Master Beekeepers Exam Study Guides

Below are study guides for the four different areas required for certification. Each area will be tested to see that candidates have the required knowledge and skills needed to demonstrate acumen in beekeeping. These are only guides. Each individual has their own unique way of learning. We recommend that you see the resource guide for more information and if possible team up with another beekeeper if you find that is a help.

Requirements

The written exam will be composed of a variety of questions, i.e. true-false, multiple-choice, fill in the blank, short essays, etc. The questions total 100 points and a passing grade is 85. You will have up to 4 hours to take the exam.

Applicants will be expected to show a reasonable command of the English language. Clear, direct, precise, full-sentence answers are best where appropriate. Handwriting should be readable. Spelling mistakes will not be downgraded but the intended word/meaning should be clear.


The written exam is developed and graded by the Master Beekeeper Advisor with the assistance of Master Beekeeper volunteers.

Some questions, similar to those that might be used, are listed below: 

1.Drone honey bees are normally present in colonies throughout the year. (True or False)
2.Colonies with young queens are least apt to swarm. (True or False)
3.Hairless black syndrome is caused by a: A)·Virus B)·Bacterium C)·Protozoan D)·Fungus E)·Mite
4.What are the primary functions of bees located in the center and on the outer surface of the winter cluster? (2 points)
5.What two factors determine “division of labor” within the honey bee colony? (2 points)
6.What is the primary function of fat bodies in the honey bee? (1 point)
7.What is the best way to remove wax bloom from a candle? (1 point)
8.Describe the Demaree Technique and explain what it is used for. (5 points)

Answers:

1.False, if interpreted as normal. True, there are often a few. Sometimes a comment is justified on T/F tests.
2.True.
3.A) Virus
4.Bees on the winter cluster surface serve as insulators to conserve heat. Bees in the center of the winter cluster generate heat and care for brood if it is present.
5.The “division of labor” within the honey bee colony is determined by the age of the worker bee (gland development) and needs of the colony.
6.Fat bodies function as production and storage sites for reserve food material, chiefly fats, glycogen and protein compounds.
7.Wax bloom can be removed from a candle by wiping the candle with a cloth or warming the candle with a hair dryer.
8.The “Demaree Method” of swarm control separates the queen from the brood. Examine all frames of brood in the colony and destroy all queen cells. Place the queen in the lower brood chamber and all frames of uncapped brood in the upper brood chamber. Capped brood may remain in either the upper or lower brood chamber. Place one or two hive bodies full of empty combs between the original two brood chambers. Place a queen excluder on top of the bottom brood chamber before adding middle supers. In 7 to 10 days destroy any queen cells that have developed in the upper hive bodies.

How to Prepare for the Written Test

Successful completion of the written test demonstrates the equivalent of college-level competence in beekeeping. The test includes both bee biology and beekeeping management, as well as questions about contemporary issues in apiculture. To prepare, you should get a recent comprehensive book on bee biology and another on general beekeeping (see four basic reference suggestions under Resources) and spend 3–6 months studying the material. Checking additional resources to broaden your knowledge of specific topics will be useful as well as going to meetings, reading bee journals, consulting web sources of higher quality and discussing beekeeping with other, experienced, individuals.

Take an Intermediate beekeeping course. It would be a great starting point for more in-depth learning. Most candidates find attending state/regional and/or national bee meetings very helpful as a springboard to fill in blank spots in their knowledge and to remain current about important issues facing beekeepers today. Additionally, using copies of recent exams as practice tests may prove helpful both as a study tool and to become familiar with the types of questions asked.

Some individuals prefer to study alone but an excellent way to gain exposure to information you are not as familiar with would be to find a study partner or study group. Individuals preparing to take the exam have found this throwing out of questions/information in a give-and-take session of several hours or over several sessions has been helpful. You might look for a current EAS Master Beekeeper as a study mentor. Of course, you can cram your studying into a day, week or longer period just prior to the exam but most individuals find that they will retain and understand more if the preparation is done over a period spanning at least several months.

Requirements

In the laboratory examination, applicants will move from station to station where a variety of items, specimens and equipment associated with beekeeping will be displayed. Questions might include identification, context of use, relevant information about what is displayed (control for a disease, for example), and other pertinent information about the item. For example you might be asked what time of year a particular item would be used. Some stations may have only a photo or computer image. There is a four-hour time limit to take the laboratory exam. Passing grade is 85.


