(UF/IFAS-CALS) —After seeing beekeeping named on a Top 10 list of neat classes at the University of Florida, Carson Beattie wanted to see what the hype was all about.
“That’s when I fell in love with beekeeping,” said Beattie, a geology major. “It’s exciting because you’re always on your toes. It’s a good way to destress from other things – to go through the motions of getting outside my normal classwork.”
UF offers two beekeeping classes through the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) – ENY4573 Beekeeping 1 and ENY2041C Practical Beekeeping. This spring, a new online beekeeping class, ENY4932 Beekeeping 2, will be offered. This third class will include information beekeepers need to know but is not often highlighted, such as pests and diseases that affect honey bees, impact of pesticide use, differences between African and European honey bees, and other information course instructor Cameron Jack calls the “nitty gritty” details.
“Our main goal is to build a premier apiculture instructional program for students who will go out and become beekeepers,” said Jack, a lecturer in the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department. “If you go into horticulture or dairy, you take a series of courses, complete an internship and go into those industries. There’s nothing like that for beekeeping.”
Jack said most land-grant universities that have a honey bee researcher, like UF/IFAS professor Jamie Ellis, teach just one beekeeping course. Jack and his colleagues at the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory are currently developing an online certificate program they hope will eventually become a minor. UF students should expect more honey bee classes to come.
For students like Beattie who would like to become beekeeping hobbyists in the future, these courses are what they’ve been waiting for.
“Cameron has been talking about this new class for over a year, and I’m so glad he was able to get it set up before I graduated,” Beattie said. “I’m hoping that this next class will improve my knowledge of bees and hone my skills for working with them.”
In Florida, Jack said there are 4,500 registered beekeepers. Roughly 500 are commercial beekeepers who manage about 90 percent of the hives in the state. That means a vast majority of beekeepers in Florida are hobbyists. The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory hopes to reach and teach both populations.
“Teaching good management practices and helping the students think about what’s going on with the biology of bees so they can make smart business practices is what we’re aiming for,” Jack said. “I want these future beekeepers to be informed about the challenges to honey bee health, understand the biology of honey bees, trust science and be great collaborators with UF/IFAS Extension and Research as well as the university.”
Students who take the beekeeping courses at UF come from all kinds of disciplines, including engineering, biological sciences, humanities, physics, chemistry, business and the arts. Jack hears most of the students say they want to keep bees at their homes in the future as hobbyist beekeepers.
Jack encourages these students to register for a new study abroad program, “Thailand – Beekeeping in Asia Summer A 2020”. While there are nine honey bee species in the world, there is only one species of honey bee for all of the Western Hemisphere. Thailand is home to five of those honey bee species. The two-week study abroad program will allow students to learn about the diversity of honey bees and different ways in which people manage them.