2020-2022 Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program


Check back in late January 2021 for information about the 

2021-2023 Program

Have you thought about becoming a beekeeper but were afraid to go it alone?  The San Francisco Bee-Cause Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program is an exciting and unique opportunity to learn beekeeping in a group setting. 

Our Program is of "no charge" to you so long as you fully complete the entire two years of our Program. 


Why a two-year Program?


First, our Program provides an unequaled learning experience in which you will fully participate in the management of honey bee colonies throughout all four seasons.  You probably are aware of the immense challenges that face honey and native bees. Understanding and managing varroa mite levels and diseases, and getting a colony through the winter months and the following spring build-up period, are the biggest challenges of successful honey beekeeping today. 


Second, our entire organization and Program are run by all volunteers. We rely on your full participation through Year 2. By "giving back" in this fundamental way, we are able to offer the Program for free and keep the Program going year-to-year.


As far as we can tell, there is no other apprenticeship program in the U.S. that is remotely like ours. Through our Program, you can develop the knowledge and skills necessary to competently and confidently manage honey bee colonies for bee health and honey production from year-to-year. You also will have the opportunity to learn about our San Francisco native bees, and become a well-rounded “bee ambassador”.


2020 will mark the beginning of our 8th beekeeping apprenticeship program!


What to expect

The 2020-2022 Program runs from March 1, 2020, through March 31, 2022.  

During Year 1 of the Program, we make a substantial investment in you. We guide you through book, Internet, discussion and hands-on learning. You participate in the full range of beekeeping and related activities as well as special learning events. See below for more detail about Year 1 participation. 

During the required Year 2 of the Program, you continue to learn while "giving back" to the Program by serving as an "apprentice mentor" to our new Year 1 apprentices. You also will be responsible for co-managing a specific honey bee colony in our apiary. See below for more detail about Year 2. 

Program communications are by email via our groups.io account.  Discussion meetings are via a webinar/on-line meeting service.  Therefore, it is required that Program participants have Internet access to regularly review and promptly reply to Program email, and to participate in discussion meetings. 

2020 will mark the beginning of our 8th beekeeping apprenticeship program!  Read what some of our past and current participants are saying about their experience in our program.

Year 1 - activities & requirements

(March 1, 2020 - March 31, 2022)

Initial Meetings:  If admitted to the Program:

  • Your first meeting will be on Saturday, March 7, 2020, @ 10:30 AM-3:00 PM.  See information next to this date under "Application & Important Dates", below. 

  • Your next meeting will be on Saturday, March 28, 2019, @ 10:30 AM-2:00 PM.  See information next to this date under "Application & Important Dates", below. 


Hive Inspections: You will participate in honey bee colony inspections under the guidance of Year 2 apprentice mentors and "returning" mentors (people who previously completed our Program).


Inspections are on Sundays @ 11:30 AM through completion of your colony inspection, usually no later than 3 PM. 

  • Beginning April 5 you will participate in inspections every Sunday, weather permitting. This frequency will get you jump-started working with bees.

  • Assuming the weather permitted 4 weekly inspections during April, you will begin your every-other-Sunday inspection schedule on May 3.

  • However, if the weather prevented 4 weekly inspections during April, the weekly inspection schedule will continue into May until you have had 4 inspections under your belt.  Only at that time will you be given and begin your every-other-Sunday inspection schedule.

Monthly Discussion Meetings: In advance of each discussion meeting, you will be given a reading assignment, including discussion questions, on some aspect of honey bee biology and/or colony dynamics and management. Periodically, you also will be emailed a quiz along with rules for taking the quiz.  Quizzes will not be graded and are intended for you to understand gaps in your knowledge and to improve. 


For baseline reading, we are using:


After your March 7 and 28 meetings, you will participate in subsequent monthly discussion meetings.  These discussion meetings will take place on Tuesday evenings @ 7:00-8:30 PM via the Zoom webinar/on-line meeting service.  In a given month, there will be one or two such discussion meetings depending on the breadth of subjects to be covered that month.  During these on-line meetings, we discuss the subjects of the latest reading assignment and discussion questions, and/or the latest quiz including right and wrong answers.   

