December 2014

Certified Beekeepers Apprentice Program: A First in New Mexico

Susan Clair


The Certified Beekeepers Apprentice Program, new in 2014, launched in May and ended in August. All 24 adult students successfully completed the seven all-day sessions of year one. The two-year program was developed with assistance from the New Mexico Beekeepers Association, the city of Albuquerque Open Space Division and Washington State Beekeepers Association and was held at the Open Space Visitor Center in Albuquerque.

The enrolled students included experienced beekeepers intending to expand their knowledge, novices with less than a year of experience and others who did not own hives but wanted to learn about honeybees and beekeeping before deciding whether to pursue their interest and invest in the necessary equipment.

When I started the class, I had no idea what I was in for,” said Albuquerque resident Marlene Brown, one of the 24 first-year students. About two years prior to enrolling in the Certified Beekeepers program, Brown built a top-bar bee hive in a class offered in the community, but she didn’t have any bees for the hive. Twice, a friend brought her a swarm, but neither swarm stayed. In a determined effort to get her hive started, she bought a package of bees but still didn’t know how to manage them. She spoke with long-time Albuquerque beekeeper T.J. Carr, who encouraged her to participate in the new program. At first, she didn’t realize she had signed up for an intensive program that would span several months of two years. “Once I found out more about the classes, I was excited to be part of the program. I went from being scared around the bees to being comfortable. It has been a great experience learning about bees and talking to folks about their different experiences. I now have two hives and have done a trap-out. I’m looking forward to next year’s classes.”

Allan Emord, another student in the program, was impressed with the “immense amount of information that was presented by very knowledgeable and experienced beekeepers.”Classes were taught by local beekeepers and instructors in related fields. Instructors demonstrated tools and equipment, showed descriptive slides, recommended books and explained the best practices of urban beekeeping.

Students learned about Langstroth and top-bar hives, types of honeybees and their respective characteristics, protective clothing and equipment, establishing hives in an urban neighborhood, seasonal hive inspection and management, botany and pollinators, hive pests and diseases, queen-bee rearing, honey production and harvesting, wax processing, marketing and selling honey, and bee-venom therapy, known as apitherapy. In addition to the required classroom instruction, each session included supervised hands-on time with the live hives at the Open Space Visitor Center bee yard.

To become certified, students are required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work in community service. They may choose to volunteer at the Open Space Visitor Center for special pollinator events, work the exhibit table at the New Mexico State Fair, teach elementary schoolchildren about honeybees, assist in a trap-out or a cut-out or find other related volunteer opportunities.

The eight members of the program-planning committee—all volunteers—generously dedicated ample hours, energy and creativity into developing a beekeeping education program worthy of certification. They established curriculum requirements, planned the schedule of sessions that spanned three months, developed a full-color, comprehensive handbook that included instructive photographs and illustrations and recruited experienced instructors.

The program was developed to achieve six specific objectives: consistent training in the best practices of backyard beekeeping; development of healthy, gentle hives suitable for an urban environment; community education and outreach; mentoring access for beekeepers; volunteers for community hives; and a streamlined approach for managing swarms.

After the classes of the seventh session, students and members of the planning committee held a celebratory party, so students could receive their “Year 1 Certificate of Completion” and enjoy a delicious lunch provided by the committee and taste samples of honey from many personal hives.

The 2015 Certified Beekeepers program is scheduled to start in early spring. Year 1 students will follow a curriculum similar to the 2014 program. Saturday sessions are planned for March 28, April 18, May 9, May 30, June 13, July 11 and Aug. 1.

Year 2 students will spend most of their program time working at live hives, with supervision, in the bee yards of experienced beekeepers. Flexible scheduling will include core content and elective classes for students to focus on their particular areas of interest as they relate to honeybees.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Certified Beekeepers Apprentice Program may visit the New Mexico Beekeepers Association website at or contact Susan Clair, program coordinator, at


Susan Clair, MCRP/MPA, has been a beekeeper for six years. She coordinated the first NM-based Certified Beekeepers Apprentice Program, launched in spring 2014, under the New Mexico Beekeepers Association. She leads workshops on whole foods and plant-based nutrition.



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