman) for more information on beekeeping without taking any examinations. However, to move to the fourth level, examinations for the prior classes must be passed. Experienced beekeepers can test up through the first two levels of the program if they have three or more years of experience keeping bees. We are now providing classes at extension centers, libraries, community education centers, and community colleges. Classes are still taught by experienced beekeepers with seven years of experience or more. Most have more than 10 years of experience keeping bees.

Individuals are still required to join a local beekeeping association to get hands on experience with beekeeping and to find a mentor. They acquire shadowing (or mentoring hours if they are the teacher) hours before they can move up to the next level. This program helps to boost membership numbers in local associations and gives an incentive for finding and keeping a mentor. It also gives an incentive to become a mentor.

There is a specific study guide book required as reading for each course, which helps a participant study for their exam. The goal is to teach a rigorous program of five years in yearly segments that can be learned and put into practice. With each level, the material is discussed in more detail. For example, a participant will learn about integrated pest management in the first class, and economic thresholds in the second. The third class will further impress the importance of figuring cost analyses (i.e. economics) for becoming a successful honey producer. The curriculum covers many topics including taxonomy, botany, honey bee biology, diseases, pests, and pesticide labels. The latter is for protection against accidental over-sprays of chemicals. The more you know, they better you are at protecting your apiary.

The Midwest Master Beekeeper Program provides the advertising, meeting space, and standardized curriculum, and the beekeepers provide the instruction and life lessons.  Ten percent of each class participant fee collected is donated back to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation for their conservation efforts.

In addition to the five-year beekeeping curriculum, the certification program requires students to complete a public speaking or press course. The instructors are currently earning 4.5 hours credit per course they instruct. It’s a fast way to earn credit to move through the program. Volunteer instructors are reimbursed for their travel expenses.  They also have been working together with their local beekeeping associations in order to draw volunteer mentors and instructors to the program.

The cost of the classes is $75, which includes the book. The exams are $25 each.  The courses were designed so that not only the people going for certification could take the class, but those who want to learn about beekeeping can as well. They then have a choice on whether they want to go for their certification.

There are six levels to go through before completing the beekeeping certification program.  As you go through and advance, there are a lot of details to learn. It is much like going to a community college course, except you are learning about bees. The cost is also a fraction of what it would be for a credit course.

To view a list of locations currently participating in the program (and this list grows daily), see: mochf.org/masterbeekeeper. For more information, contact the Director, Dr. Moneen Jones, at midwestmbcp@gmail.com or 573.281.1272.