Beekeeping Curriculum and Training for Texas Agricultural Extension Agents and 4-H Youth Leaders

Project Overview

ES20-151
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $79,516.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2021
Grant Recipients: AgriLogic Consulting, LLC; Texas Beekeepers Association; Texas Apiary Inspection Services; Texas AgriLife Extension Service; Mentor Farmers
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Nicole Gueck
AgriLogic Consulting, LLC
Co-Investigators:
Elizabeth "Wizzie" Brown
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Leesa Hyder
Texas Beekeepers Association
Molly Keck
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Ashley Ralph
Texas Beekeepers Association
Mary Reed
Texas Apiary Inspection Services

Commodities

  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, youth education

    Proposal abstract:

    Honeybees are critical to the ag economy and play a major role in sustainability and food production as well as pollinating plant communities. Texas is currently ranked 7th in the U.S. in honey production and there continues to be an increased interest in beekeeping statewide, both in urban and rural areas. This project seeks to transfer the wealth of knowledge and wisdom that currently exists within the beekeeping community itself, into a basic understanding and education of apiculture to the agricultural extension personnel who serve the 254 counties in Texas as well as establish a youth-friendly resource that can be used to mentor and guide the next generation of beekeepers through local 4-H clubs and Youth Beekeeping Clubs. AgriLogic Consulting, in cooperation with Texas Beekeepers Association (TBA), the Texas Apiary Inspection Services (TAIS), Texas AgriLife Extension Service (TAES) and five mentor beekeepers, will seek to resolve this issue by developing a relevant, streamlined curriculum that will be made available free of charge through TAES, intended to serve these targeted audiences and ultimately ensure the sustainability of apiculture in Texas. Project activities will include development of curriculum, marketing of said curriculum, as well as training at three major annual events directed at the targeted audiences. Results will be measured through several evaluations, with a goal of increased beekeeping knowledge at the county extension agent level and more youth beekeepers state-wide.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of this funding request is to ensure that a streamlined curriculum developed by Texas beekeeping experts is available electronically, and free of charge, to better equip those in a position to teach, train and mentor new and youth beekeepers. The curriculum will be made available both on the main Texas AgriLife Extension website, as well as within the 4-H Curriculum website as one of the available 4-H Explore Guides. The long-term objective involves strengthening the apiculture industry in Texas, which in turn strengthens the ag industry as a whole since managed honey bees are the most valuable pollinators in terms of agricultural economics; in fact according to USDA, one honey bee colony is worth 100 times more to the community than to the beekeeper.

    The target audience for this project are (1) agricultural extension agents serving the 254 Texas counties; (2) 4-H extension agents and other youth leaders wishing to offer beekeeping contests, clinics or competition options to their 4-h youth; and (3) existing beekeepers wishing to serve as mentors to youth and new beekeepers.

    The following resources are currently available through the Texas AgriLife Extension website. https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/browse/apps-bookstore-resources-tools/

    This project seeks to add an important resource to the site, both for use by the trainers as well as those seeking to be trained. While much information exists regarding beekeeping in general, the information does not regularly apply to Texas (climate, threats, best practices); there are vast differences of opinion within the beekeeping community which can leave a new beekeeper confused; and format of such information is not always streamlined, organized, electronically available, nor free of charge.  Currently, when questions are received at the local extension office regarding beekeeping, callers are directed to the Entomology department at Texas A&M or referred to one of two IPM agents in the state who work to provide apiculture and related education. Local extension agents also routinely refer inquisitors back to the local beekeeping community because they have not been trained/equipped to answer these questions. Specifically, the project seeks to cut down the number of calls being transferred to the Entomology department and the two IPM agents located in San Antonio and Austin by 50% over a three-year period. This would also mean that there would be a 50% increase in the number of questions being answered at the county agent level.

    This curriculum will also allow 4-H leaders as well as local club volunteers to offer a beginning beekeeping opportunity for interested youth ages 3rd -12th grade and allow them to compete in local as well as potentially district and state contests in the future. Specifically, for 4-H, the goal is to have at least 25 (10%) of the counties in Texas charter a beekeeping club or contest by the end of year 3. According to the Texas 4-H State office, there is currently a Beekeeping Essay contest held annually as well as one youth club in Brazos County which is not officially chartered as a 4-H Club. Outside of that, they are not aware of any other specific youth beekeeping clubs or activities in the state, as part of the 4-H program. An investigation of the existing 4-H curriculum and bookstore found two resources available free of charge through the 4-H website, the first of which is the The Honey Files: A Bee’s Life, an activity books for grades 4-6, published in 2001 by The National Honey Board in Firestone, CO. The second is a six page electronic download describing the process by which flower nectar and pollen become honey in the bee hive, along with the food value of honey and methods of preserving it for best flavor. A chart provides honey equivalents of corn syrup or sugar in recipes, and several recipes are given. We were unable to find any other bee-specific resources from the following 4-H curriculum website at this time, further justifying the need for a streamlined, free of charge curriculum. https://www.agrilifebookstore.org/category-s/1938.htm

    Finally, the curriculum can be used in local beekeeping clubs to guide mentors wishing to start a youth beekeeping club (not part of 4-H), of which there has been increased interest and requests per the Texas Beekeepers Association in recent years.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.