Great Plains Master Beekeeper Program
The Great Plains Master Beekeeping program is a collaborative group of beekeepers spanning the Great Plains region and integrating beekeeping organizations from Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. The program is highly dependent on extension professionals and experienced beekeepers to bring their expertise and knowledge to both new and advanced beekeepers. If your state or organization is not listed, please see our "Partners" tab for more information on how to join the program.
The Great Plains Master Beekeeping Program will provide training, education, outreach, and mentoring for beginning and advanced beekeepers that will improve colony survival and drive economic success. This program will focus on colony management, bee biology, pests, pathogens and other stressors, as well as land stewardship, business and marketing, and professional development. Great Plains Master Beekeepers will be both advanced in beekeeping knowledge as well as being competent advocates for bees.
Our partners are an integral part of the Great Plains Master Beekeeping program. Partner associations provide a base for members of the program to meet and share their knowledge with a community of beekeepers near them. Partner Associations also provide courses and outreach opportunities for members of the regional Great Plains Master Beekeeping program.
The training program is structured with multiple tiers (exploratory, apprentice, journeyman, master) where participants may advance to higher levels at their own pace to refine their knowledge and management skills. To advance levels, beekeepers must meet a set of educational, field training, and volunteer or mentoring service requirements designed to build off the knowledge and skills gained from the previous level(s). The flexibility of this system allows us to address state-specific needs and demands and will also make it easier to expand and be adapted in other states. Exploratory classes are not required to progress through the program.
Bee Management Skills: Honey bees are livestock; they need to be fed, treated for mites, and properly controlled so your bees don’t become a problem for other beekeepers. Management skills are diverse but there are certain things that must be done in order to be a person who KEEPs bees vs a person who HAS bees.
Land Stewardship Conservation Practices: Bees need nectar and pollen to survive. Diverse floral landscapes provide the best foraging opportunities for healthy and robust colonies. Learning how to feed your bees by providing landscape-level foraging is the simplest step in maintaining healthy colonies.
Bee Biology, Ecology: The honey bee is a very complex super organism. Properly understanding the honey bee ecology will allow you to make decisions when complex situations arise.
Business, Marketing, Economics: Even if you keep honey bees only as a hobby, they will produce multiple products people can buy. Proper understanding of these products and how to make them will give you more avenues to expand your knowledge of bees and their contributions.
Professional Development: The internet is a great resource but can be a detriment to beekeepers because of misinformation. Communicating credible information will make you a better mentor to other beekeepers and a better advocate for bees.
Four levels offered, three required for master beekeeper certification
1. Exploratory (currently only offered in Nebraska, not required for certification, designed to explore interest in beekeeping)
2. Apprentice (free) 0-2 years experience
3. Journeyman $80 (2-5 years experience)
4. Master $100 (5+ years experience)
This level aims to provides an introduction to beekeeping, including knowledge about the roles of bees and beekeepers play in agro-ecosystems, what it takes to become a beekeeper, and how one can keep healthy bees for economic and environmental profit.
Exploratory courses are not recommended for those that own honey bees already, but for those that are not sure whether beekeeping is for them or not. The exploratory courses are funded by a grant that provides free education for targeted communities in Nebraska to teach an introductory class.
This class is NOT REQUIRED to progress through the master beekeeping program. It is also not offered in states other than Nebraska.
This level focuses on basic training for colony management which includes starting colonies, health assessments, honey production, and overwintering to improve survival rates of honey bees. Rolla Bee Club beginning beekeeping classes have been certified by Great Plains Master Beekeeping for Apprentice level credit.
Education Credits: Complete learning objectives 1.1-1.20 to advance
Volunteer Hours: 10 hours per year (20 hours cumulative)
Field Hours: 20 hours
Pass multiple choice exam
Cost: Free to join.
Apprentice Level Topics
Intro to bee morphology/life cycle
Caste system, age polyetheism
Role of bees in agroecosystem
Local apiary law
Honey bee plants
Intro to honey bee stressors
Seasonal hive activities
Honey extraction on small scale
Beekeeper role in food production
Colony health inspection
This level focuses on training that refines management skills and promotes economic growth for the beekeeper.
Education Credits: Complete all Biology (B), Land Stewardship (L), & Professional Development (P) learning objectives, and at least 3 Business and Economics (E) and Management (M) learning objectives
Volunteer Hours: 20 hours per year, (60 hours cumulative)
Field Hours: 40 cumulative field hours and pass a field exam
Cost: $80 processing and testing fee.