We are all volunteers and put a lot of time and effort into reading assignments, preparing useful discussion questions and quizzes. By providing them to you in advance, we expect you will come prepared and will actively participate in each discussion meeting.  This is a Program requirement.

Periodic & Seasonal: 

  • Participate in apiary improvement and maintenance activities and, before inspections, water our pollinator-friendly bushes and plants on the berms bordering our apiary

  • Clean hive frames.

  • Help load and unload hive components at the apiary and at our offsite storage and honey extracting location.

  • Help extract honey produced by our colonies. Honey extractions are done on Saturdays and weekday evenings, dates TBD as we have 18 frames of honey to extract.

  • Personally sell 24 half-pound jars of the honey produced by our colonies.

  • Help staff:

    • public honey sales, if and when we have them.

    • educational events, if and when we have and/or participate in them, which typically take place on Saturdays TBD. 

  • As of interest to you, participate in special learning activities which take place on Saturdays, dates TBD. These may include cleaning and preparing our beeswax for future use, making wax foundation, assembling hive boxes and frames, installing our wax foundation into frames, making lip balm, salves or lotions and candles using our wax. 

  • Participate in our January 2021 Program planning meeting & potluck (date TBD).

  • In February and/or March 2021 (dates TBD),  participate in two, online mentor training sessions to help you prepare for beginning Year 2 as an apprentice mentor.  These training sessions will be on how to use HiveTracks and on our mentor teaching points, and will take place on-line via the Zoom webinar/on-line meeting service.

Year 2 - activities & requirements

(April 1, 2021 - March 31, 2022)

Monthly Discussion Meetings:  To cement your learning and help you be a better "mentor," you will continue to participate in the on-line discussion meetings with our new apprentices as described under "Year 1", above.


Hive Inspections & Colony Management:  In partnership with another Year 2 apprentice mentor or returning mentor ("mentor partner"), you will be responsible for managing an assigned honey bee colony.  Our primary objective for our honey bee colonies is always their health and overall well-being.  Honey production is always secondary but frequently tied to colony health.   


You will inspect your assigned colony every-other-Sunday as an "apprentice mentor", and you will actively supervise, guide and engage Year 1 apprentices during inspections. You will timely enter inspection observations, actions, conclusions and “to do’s” for your colony into our HiveTracks account.  This enables your mentor partner and others to be timely informed of your colony’s development and needs and will enable you to understand the changes to your colony as a "super-organism" through the seasons. 

Periodic & Seasonal: 

  • All the same "Periodic & Seasonal" activities & requirements listed under "Year 1", above, including the January 2022 Program planning meeting & potluck.

  • Read the prior 2-3 HiveTracks inspection reports for your assigned colony before you arrive at the apiary to mentor an inspection.  Before inspections begin, you will present to the group a brief overview summary of the status of your colony and the specific objectives for the inspection about to take place.

  • Timely communicate and collaborate with your mentor partner regarding colony management issues and decisions via your HiveTracks inspection reports and/or outside those reports via telephone or email.

  • Do research and refresher reading:

    • to learn or re-learn information you were unable to provide to a Year 1 apprentice during an inspection, and

    • regarding specific colony management issues that arise so you and your mentor partner can make informed, science-based colony management decisions. 

  • As of interest to you: 

    • Co-lead a monthly discussion meeting session for our Year 1 apprentices.

    • Co-organize and co-lead a special learning activity for Program participants. 

    • Co-organize and co-lead a special project or activity, including a public educational event.

    • Take a leadership role for some part of the Program.

Application & Important Dates

 *Mark your calendar now!

Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program Applications are now open. For convenience below are important dates through May 2020, all of which are required of each new Year 1 apprentice.