The major coverage areas will be:

  • Bee diseases: A Master Beekeeper should be able to identify bee diseases as well as a qualified apiary inspector. It is expected he/she will be able to make a field and/or lab identification of the following: American foulbrood, European foulbrood, sacbrood, nosema, chalkbrood, and chilled brood. A master beekeeper is also expected to correctly identify mixed syndromes such as Bee PMS and CCD and vectors of diseases (varroa mites for example.) Expect several questions on diseases or hive mimics of disease conditions (dysentery for example). Candidates should be familiar with various disease and pest control products and management techniques, even if the products are not used in the candidate’s own operation.
  • Bee pests, parasites, and predators: It is expected that a Master Beekeeper can identify damage by wax moths, small hive beetle, mice and other mammals, bears, pollen mites, minor hive pests, etc., plus have the ability to distinguish the problems caused by pests from those caused by disease/pesticides. Also Master Beekeepers should know reasonable and/or effective controls where applicable for the more serious diseases and pests.
  • Honey and Bee Products: An applicant should know the basics of when and how products are obtained by the bees and when and how and what beekeepers use to harvest them. Standards used in judging of honey and bee products and how beekeepers may negatively affect quality may be included. Understand basics of ripening, storage and harvesting of honey and bee products.
  • Recognition of beekeeping equipment: A great variety of gadgets, implements and hive furniture have been developed. Some of these are valuable implements and useful in specific instances but some are not. It is not expected that a Master Beekeeper would be familiar with all the possible equipment and tools but they should know the major items, what purpose they may serve or facilitate and any special virtues/issues they might have. Approximate costs should be known for the basic hive and accessories.
  • Queen rearing: Applicants should be able to indicate the proper age larva for grafting and to recognize the basic procedure used by bees and beekeepers to produce new queen(s). Additionally, they should be familiar with the various tools beekeepers use in queen rearing.
  • Plants for bees: Identification of minor local honey plants will not be required. However, applicants should be familiar with the major plants bees pollinate as well as major plants useful to yield surplus honey.

How to Prepapre for the Lab Exam 

Candidates should be familiar with diseases, pests, unhealthy bees, and unhealthy colony conditions and know about emerging disease/pest issues. You might shadow a bee inspector, if one is available in your area, or a commercial beekeeper for a day to see diseases and unhealthy conditions or arrange for some special tutoring in their office/lab. Examples of disease on the test may be ‘fresh’ (taken from a colony within the last couple of days) or may be removed from a freezer. You should know characteristics of both. In five years (minimum of experience required of a candidate for EAS Master Beekeeper), you will likely not see all the diseases bees may contract so you have to be sure you do see and experience them.

Another major test emphasis is on bee equipment. You should review carefully one or more of the free bee supply catalogues to get an idea of what is available, specialty equipment uses and how much items cost in a general sense (It may have been awhile since you have purchased equipment of your own.) Cruise the vendors at a major meeting and ask questions about equipment. Building your own equipment is a great way to gain understanding of equipment. Questions are not merely on identification but might also include use (where, when, how and why). Do not neglect the specialty items that some beekeepers like to use and the ‘newest,’ most practical gadgets being used by some (feeder/winter moisture reducer rims, feeders, shims and spacers, top bar & Warré hives, queen rearing implements, propolis collectors, etc).

The honey bee is but one social insect. Master Beekeepers must know and be able to differentiate/recognize other bees, wasps, and insect look-alikes sometimes confused for a bee (such as flower fly) or sometimes found in a beehive. Know the basics of honey bees’ and related insects’ nests and diseases. Be able to identify the distinguishing characteristics of other honey bees and how to differentiate them from Apis mellifera. Know the basic bee races, where they were originally found and the major pros and cons of the bee races in common use today.

We harvest a number of products from honey bees, not just honey. For the principal product honey, know what constitutes quality and how beekeepers may negatively influence final preparation for sale or home use. Know and recognize preparation and uses of the other products and services of honey bees, such as propolis or pollination. An opportunity to judge a honey show or shadow a honey show judge could be useful exam preparation.

