Apiculture Extension update from Michigan State University Extension

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

Veterinary students inspecting a frame from a honey bee hive.
MSU veterinary students inspect a frame from a honey bee hive. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Michigan State University Extension’s apiculture team provides information and resources for beekeepers to improve honey bee management and health. In 2021, we have been very 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 MSU’s 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 new building or a specific program of your choice.

MSU Pollinator Performance Center

In 2021, the MSU apiculture team found a new home on campus. Through a partnership with the Department of Entomology, MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension, a building previously used for animal air quality research was officially renamed the Pollinator Performance Center. The apiculture team moved in our beekeeping equipment, created some research plots and partnered with MSU Infrastructure Planning and Facilities to plant hundreds of trees at the new site.

Someday soon, the Pollinator Performance Center will serve as a hub of MSU pollinator research, teaching and outreach. We hope to have a certified honey extraction facility, indoor honey bee storage, research labs, teaching classrooms, meeting spaces and a fully accessible bee yard and garden. We are currently raising funds to make these building modifications and improvements. 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 or to our fundraising campaign for physical accessibility improvements at the center.

bee hives with the MSU Pollinator Performance Center in the background
Our research apiary (front) at the MSU Pollinator Performance Center (back). Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Resources and programs for beekeepers and pollinator enthusiasts

Recorded pollinator webinars

MSU hosted a series of webinars in 2021 with pollinator and beekeeping expert guests. When presenters granted permission, these webinars were recorded and shared on MSU Beekeeping’s YouTube channel:

Visit our YouTube channel to see webinars from past years, and sign up for our “Pollinators & Pollination” newsletter to find out about future webinars.

Michigan Beekeepers’ Association Spring and Fall Conferences

MSU Extension co-hosts spring and fall conferences with the Michigan Beekeepers’ Association. These conferences are attended by hundreds of beekeepers statewide and include speakers from all over the country on a variety of topics ranging from bee health to candle making to cooking with honey. Beekeepers can receive information about upcoming conferences by signing up for the Michigan Beekeepers’ Association’s newsletter.

Recorded presentations from MSU at the Michigan Beekeepers’ Association Spring Conference in March 2021:

Recorded presentations from MSU at the Michigan Beekeepers’ Association Fall Conference in October 2021:

Michigan rules and regulations for beekeeping

MSU helps beekeepers by demystifying and simplifying all the rules and regulations related to beekeeping 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!

Invited presentations on beekeeping and pollinators

MSU Extension’s apiculture educator gave over 50 in-person or virtual presentations in 2021 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 and Meghan Milbrath.

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. Highlights include leading a national managed pollinator protection plans working group, developing a Blueberry Pollinator Stewardship Guide and a Vegetable Pollinator Stewardship Guide, and participating in the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s Bee Integrated Demonstration Project.

Resources on planting forage for honey bees and other pollinators

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, 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.

MSU published two articles in 2021 that highlight programs that provide support for 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.

Signs in a garden.
Smart Gardening signs in MSU Department of Horticulture’s pollinator garden at MSU main campus in East Lansing, Michigan. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Pollinator Champions

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.

MSU College of Veterinary Medicine’s Honey Bee Rotation

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 new federal legislation has required 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.

veterinary students in a bee yard
MSU veterinary students visit a commercial beekeeping operation. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

Heroes to Hives

MSU’s Heroes to Hives program teaches beekeeping to U.S. military veterans. The program expanded 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. The 2021 Heroes to Hives online course had 4,474 students, and the 2022 Heroes to Hives online course is accepting enrollments from eligible applicants.

Increasing the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) practices in Michigan to support resilient farms and thriving communities in an ever-changing world

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,” began in September 2021. This three-year project includes funding for MSU Extension’s apiculture educator to give integrated pest management workshops to beekeepers and provide pollinator stewardship information to growers and pesticide applicators.

La Cosecha (The Harvest)

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

Elevating the Quality of Beginning Farmer Training in Michigan

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

Trainings for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) inspectors

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

inspectors standing in a bee yard
MDARD inspectors visit the MSU Pollinator Performance Center for an in-hive training. Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension.

IPM4Bees

MSU Extension is active in coordinating IPM4Bees, a working group funded by the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center to promote IPM for bees and to support beekeepers and apiculture educators. Watch videos produced by the working group:

More resources for beekeepers from MSU Extension

Staying connected with MSU Extension and 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.

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