Apiculture Extension update from Michigan State University Extension

Education and outreach in Michigan to support beekeepers and honey bees.

Photo of the front of a honey bee hive.
MSU honey bee hives. Photo by Sarah Grassel, MSU Extension.

Michigan State University Extension’s apiculture team provides information and resources for beekeepers to improve honey bee management and health. In the last year, we have been busy with our Extension programs, and we have big plans for the future. In this article, we provide a brief overview of our work at MSU to support beekeepers and pollinator enthusiasts.

You can support Michigan State University’s (MSU) work to help beekeepers, honey bees and other pollinators by making a gift to Michigan Pollinator Initiative. You can make a gift to our general program, our building or a specific program of your choice.

MSU Pollinator Performance Center

The MSU apiculture team has settled into its new home on campus. Construction at MSU Entomology’s new Pollinator Performance Center converted a building previously used for animal air quality research to a space for working with bees, including a honey extraction facility, equipment storage, space for processing field samples, and climate controlled bee storage. These modifications to the facility were made possible with support from the MSU Department of Entomology, MSU AgBioResearch, MSU Extension, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and MSU Project GREEEN.

In the future, we hope to develop dedicated space for research labs, a teaching classroom, meeting spaces and a pollinator garden. We are currently raising funds to make these dreams a reality. We envision this building to become a space to train Michigan beekeepers and growers, host beekeeping meetings and events, teach our veterinary students and veterinarians in honey bee health, and support our research related to honey bees, pollinator health and improved pollination for Michigan crops. If you would like to support our new space, please consider making a donation to the Pollinator Performance Center.

person using honey extraction equipment
Honey bee researcher Zachary Huang extracting honey in the new honey extraction facility at MSU. Photo by Meghan Milbrath, MSU.

Supporting Michigan beekeepers

Pollinator webinars 

MSU hosted a series of office hours webinars in 2022 for beekeepers. Each month from April through September, the team discussed seasonal beekeeping topics and answered questions. A webinar in October discussed spotted lanternfly, a pest recently found in Michigan, and what spotted lanternfly means for beekeepers with Robyn Underwood.

Visit the MSU Beekeeping’s YouTube channel to see webinars from past years, and sign up for our Pollinators & Pollination newsletter to find out about future webinars.

Invited presentations on beekeeping and pollinators 

The MSU Extension apiculture team gave over 75 in-person, in-hive or virtual presentations in 2022 to beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, home gardeners or other members of the public. To request a presentation for your bee club or group, please contact Ana Heck, Meghan Milbrath or Zachary Huang.

Photo of people gathered around a honey bee hive
Ana Heck instructs an in-hive workshop at the MSU Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. Photo by Sarah Grassel, MSU Extension.

MSU’s Extension Implementation Program grant, “Increasing the adoption of IPM practices in Michigan to support resilient farms and thriving communities in an ever-changing world,” includes funding for MSU Extension’s apiculture educator to give integrated pest management workshops to beekeepers and to provide pollinator stewardship information to growers and pesticide applicators. This grant funded Ana Heck to present “Taking Varroa Seriously” to six beekeeping clubs. It also supported the team to deliver demonstrations on a test to select a honey bee trait that makes them more resistant to diseases at the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association’s Beepalooza event and at the Michigan Honey Festival.

Photo of people gathered around a screened tent and a beekeeper in the tent
Lauren Goldstein, MSU graduate student, leads an in-hive demonstration from a screened tent at the Michigan Honey Festival. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Michigan Beekeepers Association Spring and Fall Conferences

Every year, MSU Extension collaborates with the Michigan Beekeepers Association to host and plan its spring and fall conferences. These conferences are attended by hundreds of beekeepers statewide, and they include speakers on a variety of topics ranging from bee health to using hive products. The spring conference is on MSU’s main campus during ANR week, and the fall conference moves around the state each year. Beekeepers can receive information about upcoming conferences by signing up for the Michigan Beekeepers Association’s newsletter.

Photo of people seated in a conference room
Beekeepers listen to Paul Kelly from the University of Guelph present at the Michigan Beekeepers Association Spring 2022 Conference. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

At the 2023 spring conference, MSU plans to distribute hard copies of the new edition of Tools for Varroa Management from the Honey Bee Health Coalition. A grant from Michigan Department and Rural Development (MDARD) provided funds to print these guides for Michigan beekeepers.

Heroes to Hives

The Heroes to Hives program teaches beekeeping to U.S. Military Service Members and Veterans. In 2021, an Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) allowed the program to expand to include partnerships with Michigan Food & Farming Systems, University of Minnesota Bee Veterans program, University of Missouri Extension, and University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Great Plains Master Beekeeping Program. In 2022, MSU’s Heroes to Hives online course had over 3,600 students. The Heroes to Hives online program moves to Michigan Food & Farming Systems for the 2023 beekeeping season.

beekeepers examine a frame from a honey bee hive.
Students in a Heroes to Hives in-hive workshop at the MSU Tollgate Farm & Education Center. Photo by Sarah Grassel, MSU Extension.

MSU undergraduate student and veteran worked as the MSU Extension pollinator education summer intern, where she supported the Heroes to Hives program, youth education, and other outreach initiatives.