Oral Exam Protocol

The EAS Master Beekeeper certification program is a rigorous, four-part examination of a candidate’s knowledge of honey bees and beekeeping.    The Oral Exam portion of this testing looks at a candidate’s ability to communicate their knowledge of honey bees accurately and positively. Master Beekeepers are teachers and it is critical that they be able to “stand and deliver” under virtually any circumstance. They provide education and support for other beekeepers and serve their communities as experts in beekeeping.

In the Oral Exam, the examiners create an environment that simulates real life for a Master Beekeeper. One part of the testing is to ask the candidate to prepare a presentation on a topic which is given to the candidate by the Certification Committee one month prior to the conference.  This tests the candidate’s ability to discuss beekeeping as they would to a town planning board, bee club, or other organization where they are able to prepare in advance.  In addition, the candidates are given three impromptu questions to answer during testing.  These are questions which might be asked of the beekeeper in a variety of venues,  including in front of a TV camera or during a radio interview.

Each MB candidate is tested by a panel of three examiners. The candidate has 5 minutes to give their prepared talk, with a few minutes after for follow up queries, simulating a “real” audience. Props such as posters, handouts, or computers with PowerPoint presentations are permissible and encouraged for this portion. In each of the three impromptu questions, the candidate is allowed 3 minutes for the answer.  The entire interview is recorded.

The examining panelists complete an evaluation form that evaluates the potential new Master Beekeeper’s accuracy and completeness, delivery and presentation, ambassadorship, preparedness and listening skills. Each question is worth 25 points; the candidate must earn a score of 85 or higher from two of the three examiners in order to pass. Constructive comments as feedback complete the form, which candidates receive for their personal review when they receive their test results later in the conference week.

The testing of a Master Beekeeper is a learning process whether the candidate is successful in passing or not.  It is not unusual for a candidate to pass only a portion of the four exams on the first try.

The Oral Exam is an opportunity to let a candidate’s knowledge and confidence shine. A Master Beekeeper will represent the beekeeping industry to the public and press, and bears a weight of responsibility to educate beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike. We have found the best way to prepare for the oral exam is by studying sample questions and practicing with fellow beekeepers. Here are two sample questions with suggested responses.:

Sample Question 1: You are a Master Beekeeper selling your hive products at a local farmer’s market. Booths on each side of you are full of perfect flowers and plants. A customer making a purchase from you compliments your products and identifies themselves as a member of a garden club. This person really wants to help honey bees, but is afraid that it means they will not be able to treat their carefully tended garden or fruit trees for pests or diseases. How can they do both? In your 3-minute response you might point out how the neighbor should approach pest and disease control with some specific examples. Following labels and adjusting spay applications for pollinators are important to include in your response. Other points that might be included:

  • Treat only when necessary, when pests are seen in damaging amounts ~ don’t practice prophylactic treatments.
  • Follow pesticide label directions/don’t over-treat.
  • Treat when bees aren’t flying (later in the day/early evening or after dark)
  •  Mow understory of fruit trees and between vegetable rows before spraying to remove any flowering plants/weeds that bees might visit.
  • Treat for diseases early in the season, before bloom attracts bees to the plant.
  • Explore options from companies that develop products that are safer for people and pollinators.
  • Don’t use long-lasting treatments with residues that will remain in the soil.

Sample question 2: When individuals learn you are a beekeeper they are likely to ask: “How are the bees doing?  Why are the bees sick/ dying? I keep hearing about this neonicotinoid chemical that is killing bees and maybe even leading to Colony Collapse Disorder.  It sounds like the experts have found the answer. What do you think?”

In a 3-minute response acknowledge the sincerity and importance of the question:

  • Thank you for your interest in how the honey bees have been doing. Without our honey bees we would lose so much essential pollination of our fruits and vegetables.
  • We know some reasons that bees are sick/dying, such as diseases, mites and pests and nutrition/loss of forage. It seems there is no one single factor for their demise.

Since this question had multiple thoughts expressed it is important to try to respond to each of the points asked. As to the question about neonicotinoids and CCD you might say:

  • Pesticides in general and neonics in particular are much debated subjects. Some researchers suggest they have little effect on bees, while others suggest they have subtle sub-lethal effects. Evidence suggests a link between CCD and neonics, as well as a serious bee pest the varroa mite.
  • Suggest there are no definitive answers but studies are seeking to help us keep our bees healthy.

