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Creating a Buzz

Beekeeping 101 Available Worldwide

by Krista Weidner

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PHOTO: ALEX SURCICA

Experienced and new beekeepers alike have a new opportunity to expand their learning through an online Penn State Extension course. Beekeeping 101 is available worldwide and offers users the flexibility and convenience of completing modules at their own pace.

Course creators and instructors Maryann Tomasko Frazier and Tom Butzler bring years of experience and expertise to Beekeeping 101. Frazier, an entomologist and senior extension associate, is responsible for honey bee extension throughout the state and cooperatively across the Mid-Atlantic region. Butzler is a horticulture educator who has kept bees for more than ten years and has taught beekeeping classes to youth and adults for more than fifteen years.

The ten-module course combines video, multimedia, and interactive activities. Modules provide basic knowledge needed to keep and manage a healthy beehive as well as produce honey and beeswax. Modules cover bee biology, bee behavior, hive management, diseases and pests, swarming behavior, and more. The online format gives users opportunities to learn from nationally recognized experts and trade questions, successes stories, and challenges with other participants.

“We’re excited about Beekeeping 101 because the online format opens up extension’s ability to offer the course internationally,” says Dennis Calvin, associate dean and director of Penn State Extension. “Whether you’re in Pennsylvania or on the other side of the world, you can participate in a global learning community of beekeepers helping to strengthen the honey bee population.”

“There’s a broad audience for Beekeeping 101,” says Butzler. “Backyard gardeners who are interested in beekeeping as a natural extension of their hobby can benefit. School teachers might want to take the course for professional development. Whether someone is new to beekeeping or wants to expand their beekeeping knowledge, Beekeeping 101 is a fun and interactive way to learn. And don’t forget about the honey you can harvest right in your backyard!”

Honey bees play a critical role in the food system. About one-third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants. Honey bees are responsible for 80 percent of the pollination to many of our favorite fruits and vegetables, including apples, berries, cantaloupes, and cucumbers. Honey bees also produce about $150 million in honey each year.

“Beekeeping is especially important now, as growing dangers threaten honey bees all over the world,” says Frazier, who collaborates with researchers around the globe to unlock the mysteries of colony collapse disorder as well as to understand the impacts of pesticides and Varroa mite infestation on honey bees and other pollinators.

Beekeeping 101 comes at an opportune time, as interest in honey bee health and beekeeping is growing. According to USDA estimates, there are between 139,600 and 212,000 beekeepers in the United States, 95 percent of whom are backyard hobbyists managing fewer than 25 hives. Long-established beekeeping associations are being revitalized. The York County Beekeepers’ Association has increased its membership from a few dozen to well over 150 members, and many new associations are being established in urban areas, such as Burgh Bees in Pittsburgh and the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild.

For more information, visit: beekeeping101.psu.edu