  • Tues February 25:  The deadline to submit your Application per instructions on the Application. 

  • February 26-March 2:  You will need to be available for up to two telephone interviews/discussions in order to complete the application process. 

  • March 3:  You will be informed by this date whether you are admitted to the Program and, if you are accepted, provided with various Program documents ("Admission Documents") via email. 

  • Saturday, March 7 (10:30 AM - 3 PM):  You will have read the Admission Documents emailed to you. You will attend your first meeting at a San Francisco location TBD.

    • We will review Program participation requirements, expectations, scheduling and Admission Documents, and you will sign and turn in those documents needed to be signed.  You will receive your first reading assignment and discussion questions. 

    • We will cover purchasing required protective clothing and beekeeping tools, the required book and reading schedule. You will have the opportunity to try on bee suits so you know what size to order. 

    • We will have a "show & tell" of hive equipment, use of beekeeping tools, ergonomics, inspection basics and terminology.

    • Following this meeting, you will have:

      • 2 weeks to purchase your book and complete the first reading assignment.

      • 4 weeks to purchase your own protective clothing, smoker and hive tool.

  • Saturday, March 28 (10:30 AM - 2:00 PM):  You will have completed the first reading assignment, and you will participate in your first discussion meeting (in-person) at a San Francisco location TBD.  

  • Sunday, April 5 (11:30 AM - 3 PM):  Bring your beekeeping items to the apiary for your first hive inspection (weather permitting) under the guidance of an apprentice mentor or returning mentor   

  • Sundays April 12, 19 & 26 (11:30 AM - 3 PM):  You continue with weekly hive inspections, weather permitting. 

  • Sunday, May 3  (11:30 AM - 3 PM):  Your every-other-Sunday hive inspection schedule begins unless this schedule is delayed (due to weather during April) until you have 4 inspections under your belt.


2020 will mark the beginning of our 8th beekeeping apprenticeship program!  Read what some of our past and current participants are saying about their experience in our program.

Kevin L, Berkeley

2017-2019 Program graduate

Returning Mentor, 2019:

Being in the Program has given me the knowledge, skills and confidence to set up my own hives and become a successful beekeeper.  It introduced a whole new community of awesome people into my life, and furthered my connection with the natural world.


The Program is no small time commitment but it is worth it. You get both "classroom" and hands-on practical experience on a regular basis and you can't get this anywhere or, if you can, you’d pay a lot of money. I took the  California Master Beekeeper Program (CAMBP) Apprentice level written and field tests in September 2019.  I was well-prepared and easily passed the tests. 


Some people like to garden. Others like to keep backyard chickens or rabbits. I prefer to keep honey bees. Unlike gardening, you don't get your hands dirty. Since you don't do your hive inspecting  until conditions are bright and sunny, it is perfect for a non-morning person like me.  


I also find that beekeeping is very meditative. Looking through a colony of honey bees helps me quiet my mind, almost like doing tai-chi. All that matters in the moment are myself and the sights, sounds and smells of the bees.


Being in the Program started a lifelong passion. I hope to continue to serve as a mentor for future aspiring beekeepers.


Sarah M, Alameda

2018-2020 Program graduate

Returning Mentor, 2020:

Being involved in the Program has helped to solidify my interest and general knowledge of bees in coastal California.  The Program has curated a community of like-minded individuals who are engaged in newly-emerging science around honey beekeeping as well as the historical perspective.  I have enjoyed my experience reading, researching, discussing, and inspecting with a group where no question is silly, and Program participants are excited to share and expand their own knowledge about the subject matter of bees!  My participation in the Program enabled me to easily pass the California Master Beekeepers Program, Apprentice Level, with flying colors in September 2019.


As a first-year apprentice, it was a beneficial experience to work with second-year mentor-apprentices and returning mentors. It greatly informed how I have behaved as a second-year mentor-apprentice and how I will engage in my third-year as a returning mentor and beyond. 


