In 2018, Oregon State University invited “citizen scientists” to help them collect wild bees for study. Hundreds have answered the call since then. This year, OSU is upping their game by offering those lay people a chance to take an Extension Service course which can certify them as Master Melittologists – like a master gardener, only for beekeepers.
It’s the first program of its kind in the country, and its organizers hope it will inspire similar programs around the country.
Step one is to take the Apprentice Melittologist course, studying the life of bees and how to prepare bees for study. The journey course goes deeper into how to be a melittologist , and the master course teaches the use of a microscope and public outreach to further the bee study program.
There’s a lot of work to do – the Honeybee Lab wants to compile a Bee Atlas of all the wild bee species of Oregon. They estimate there are about 600 of them, but that remains a guess until a lot of work is done by a lot of people.
Store bought honey is made by just one species, Apis Mellifera, introduced to North America by 17th Century settlers. At OSU, study has not been solely focused on Oregon’s major pollinators – honey bees, alfalfa leafcutter bees, orchard mason bees and alkali bees – but on the state’s many wild species as well.
Andony Melathopoulos of the OSU College of Agriculture told KLCC, “We’re really baiting people’s natural interest and giving them another step and another step. They can really become more proficient.”
Another member of the Honeybee Lab, Sarah Kinkaid, told Richards “Andony and I have always believed in providing people with in-depth information and that gets people, I think, more excited, because when it comes to biology and life, the magic is in the details.”
Enrollment for the online course has filled, but anyone interested can add their name to the waiting list.
By: John M. Burt