Sarah Stern (right) was a recipient of the 2017 Orange County Beekeepers Association Scholarship. 

The Orange County Beekeepers Association is offering yearlong apprentice beekeeping scholarships to any Orange County residents between the ages of 10-16 who have aspirations of one day becoming a beekeeper. 

The 2020 Orange County Beekeepers Association Scholarship opened Tuesday, and two lucky students will be selected and given everything they need to start their budding beekeeping careers. 

This class, which usually fills up to around 80 students, according to Lisa Vogel, Apprenticeship Director, will fill up by the end of December. Class sessions will then officially begin Jan. 15 and run until March 19. The students will learn everything they need to know about beekeeping, from bee biology to seasonal beekeeping, pollination, pollination plants good for honeybees and seasonal management. Students will also attend field days on Feb. 9 and March 23 where they will break up into groups and learn how to do basic inspections of a hive, including what to look for in a colony of bees, worker bees, queen, and what a healthy hive looks like.

During their apprenticeship, students must complete all nine requirements assigned to them, including attending eight out of the 11 monthly Orange County Beekeepers Association meetings and must volunteer or participate at two public outreach events on behalf of the Orange County Beekeepers Association. 

The students chosen will be assigned a beekeeping mentor, someone who is a professional in the field, who they will contact on a monthly basis. They will meet their mentor at an apiary once a month to learn about the nuances of beekeeping and they will also keep a journal to log their activities. At the end of their apprenticeship, students are required to give a 10-15 minute presentation at an Orange County Beekeepers Association monthly meeting to go over their experience with the program, and what they learned during their time as a beekeeper.

“We provide them with all sorts of opportunities to get involved with beekeeping and the community as well and then learn to be a good beekeeper,” Vogel said.

Along the way, students will learn how to put together frames, how to set up hives, and what to do once they get their packages of bees. In March, upon completion of Bee School, the students will get two packages of bees. Once the students complete all of their requirements, including their end of year presentations in January, they become proud owners of the beehives.

Vogel says she would recommend the class to students who wish to learn beekeeping as a hobby, or those who want to pursue future opportunities in beekeeping.

“If its someone whose very interested in the world of pollinators and they’re interested in insects or science, and they’re not afraid of being stung occasionally, it’s a wonderful opportunity to pick up a skill that could lead to something bigger someday,” Vogel said.

Of the former students who have gone on to pursue other opportunities with beekeeping, one has worked at a USDA field lab in Louisiana with bees the past few summers, according to Vogel, and another former scholarship recipient who is in middle school is skilled at climbing trees and catching bee swarms.

For Sarah Stern, a 2017 student who says she learned more in the beekeeping class than in many of her high school classes, the apprenticeship provided her with a love for the environment, a passion that helped inspire her to become an Environmental Science major at North Carolina State University. This past summer, Stern worked at Hillsborough Bee Supply, where customers would routinely ask how they could learn more about beekeeping. Her advice to those patrons is the same advice she would give to students who want to learn more about the subject — attend a beekeeping class.

“I think it’s the most important thing that you can do if you want to learn more and want to start your own beekeeping practice, as well,” Stern said.