Q&A with Master Beekeeper, Nick Hoefly
Why get certified to become a Master Beekeeper? What are the benefits of getting certified?
There are plenty of experienced beekeepers out there without certifications. It's not something that is required, but it was important for me to learn more about beekeeping from a reliable resource. Cornell University is known for their agricultural programs, but the Dyce Lab for Honey Bee Studies is an incredible resource for anyone interested in beekeeping. Especially when so much in beekeeping is learned second-hand from beekeepers who learned it second-hand themselves, it was very nice to study concepts that were backed with scientific research and evidence.
Being certified is not an automatic 'expert' status, but it does give me the tools to better understand the bees and to sort through all of the overwhelming and sometimes conflicting information out there. With a deeper understanding, I really feel that I'm able to make better management decisions with our hives, as well as teach with more confidence and accuracy.
What goes into becoming a Master Beekeeper?
Becoming a Master beekeeper is not something that is out of reach for anyone with a serious interest in beekeeping. The program at Cornell takes about 1.5 years. The class work for 4 different classes is all online over about 14 months. In a normal year, you complete your final exams on campus in Ithaca, NY but this year we had to submit everything online. That was a bit of a bummer, but it's a small adjustment to make when you're dealing with a pandemic.
Would you recommend to take up beekeeping as a hobby in the beginning to see if one would like to become certified in Master Beekeeping?
Yes. You must crawl before you fly. Most people will just enjoy their hobby, but if it's something you really like, I highly recommend looking into a Master Beekeeping course. Most of the other students in my classes were hobbyists.
Are you connected with your fellow master beekeepers throughout the US?
It's tough to make really close friends when everything is online, however I was able to meet a few people from the course in person at some random bee events, and even realize that I had mutual acquaintances with a few of them. The beekeeping community is fairly small so I'm sure I will cross paths with many of my classmates in the future. They also started a private Facebook group for alumni of the program so it's good to keep in touch with some of them.
Why is beekeeping important, especially now with today's climate?
We rely so heavily on honey bees and other pollinators, and many of us still don't realize it. For me, it's important to use our hives as a way to make this connection with people and show why we need to make better decisions about how we live. Not everyone needs to become a beekeeper, but we all need to bee better keepers of our environment. Insects are a major marker for the health of ecosystems. The more we harm them, the more we harm ourselves.