Thank you to SF Bee-Cause for contributing to my lifelong learning, my continued love of bees and pollinators, as well as continually engaging my brain with new and interesting information.



Selena F, Oakland

2018-2020 Program graduate:

Becoming part of the SFBC Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my path of supporting sustainability and land-based resilience in the Bay Area.  With 2 years of hands-on beekeeping apprenticeship and mentoring under my belt, I’m confident in my ability to effectively share my knowledge with members of my community, and to manage honey bee colonies for health, pollination and honey production.


Upon completion of my second year on March 31, 2020, I plan on tapping the modular, focused approach of the SFBC Program to support educational programming for multi-generational families in my immediate neighborhood in Oakland.


Roxane G, Long Island NY (formerly San Francisco)

2013-2015 Program graduate: 

I really enjoyed my time in the apprenticeship program as I was able to learn so much about these amazing creatures. Still to this day, I love sharing what I learned in the program with friends and family. One of the things I loved about the program was spending time and learning with new people while building wonderful relationships with my fellow apprentices. Some of my fondest memories were of sharing a snack with my hive partner after inspecting our colony and taking notes about what we learned about our colony that week. We both particularly enjoyed doing our hive inspections at the same time other teams were inspecting their hives in the apiary. We were able to learn what was happening inside other hives – what was the same, similar or different due to colony differences.


The time commitment of the program is significant but worth it. It is very important to see and feel what is going on inside different hives over the course of two years. You learn so much by looking for the queen, finding her or not, looking for eggs and brood in various stages of development, assessing food stores and the health of the colony while looking for pests and diseases. The program teaches you available IPM remedies and best practices.  I highly recommend it!


Kasey W, San Francisco

2014-2016 Program graduate

Returning Mentor, 2016-2018:


The San Francisco Bee-Cause beekeeping apprenticeship program was way more valuable of an experience than I ever could have imagined. As a garden educator and science teacher, I am always looking for ways to deepen my connection to and understanding of the natural world. Through the program, I became an experienced and confident beekeeper, but I also gained more insight into San Francisco's ecology and my place within it.

The program provided hands-on experience on hive inspections, honey harvesting and extraction, and preparing beekeeping equipment. It also provided readings and research on practical honey bee biology and the nuances of colony development and management through the seasons over two years. I especially appreciated having different mentors for the first year to guide me, and then growing into the mentor role myself--you do learn the most when you teach others!

The program also is unique in the opportunity work with multiple hives. Most beekeepers initially keep 1 maybe 2 hives, whereas we experienced up to 7 different colonies over a 2-year period, exponentially increasing our exposure to potential issues a honey bee colony might experience.

As a result of participating in the program, I gained enough experience and confidence to start a successful beehive in a middle school that is still buzzing today. The program connected me with new and existing friends with similar passions, a sense of stewardship for the place I live, and an even deeper reverence for the amazing world we call home. I highly recommend the program!




Lauren Chandrika L,  San Francisco

2015-2017 Program graduate

Returning Mentor, 2017-2019: 


My participation the beekeeping apprentice program prepared me for having my own hives. The program teaches colony beekeeping inspection skills as well as colony management through different seasons. Having the opportunity to develop hands-on skills with individual attention and mentoring was incredibly valuable. The emphasis on honey bee biology and discussion of different situations within the apiary gave me a well-rounded education that complemented my hands-on experiences.  Beekeeping in a group also provided ongoing bonds of support and friendship for which I am grateful.


The 2-year commitment was useful as there is so much to learn about honey bees and colony management, and the scheduled commitment provided consistency.  After graduating from the program, I continued my participation for another two years as a “returning mentor.” Through that additional opportunity -- to continue to share with others my knowledge and experiences – further reinforced my knowledge, skills and mentoring abilities.  


I recommend the program.  It provides a unique learning opportunity that will give you all you need to continue beekeeping with skill and confidence.

San Francisco Bee-Cause

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