Master Beekeeper Program

We have entered a new era in beekeeping. Diseases and pests have made it undesirable for beekeepers to keep to themselves and remain isolated from others in their region. Working together to keep all of West Virginia’s honeybee colonies healthy is the only practical way we can ensure the health of our own colonies. To this end, it is the mission of the West Virginia Master Beekeeper Program to provide science-based education to our current beekeepers and to develop future stewards and ambassadors for honeybees and beekeeping.

The purpose of this program is to help the individual improve his or her skills and knowledge of beekeeping by testing on a continuous basis, and to increase the effectiveness of the WV Beekeepers Association (WVBA) in providing resources to both the general public and the beekeeping community. This three-tiered certification process is not a requirement for anyone to have honeybees in the state of West Virginia or any other state. The West Virginia Master Beekeeper Program is sponsored by the WVBA and the program director is appointed by the executive board of the WVBA.


Any individual with an interest in honeybees and beekeeping is invited to participate in this program. All examinations will be given within the state. Candidates must have worked with honeybees for a minimum of 4 months to take the Apprentice level test.

Each level has a $5.00 fee for testing with a $3.00 fee for retesting.

Yes you would start at the Apprentice level.  The certifications are sequential. You must have the Apprentice certification to be accepted into the Certified Level program.

Credits can be no more than 2 years old and still count.

True/false, fill in the blank, and multiple-choice questions comprise most the Apprentice and Certified level testing. The Master level test contains the same with the addition of some short essay questions to explain of why something was done, to explain how to do something or to list items pertaining to a situation. The lab questions ask you what an item is and how it is used.


Yes. Each exam will take you approximately 1 to 2 hours to complete.


Certification Levels and Requirements

Designed to give those just starting in beekeeping solid information and support, the primary goal is increasing retention of new beekeepers as they develop confidence in their ability to keep bees. The program seeks to meet these objectives by providing:

  • Opportunities for ongoing education, training, and hands-on experience
  • Coordination of instructors and mentors willing to share their knowledge and expertise through classes and with individual beekeepers
  • Suggestions for public outreach events in meeting program education and service requirements
  • Recommendations of resources, including print, Internet, video, and local beekeeping groups, for ongoing learning
  • An objective means for an individual to evaluate his/her own progress and level of expertise


  1. Four months of beekeeping experience is needed prior to taking practical test.  This may consist of beekeeping in a mentor’s apiary or in their own apiary.
  2. Be a current West Virginia Beekeepers Association (WVBA) member.
  3. Pass a written test which is given at one of the statewide conferences with a score of 80%.
  4. Pass a practical test which is given at one of the statewide conferences with a score of 80%.  The apprentice examination can include but is not limited to describing the physical parts of a beehive (common terms, not regional nomenclature); lighting and properly using a smoker; recognizing the various stages of brood; different castes of bees; and finding or at least describing the queen; differentiating between brood, pollen, and capped honey; recognizing propolis and describing its functions; describing the layout of a brood nest (placement of honey, pollen, and brood).

At this level, the participant builds on the base of knowledge and experience acquired at the initial level. The Certified Beekeeper gains and is able to demonstrate increasing skill and expertise with honey bees and colony management and expands knowledge and understanding of bees and their stewardship. In achieving these objectives, the candidate develops:

  • Increased knowledge of honey bee biology and practical beekeeping
  • The ability to manage a honey bee colony successfully over an extended period of time
  • Knowledge of and ability to use various resources to keep records, gain information, and solve problems
  • The ability to describe the pros and cons of a variety of conventional and alternative colony management practices
  • Exposure to a wide range of education topics
  • Knowledge of contemporary issues regarding honey bees and beekeeping
  • Opportunities to share beekeeping knowledge and skills through service to beekeepers and the public


  1. Three years of beekeeping experience with one year minimum as an Apprentice Beekeeper.
  2. Maintain active membership in the WVBA and maintain a registered apiary in the state of residence at the time of testing.
  3. Pass a written test which is given at one of the statewide conferences with a score of 80%.
  4. Pass a practical test which is given at one of the statewide conferences with a score of 80%. 

In addition to items found at the apprentice level, certified testing will include the following subject areas: seasonal beekeeping requirements; basic history of beekeeping; honey bee biology; identifying basic anatomical structures of a bee and flower; honey production and hive products; pests and diseases (common names, causes and treatments); mite monitoring; queen rearing; identifying honey label errors; and identifying pheromone odors related to bees.

  1. Must perform and be able to document participation in six public service credits.
  2. Submit a log of colony management documenting continuous management activities for 12 successive months. The participant selects the format for his/her log. Although there are numerous ways to document maintenance activities, the log needs to document specific information that includes but is not limited to the following:
  • Date and time of day
  • Weather conditions
  • What is blooming near the hive
  • Description of what is found: for example, brood pattern, bees bringing in pollen, and smell
  • Notes of actions taken: for example, mite counts, medications given, and feeding (what and how)
  • Notes about what needs to be checked, considered, or brought for the next visit
  • Notes of anything unusual or unexpected: for example, too many drones, aggressive bees, and so forth
  • Questions to consider, research or discuss with other beekeepers
  1. Enter a honey show and produce a blue-ribbon quality (score 92 or above) in two different classes. Acceptable Honey Shows: State Fair (WV), Eastern Apical Society, or Fall Meeting (WV), or pre-approved shows.                                                                                                                     — Wax, comb honey, frame of capped honey or crème honey, extracted honey, pollen.
  2. Serve as an apprentice judge at a WVBA honey competition by shadowing a qualified but judge who is not participating in the competition.

To achieve this certification, one must possess the ability to successfully engage in all aspects of beekeeping including fostering in the community an understanding and appreciation of honey bees and beekeeping through mentorship, education, and participation in club and public functions.  In doing so, the Master Beekeeper exhibits skills allowing them to:

  • Have in-depth knowledge of honey bee biology and demonstrate expertise in colony management
  • Engage in ongoing public service activities
  • Present detailed, accurate, clear, and authoritative information to the beekeeping and non-beekeeping public, both orally and in written forms
  • Challenge themselves by developing proficiency in areas new to them
  • Think critically and seek answers to questions or observations using the scientific method
  • Support honey bees and beekeeping at local, state, and national levels


  1. Five years of beekeeping experience with one year minimum as Certified Beekeeper.
  2. Maintain active membership in the WVBA since earning the Certified Level and    maintain a registered apiary in the state of residence at the time of testing.
  3. Pass a written test which is given at one of the statewide conferences with a score of 80%.
  4. Pass a practical test which is given at one of the statewide conferences with a score of 80%.

Advanced level testing will include all the previous level subjects with the addition of scientific names of pests/diseases and honey bee species; pollination; basic native bee information and identification; pesticides; identifying pests, parasites and pathogens including microscopic identification; reading pesticide labels and determining which is the safest to use around bees; identifying several beekeeping items; distinguishing between bees, wasps, hornets and Africanized bees; basic understanding of ripening, storage and harvesting of honey and bee products; and major WV nectar sources.  More emphasis will be placed on short essay answers.

  1. Six additional service credits within a three-year period for a total of twelve credits.
  2. Presentation of a talk on an approved topic. Presentation to the general assembly of the WVBA at a fall or spring conference or at the Honey Bee Expo is preferred although a presentation in a breakout session will be accepted only if prior application and acceptance of the topic is obtained. 
  3. Judging of a WVBA honey competition. Judges may not have an entry in the competition.