California Master Beekeeper Program offering apprentice assistance class

Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology examines a frame at the apiary of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey/Courtesy photo)

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By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Special to the Express

The UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMPB) offers training for an “apprentice assistant,” described as “the perfect science-based introduction to everything you need to keep safe, healthy bees.”

Apprentice assistant is the first level of the trainer programs offered by CAMPB, launched and directed by Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. Other levels are apprentice, journey and master.

“We had 68 applicants in 2021 for the apprentice assistant class,” said Wendy Mather, program director of CAMPB. “Applications for 2022 will open Nov. 30, 2021.”

The general goals are to learn the basic skills, using science-based research, to care for bees; to learn about the importance of honey bees and bees in general; and to learn how to keep a healthy bee colony.

Apprentice assistants, for example, will learn how to recognize potential problems (hive assessment); how to anticipate and prevent negative events (such as robbing and mite loads); and how to start and keep a healthy colony, CAMPB officials said.

Applicants will fill out a form, review the Apprentice Assistant Study Guide and take an online written test, scoring at least 80 percent; complete an online beekeeping course (30 minutes); and learn about bee health. They also must pass a practical test (20 minutes) at one of the CAMPB locations–Davis, San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles–and score at least 80 percent on the safety class.

The cost to enroll in the class is $50. At the onset, students will receive links to three live, online study halls, facilitated by CAMBP staff, to meet other new beekeepers and ask questions in preparation for the tests, which will be administered in person or virtually via Zoom (depending on COVID-19 restrictions).

The class officially starts in March, Mather said, with final exams scheduled for September. Students must score at least 80 percent to become an official apprentice assistant. They then will have access to the CAMBP member network; webinars and CAMPB member news. And if they wish, they can apply for the next level, apprentice.

“One cool factor about apprentice assistant is if you decide that beekeeping isn’t for you, you still get a certificate stating you’ve passed the ‘theory’ portion of the course if you choose only to write the online exam and satisfy your curiosity about humanity’s only sweet treat purveying insect,” Mather said. “It’s not mandatory to get into a hive.”

CAMBP requires 10 hours of volunteer service and 12 hours of continuing education each year so members can maintain and expand their beekeeping knowledge and skills. Some apprentice assistants, for example, may decide to hold an office in a beekeeping club; teach 4-H’ers how to keep bees; or assist commercial beekeepers in their operations.

More information is available on the apprentice assistant website at or contact

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