There exists no written word that can replace the sound, feel, and the smell of a healthy hive. 


VBA Training Program 2020


 Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 10,000 years ago. (1) These ancient beekeepers transferred their beekeeping knowledge to new beekeepers helping them to be successful in managing bees. Informally, some Vermont beekeepers have kept this practice going with the training of new and eager beekeepers. These “mentors” over the years have been willing to pass down their knowledge and experiences to a succeeding generation. The Vermont Beekeepers Association has also played an integral part in the training of many new beekeepers. The form has been in academic settings and with hands-on volunteer-run in hive workshops. These mentors are invaluable in maintaining productive new beekeepers and in helping them to keep healthy honeybees. The 2018 mentoring program was informal and not necessarily managed or promoted. During the 2018 season, the VBA will introduce a new formal mentoring program with the expectation of setting a foundation for training and learning that will lead towards VBA certification and one that will endure for the decades ahead. 2018 performed generally well with much learned. The 2020 program expects to pare down the number of mentees based on the results of the 2019 mentee survey. Of the 50 registered mentees, 8 mentees responded to the survey.


Results from the current 2018 and 2019 VBA mentor surveys indicated one particular aspect which needs to be addressed. That is, that some mentees seemed to want the mentor to actually manage their bees instead of the mentee taking a proactive immersive approach.  The expectation is for the mentee to have engaged in a modicum of work prior to the initiation of the mentor/mentee relationship.

One key aspect of this plan is requiring the mentee candidate to have completed some basic preliminary requirements prior to establishing contact with a mentor. These requirements are listed in the body of this outline.

Another key aspect of this plan is the utilization of the VBA webpage to explain the program, run mentor and mentee feedback surveys, provide a website forum for VBA mentors to post their thoughts, ideas, and concerns to only other mentors, to manage registrations for mentors and mentees.

The program shall be managed by the mentoring coordinator, who is designated by the VBA Board of Directors.


                The purpose of the 2020 mentoring program is to provide relatively new VBA member beekeepers direct training to minimize the learning curve, effectively manage costs, instill confidence, and raise healthy honey bees. The goal is that successful mentoring will result in improved Vermont beekeepers leading to new mentors and new VBA certified beekeepers. The mentoring program benefits are listed below:

  • To the beekeeper/mentee
    • It is the hope that successful mentoring will lead to increased beekeeper satisfaction, help to reduce costs, shorten the learning curve, and result in healthier honey bee populations.
  • To the mentor
    • To benefit from a successful mentoring relationship by deriving satisfaction from helping to develop the next generation of beekeepers, to identify and recommend new beekeepers with mentor potential, learning how to use or develop their personal coaching skills, and to become exposed to methods or perspectives that are that they may not have otherwise known.
  • To the VBA
    • To have developed a group of beekeepers that can successfully manage healthy honey bee colonies. To have a group of quality individuals that can represent  the VBA as a premier organization recognized for  well-trained beekeepers
  • To beekeeping in general
    • To develop and produce well trained that can: replicate their successes outside the borders of Vermont, communicate coherently on online forums and maintain the health of their own hives to avoid disseminating pests and pathogens to neighboring beekeepers.
  • The criteria to be a VBA mentor and a mentee?
    • Mentor
      • Should be an experienced beekeeper defined as:           
  • VBA Certified beekeeper or
  • has successfully overwintered a minimum of two hives for two consecutive seasons
    • NOTE: Our hope is that the mentors become VBA certified beekeepers but at the initial outset of the project we realize that not all potential mentors will be VBA certified yet will have sufficient practical beekeeping experience.
  • And/or
    • Any history of coaching, training, or teaching in a professional setting
    • Published in beekeeping related media
    • Willingness to serve.
    • Served on a board or volunteered for other VBA/ Club activities
    • Active in keeping up with new honey bee research
  • Mentee
    • Prerequisite activities
      • A VBA member in good standing.
      • Has honeybees, has honey bees on order or commits to having honeybees by June of the calendar year.
      • Has requested a mentor using the VBA mentor request process.
      • May have taken a basic course in beekeeping (in person or online)
      • Can demonstrate remedial understanding some bee-related topics for example:
        • What are the basic tools
        • How are they used
        • Basic methods for obtaining bees
        • Can install them or explain how to install them
      • Has read 2-3 of suggested books
        • The Backyard Beekeeper
        • The Beekeeper’s Handbook
        • Hive Management by Roger Morse
        • Anything by Richard Bonney
        • Anything by Richard Taylor
        • A book of Bees by Sue Hubbell
        • Honey Bee Democracy
      • Commits to travel to mentor’s yards
        • The VBA expects that at some point the mentor will work the mentees hive(s) but this is the exception. This is to reduce the amount of travel time (assuming the mentor is working with more than one mentee). It also measures the overall commitment of the mentee and allowing the mentee to experience the differences between multiple hives in the same location.
      • Mentees under 18 yrs. of age need the permission of a parent or guardian who should be present during visits to the mentor’s yard.
      • How to be a good mentee?
        • Considerate of mentors time
        • Listens carefully
        • Understands there exist multiple techniques
      • Follows through on recommendations

Mentoring Relationship Process:

The process for establishing the mentoring relationship is as follows:

  • Mentors will be listed on the VBA mentor and new beekeepers' web page tab.
  • Mentees will complete a form requesting a mentor and forward it to the mentoring coordinator.
  • The mentoring coordinator will review the request to ensure the minimum requirements have been met and then based on mentor availability and geography the mentor coordinator will contact the appropriate mentor with the mentees' registration information. The mentor can decline the match.
  • Upon mentor approval of the mentee candidate, the mentoring coordinator will contact both the mentor and mentee acknowledging the match.
  • The mentor and mentee can then initiate the mentoring relationship.


The mentor and mentee will work together to discuss a plan and goals for the season:

  • Tools to help plan the approach to the season:
    • Use the year in the life of a Vermont beekeeper as a guideline for achieving specific and measurable goals.
    • Utilize the Best Practices from the VBA website
  • Based on the discussion they create a list of basic goals for the season to follow and to use for planning.
  • Use the suggested reading materials as reference materials.
  • At the end of two seasons, the successful mentee can describe and answer certain beekeeping related questions and may be ready to complete the VBA certified beekeepers program.
  • A review date(s) for progress measurement with the VBA checking in on a periodic basis.

Becoming a Mentor:

Complete the online mentoring registration form. (Available to VBA Members - Login required.)


The mentor program is in the third year of a developing formal mentoring program. This is a functional trial period designed to work out the quirks, understand nuances, and identify areas of improvement. The hope is to develop within 3-5 years a larger group of trained beekeepers having the skill sets and desire to continue the program. This goal will be achieved by developing and implementing a formal mentor training program, developing improved methods of progress reporting to the VBA, and creating a budget for mentoring related expenses.