Photo of Sarah behind a table with activities at a fair.
Sarah Grassel, MSU Extension summer intern, at the Michigan Honey Festival with a table of educational activities for kids. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Farm business resources for beekeepers

MSU Extension Farm Management has many resources that can benefit beekeepers who run their operations as a business. The MSU apiculture team partnered with farm business educators to hold a webinar on turning your beekeeping hobby into a business. This team worked with farm business experts to share how the Micro Farm Program, a USDA crop insurance program, can benefit beekeepers.

Michigan rules and regulations for beekeeping

MSU helps beekeepers by demystifying all beekeeping related rules, regulations and guidelines in the state. Every year we update the document Starting and Keeping Bees in Michigan: Rules and Regulations.” In this document, you will find information related to beekeeping and the Michigan Right to Farm Act and Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs), organic beekeeping, transporting hives to/from Michigan, honey processing, rules and regulations for selling honey in Michigan, and more!

Honey Bee Health Coalition

Michigan State University Extension is a member of the Honey Bee Health Coalition. In spring 2022, the coalition’s steering committee meeting was held in Traverse City, Michigan. Members discussed resources and initiatives to improve honey bee health.

Supporting professionals who work beekeepers and honey bees

Training veterinarians in honey bee health

MSU has the longest running and most robust honey bee medicine training program for veterinary students in the country. It is important that veterinarians are familiar with honey bees and their diseases, since federal legislation requires that beekeepers work with veterinarians to acquire medicine for sick honey bee colonies. In 2018, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine developed a three-week rotation for fourth year veterinary students and a veterinary student bee club for second and third year students to provide future veterinarians training on how to provide care to bees and support for beekeepers.

Photo of beekeepers in a bee yard
Students in the veterinary rotation visit a large-scale beekeeping operation. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.
Photo of veterinary students inspecting frame from a honey bee hive
Veterinary students from the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine's Bee Medicine Club examine a frame from a honey bee hive. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

In August 2022, MSU hosted the national Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium Conference. The conference included two days of an online program. MSU also hosted a full day of in-person training, including time in the laboratory and the bee yard.

Photo of veterinarians in a bee yard
Veterinarians at the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium Conference. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Trainings for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Inspectors 

MSU provided in-hive training to inspectors from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. These inspectors may provide certificates to migratory operations traveling outside of Michigan or investigate suspected incidences of bee kills due to pesticides.

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Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) Inspectors at the MSU Pollinator Performance Center. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Sharing pollinator stewardship strategies with pesticide applicators and growers

Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan

MSU works to advance the Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan by providing pollinator stewardship and protection information to growers, pesticide applicators, home gardeners and the public. One highlight includes leading a national managed pollinator protection plans working group, which developed an online course called Pollinator Protection for Pesticide Applicators. Certified pesticide applicators can complete the course to earn a restricted use pesticide (RUP) credit.

Another highlight is that the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s Bee Integrated Demonstration Project featured Michigan beekeepers and growers in videos highlighting good communication to support pollination and pollinator health. For more information, please see Managed Pollinator Protection Plan update from Michigan State University Extension.

La Cosecha (The Harvest)

MSU’s pollinator program is part of La Cosecha (Spanish for “the harvest”) program, which provides training for first- and next-generation Latinx farmers in Michigan. MSU’s apiculture team provides information to Spanish-speaking growers on honey bees, pollination and pollinator protection.

Elevating the Quality of Beginning Farmer Training in Michigan

MSU Apiculture Extension is working on the “Elevating the Quality of Beginning Farmer Training in Michigan,” a USDA grant that engages Michigan farmers to create trainings for beginning and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) farmers. MSU Apiculture’s role is to develop curricula on working with and supporting pollinators.

Supporting pollinator health through increased habitat and forage

Many people are interested in establishing pollinator habitat but don’t know where to start. The Michigan Pollinator Initiative maintains a website with planting resources and information on pollinator lawns, pollinator gardens, planting trees for pollinators and large-scale pollinator habitat, which includes a database of Michigan companies that will help install and maintain your pollinator habitat.

Two webinars in 2022 provided examples of ways to increase bee forage:

MSU published new articles in 2022 with recommendations and case studies for implementing large-scale pollinator habitat:

More information on planting for pollinators is available from Michigan Pollinator Initiative resources on pollinator plantings and MSU Extension smart gardening for pollinators tip sheets.

Supporting pollinator education for the public 

MSU Extension wrote an article, What should I do if I find a swarm of bees?,” as a resource for the public. The article provides suggestions for connecting with local beekeepers to relocate honey bee swarms.

Pollinator enthusiasts and home gardeners can take MSU’s free, self-paced Pollinator Champions online course. In this course, students learn about the pollinators in Michigan, why they are important, and what can be done to help them thrive. After completing this course, individuals can choose to become “Certified” Pollinator Champions, which provides them with access to a slide set and handouts, so that they can provide pollinator education to groups in their area.

Staying connected with MSU Extension and Michigan Pollinator Initiative

More resources for beekeepers from MSU Extension

Giving to Michigan Pollinator Initiative

Donations help MSU further its impact to provide education to growers, pesticide applicators, home gardeners, beekeepers, and the public on how to improve pollinator health. You can support MSU’s work to protect and help pollinators by making a gift to Michigan Pollinator Initiative.


Thank you to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for securing funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Michigan State University to implement strategies in the Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan.

This work is supported by the Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans grant, award no. 2021-77028-35274 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Crop Protection and Pest Management Program through the North Central IPM Center (2018-70006-28883).

This work is supported by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no 2021-70006-35450] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

This work is supported by Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant no. 2021-70033-35833 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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