Journeyman Level Topics
Bee behavior; mating, swarming, etc.
Pollination service/plant biology/landscape enhancement
Bee communication (waggle dance, pheromones)
Migratory colonies (consideration, laws)
Growing your business
Value added products
Selling at farmers markets and fairs
Selling in commercial store
Formal contracts with growers for pollination
Informal landowner agreements for honey production
Mitigating impacts of pesticides
Colony health inspection
Disease diagnosis and management
Queen selection and traits
Varroa resistance management
Honey extracting small and large scale
Spring management – reversing and splits
Varroa monitoring and control
Techniques for gloveless beekeeping
How to be an effective communicator
How to be an effective mentor
This level focuses on professional development for beekeepers as educators, communicators, and advocates for the beekeeping industry as well as improving their management and pest monitoring.
Education Credits: Complete all B, L, & P learning objectives, and at least 3 E and M learning objectives.
Education Credits: 15 additional ed. courses/learning series covering 1 of each focus area. A final Master Project is also required for full access to GPMB teaching resources.
Volunteer Hours: 20 hours per year, 40 every 2 years
Field Hours: 80 cumulative hours & pass field exam
Cost: $100 processing and testing fee renewed every other year
Master Level Topics
Queen, worker, drone biology
Bee type hybrids and breeding traits
Bee diseases/stressors expand
Dance language decoded
Other beneficial insects
Making your own equipment
Budgeting your time with more hives
Difficult value added products (comb honey, propolis, pollen0
Farming for beneficial insects
Making up packages, nucs
Swarm trapping and bee hunting
Varroa control on commercial scale; chemical and breeding
Selecting for hygienic bees and varroa resistance
Advocating for bees at local, state and federal level
Making up observation hives
How to do swarm demonstrations
Addressing misinformation and blogsphere influence
How to interpret scientific papers
Field training hours are required for each level of the Great Plains Master Beekeeping course. Field training exists so beekeepers are versed in the technical knowledge of how to keep bees, and in the subtle nuances of maintaining them. All the practical knowledge from workshops and courses will become more apparent when you experience the concepts inside of a living beehive. Ensure you are working with a beekeeping mentor from your association or club when you get started, especially since they must verify your hours to receive credit (if you need a mentor please reach out to your association or Great Plains Master Beekeeping).
Types of accepted field training:
- Working your own hives with mentor or other beekeeper
- Hive inspections/checks
- Extracting or harvesting honey
- Treating your bees
- Building equipment for your bees
- Processing beeswax or other hive products
Beekeeping workshops are a validated method to get started beekeeping and refine your skills as you become more experienced. Workshops are offered through universities, bee clubs, associations, as well as individuals. The Great Plains Master Beekeeping program only allows credits from certified, credible beekeeping instructors to count towards your education. The scientific knowledge of bees and their behavior learned in workshops will get many beekeepers through difficult situations and provide a baseline to discuss novel ideas and strategies with other beekeepers. Staying current on your courses and continually involving yourself in education will allow you to stay up to date about the ever changing and wonderful world of bees. Please see the “Courses” tab for participating classes, their locations, and how to sign up.
Volunteering is a critical aspect of the Great Plains Master Beekeeping program because it promotes community involvement and builds experience as an advocate for bees. Advocating for bees to the public will make beekeeping a more central topic and push changes at a larger level that can benefit the entire beekeeping community. Volunteering also bolsters your confidence as a beekeeper as you become more engaged with your community. You can volunteer through bee associations or even reach out to the Great Plains Master Beekeeping program and get set up with outreach events near you. Just remember to have a mentor or someone to contact that can vouch for your service.
Volunteer Hours can be earned by:
- Speaking to a civic group, school, 4-H, or other group about bees, beekeeping, or pollination.
- Participating in an interview for a radio, TV, or newspaper story about beekeeping.
- Assisting an individual in preparing a state or county fair exhibit (regarding bees or beekeeping).
- Speaking to a club about some aspect of beekeeping.
- Attend a state or national beekeeping meeting. - Serve as an officer in a beekeeping club or association.
- Spending time working an educational display or exhibit regarding bees or beekeeping.
- Organize a new bee club or association.
- Write a newspaper, magazine, or newsletter article about some aspect of beekeeping.
- Teach an exploratory level beekeeping class (Journeyman/Master level).
- Teach a beginning beekeeping class (Master level only).