Engage with others and you will have no trouble engaging the 3-member panel on the EAS Oral Exam.


How to Prepare for the Oral Exam

The EAS Oral Exam is about communication. How effectively can you pass your knowledge and bee skills on to another person? Once asked a question, take a few seconds to organize your thoughts, jot down the major points you want to cover and the supporting facts you will use to weave an informative, forceful response in the allotted time. The time will fly by quickly. Seek to include an introductory sentence, your major points and a concluding sentence. Do not recite fact after fact but try to include relevant information that is appropriate for your audience. Present your comments in an interesting and engaging manner.

A good method to prepare is to ask a question of a beekeeper, say at your local association meeting, and listen to how they respond. Do this several times to different individuals and analyze which answers were more effective and, just as importantly, why they were effective responses. Volunteer to serve as respondent for a Question & Answer session at your local bee group or listen to those who do such Q&As. Seek feedback. If such an opportunity is not available, get some beekeeping friends together and organize your own session – respond to 4-5 questions (using the example questions above, adding others) and ask for feedback from those listeners. Repeat this – practice will give you confidence and the opportunity to sharpen your oral responses.

YOU MUST be fully prepared for the 5-minute presentation. The prepared talk must be complete in and of itself. It is NOT an introduction to or a segment of a longer talk. Practice this talk with an audience or in front of a mirror. Five minutes (300 seconds) goes by very fast. Have your visual aid(s) ready and use them. Keep it lively and interesting and DO NOT exceed the time allotted. Practice getting several major points on each question across to listeners. Practice before friends, family members or in front of a mirror and time your comments. Jot down your major points and glance at them to stay on track. Avoid sidetracking, keep on topic and make what you want to say on the topic be of importance. Practice will make it better. Ask the listener(s) for feedback—did they understand your major points, did it make sense, did it answer the question?

Engage with others and you will have no trouble engaging the 3-member panel on the EAS Oral Exam.


Field Exam Protocol

  • Candidates will be graded on their ease and familiarity with colony examination techniques and on their responses to questions asked by the Master Beekeeper examiners. A score of 85% or better is required to pass the field exam.
  • A candidate should come properly attired for colony inspection with his/her own veil, smoker, smoker fuel, lighter for the smoker and a new (unused) hive tool. Candidates who do not normally use smokers must nonetheless be familiar with their use.
  • The exam will consist of having the candidate open one or more beehives. Proper approach, method of opening, use of equipment, examination and closing of the hive is expected. The candidate is expected to inspect and evaluate the colony, especially as to the amount and condition of brood, food, health, strength, caste members and evidence of past and present colony conditions. In short, the candidate should confidently handle each colony examined and be able to assess its condition and make recommendations for appropriate management. Questions regarding hive condition, pieces of equipment, proper use of hive accessories, and colony care may be asked by the examiners during the testing.
  • Candidates should also expect to answer questions about normal colony inspection, care, and under what conditions and time of year certain manipulations (e.g. checking for queen cells, making divides, etc.) should be performed and how to complete such manipulations.

Use of gloves is strongly discouraged except under special circumstances, e.g. skin allergies, severe weather conditions, defensive colonies, etc. If you wish to wear gloves only new disposable gloves will be permitted in the apiary

How to Prepapre for the Field Exam

The best preparation for the field exam is practice, practice, practice. In your practicing, consider being a mentor—all clubs are looking for volunteers to help the ‘newbees.’ By helping others, you will perfect your own skills—what better way to show you know than to teach others?

Join an expert, such as an apiary inspector if your state/province has one, as he/she inspects colonies. This will also provide an excellent opportunity to learn about diseases and pests (see study notes under the lab exam) while observing and learning from an expert. Ask the expert to critique your hive handling skills—a good way to learn is by listening to what others have to offer on how you do things. Demonstrate your hive opening and explanation technique with the expert and have him/her critique your inspection. Volunteer for your bee day/open hive event (if your club or association has one) or start one at your own apiary. You will also be developing the ideals and objectives of an EAS Master Beekeeper by teaching and guiding others. Demonstrate your technique and have others do the same, comparing your inspection with that of others. Enjoy your bees and learn from them. Hive inspection is a two-way communication between you and your bees. Come to the EAS Master Beekeeper Field Exam prepared to show you ‘know your stuff.’