Apiculture programs and resources 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 this article, we provide a brief overview of Michigan State University's (MSU) work to support beekeepers and pollinator enthusiasts.

Supporting Michigan beekeepers

Is Beekeeping Right for Me? online course

Decorative image.

The Is Beekeeping Right for Me? online course provides an introduction to honey bees, covers the time required, physical demands and financial resources of beekeeping and suggests ways to help all pollinators. People who choose to begin keeping bees can find resources at getting started with beekeeping in Michigan. Additional beekeeping resources are listed on Michigan Pollinator Initiative’s webpage for beekeepers and the MSU Extension Pollinators & Pollination website.

Beekeeping webinars 

MSU hosts a series of office hours webinars during the beekeeping season. Each month from March through September, the team discusses seasonal beekeeping topics and answers questions.

Visit the MSU Beekeeping’s YouTube channel to see past webinars, 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 gives in-person, in-hive and virtual presentations 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 in 2022. Photo by Sarah Grassel, MSU Extension.
Photo of people gathered around a screened tent and a beekeeper in the tent
MSU leads an in-hive demonstration from a screened tent at the Michigan Honey Festival in 2022. 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.

Heroes to Hives

MSU Extension partners with Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) on the Heroes to Hives beekeeping program. Veterans, Reservists, Active Duty and National Guard members of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for the program, and they are allowed to enroll their adult children, spouses, partners and caregivers. Gold Star families and surviving spouses are also eligible to register. MIFFS runs registration and emails participants educational content monthly from March through November 2024. MSU Extension helps create educational materials for participants in the Heroes to Hives program and holds in-hive workshops.

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.

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 demystify beekeeping related rules, regulations and guidelines in the state. Every year, Meghan Milbrath updates 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!

Clarification on regulations regarding varroa mite treatments used in honey bee colonies can be found in the EPA advisory for substances used to control varroa mites in beehives and the "When do beekeepers in Michigan need pesticide certification and licenses?" article.

Honey Bee Health Coalition steering committee member

MSU Extension is a member of the Honey Bee Health Coalition's steering committee. Members collaborate to develop resources and initiatives to improve honey bee health. 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.

Supporting professionals who work with beekeepers and honey bees

Training veterinary practitioners 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. Since 2018, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine has held an annual 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.

MSU leads a collaborative effort between University of Florida, University of Minnesota and University of Texas A&M to deliver hands-on clinics on honey bee handling, health and care for practicing and retired veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary students. The collaboration also develops robust training and diagnostic resources for veterinary practitioners.

The MSU apiculture team regularly presents to and hosts hands-on workshops for the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine's honey bee medicine student club. Milbrath is the faculty advisor to the student club.

Milbrath sits on the education committee of the national Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium, and MSU hosted its virtual and in-person conference of veterinarians in August 2022.

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.
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 provides 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.

11 MDARD training 2022 - Heck - IMG_8599
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 two online courses, Pollinator Protection for Pesticide Applicators and Pollinator Protection for Land Managers. Certified pesticide applicators can complete the course to earn a restricted use pesticide (RUP) credit.

For more information on Michigan's pollinator stewardship work, please see Managed Pollinator Protection Plan update from MSU 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.

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. Several webinar recordings on pollinators and bee forage are available on the MSU Beekeeping YouTube channel.

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's article, What should I do if I find a swarm of bees?,” is a resource for the public that 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


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 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 and 2022-70006-38001).

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.

This work is created with funding from the Veterinary Services Grant Program Education, Extension and Training competitive grants program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (2202-04170) and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Research and Education Grant program (LNC22-468).

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.

Did you find this article useful?