Bee Veterans

University of Minnesota Bee Veterans

The University of MN Bee Lab provides free beekeeping education for Minnesota Veterans through our Bee Veterans program. Bee Veterans fosters community through hands-on beekeeping training, while promoting the recreational and professional benefits inherent in working with honey bees.  

Bee Veterans was founded in honor of Veteran and beekeeper Michael Roche. His strong belief in the therapeutic benefits of beekeeping for returning Veterans inspires us to provide the materials and training necessary to make beekeeping an integral part of Veterans’ lives. Read this article about the Lt Col Michael Roche, the inspiration for the Bee Veterans program. The Bee Veterans program is a partnership of the UMN Bee Squad and the Metropolitan Airports Commission. The Bee Veterans Apiary is located near the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.

2024 Beekeeping for Veterans Programs

The Beekeeping for Veterans program is for MN Veterans with any level of beekeeping experience (including no experience). Bee veils and bee jackets will be provided for participants to wear during workshops, although participants may choose to wear their own protective equipment. Participants are required to wear face protection (bee veil or jacket), long pants, and closed-toe shoes in the apiary.

Register for 2024 Beekeeping for Veterans Sessions

In-person workshops in our Bee Veterans apiary near the MSP airport

Each workshop includes time to suit up and enter the apiary, instruction on basic and advanced beekeeping techniques, and tips on seasonal bee management. At each workshop we will also focus on one of our senses, and techniques and technologies that may strengthen those senses and abilities. We will also deepen our knowledge of honey bee biology and our connection to these incredible pollinators. The workshops are free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required. Participants must be 18 years or older.

Open House at the Bee Lab

To wrap up the 2024 beekeeping season, we will host an Open House at the Bee Lab on the University of MN St. Paul campus. Veterans are invited to bring their families, children, and friends to take a tour of the Bee Lab, sample honey from the Bee Vets hives, and participate in pollinator education activities. Pre-registration is appreciated, but not required. The Open House will be held on Sunday, October 13, 1:00-4:00pm.



For updates on future classes and programs subscribe to our newsletter


Ben Ziegler gained an interest in aiding pollinators through years of gardening and habitat restoration. He transitioned out of the USAF in 2012, and currently aids the Spivak Honey Bee Lab, the Bee Squad, and Bee Veterans program in research and bee/plant maintenance. He spends his free time tinkering with trap crops, grafting stone fruit trees, and honing his caveman-medic skills.


Joshua Muñoz transitioned out of the Marine Corps in 2014. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelors in Agriculture Communications & Marketing and a Masters in Agriculture Education. He now works as an Agricultural Teacher at Como Park Senior High School. Josh has been working with the Bee Squad since 2018. 



Jessica Helgen is the Bee Squad Program Director. She began working for the Bee Lab in 2006 and was one of the founding members of the Bee Squad. Jessica developed the Bee Squad Mentoring Apiary program in 2015 and loves teaching new beekeepers about gloveless beekeeping. 




Dr. Katie Lee

Dr. Katie Lee is the University of Minnesota Apiculture Extension Educator and MN Co-coordinator for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant program. She started working at the Bee Lab in 2005. Katie received a MS and PhD specializing in honey bees. She traveled the U.S. assessing beekeeper colonies, and kept >200 colonies for a project on the benefits of pollinator plantings. 


Heroes to Hives Online Beekeeping Course

If you are a US Veteran and interested in comprehensive beekeeping instruction through an online self-paced course, then consider registering for the Michigan Food and Farming Service free Heroes to Hives course. The University of Minnesota Bee Squad is partnering with Heroes to Hives to offer local beekeeping support for Minnesota Veterans.

Please check out the Heroes to Hives site for more information!


Heroes to Hives logo


This work is supported by the Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans grant, award no. 2021-77028-35274 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.