The University of Minnesota Bee Veterans
program provides free beekeeping education for Minnesota Veterans. 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.
2023 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.
Four 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 beekeeping techniques, and tips on seasonal bee management. At each workshop we will also focus on one of our senses and use mindfulness techniques to deepen our awareness 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.
Field Trip to Visit a Commercial Beekeeper
New for 2023! We will be taking a full-day trip on Friday, August 4 to visit Honl's Bees in Winthrop, MN. This trip will include transportation from the Twin Cities, lunch, and a tour of the Honl's commercial beekeeping facility. The Honl's are third generation beekeepers and one of the top honey producers for the Sioux Honey Association Co-op. Edit: Due to safety concerns, this trip will only be available to adult participants.
Open House at the Bee Lab
To wrap up the 2023 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 15 from 1:00-4:00pm.
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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.
Josh 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 manages colonies and collects hive data for the Bee Squad Bee Network program. She is the coordinator and primary instructor for the Mentoring Apiary workshops. Jessica has been keeping bees since 2005 and has worked for the Bee Squad since 2010.
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!