After explaining to Bee College 2018 attendees how to split beehives, Rob Horsburgh, 43, demonstrates the steps Friday morning. The event was hosted by the UF IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab and offered a variety of classes on beekeeping.

A new online beekeeping class being offered this spring is the bee’s knees for students with a sweet spot for an unusual hobby. 

Beekeeping II, under the course codes ENY4932 for undergraduates and ENY6934 for graduates, offers more foundational knowledge to beekeeping than its predecessors, Beekeeping I and Practical Beekeeping, said Cameron Jack,  entomology and nematology lecturer. 

“Beekeeping brings people together from all different backgrounds and all walks of life,” Jack said. “It’s not really for people just interested in agriculture.”

Students interested in agricultural fields at land grant universities like UF typically take classes, get internships and then enter the industry, Jack said. 

“Really, nothing exists like that for beekeeping anywhere in the United States, so we’re kind of trying something new,” he said. 

Other new classes are expected to give students more knowledge of beekeeping in hopes of eventually introducing a certificate students can earn, Jack said. A new study abroad program this Summer will focus on beekeeping in Thailand, and a honey bee biology class will be introduced in Fall.   

“We want students to walk away with a piece of paper that says they know how to keep bees and are proficient at doing it,” Jack said. 

Carson Beattie, a 21-year-old UF geology senior, is registered in the new class this semester. Beattie also worked as a teaching assistant for the practical beekeeping class over the Summer. 

“When you really get to work with them hands on, most people are really afraid of them, but it’s actually the opposite,” Beattie said. “They’re really good animals to work with.”

Although Beattie said he is only interested in beekeeping as a hobby, he appreciates its environmental benefits. 

“Agriculturally, some crops, like almonds in California, are 100 percent pollinated by bees,” he said. “Without commercial growers coming in to pollinate the almond crop, we wouldn’t have any almonds from California.”

Beattie also helps at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab testing whether pesticides have an effect on bees drifting to other colonies. To do so, students painted the bees they were testing different colors — all by hand. 

In Florida, there are nearly 5,000 registered beekeepers in Florida. Of those, 10 percent are commercial beekeepers and the rest are hobbyists, Jack said. 

For students who may not have room in their schedules for beekeeping classes, a UF Honey Bee Club is open to all majors. 

“Bees are something for everybody,” Jack said.