Mentorship Program

Mentorship Program

Goal of Mentorship Program

The principal goal of the Mentor Program is to support ongoing beekeeper education.  Hands-on, individualized experience with a mentor is the best way to consolidate learning from a beekeeping course and sharpen your practical skills.

The Mentor Program Volunteer matches Mentors and new beekeepers (“Mentees”).  Whenever possible, matches will be made between Club members who are located in proximity in the Comox Valley and have similar hive types (Langstroth, top bar, etc.). 
Note:  We are currently looking for a volunteer to take on the role of Mentor Program Volunteer.  This will interest members who are good communicators and interested in meeting people.  No beekeeping experienced is required so it’s a great opportunity for NewBees to get involved and connect with other NewBees and seasoned beekeepers!  If you’d like to volunteer or for more information, contact any member of the Executive

As the mentor relationship can require working closely together over open hives, Mentors are asked to advise the Mentor Program Volunteer of the level of protective measures they wish to implement when working closely with a Mentee (i.e. social distancing, masking, vaccine passport, etc.).  Matches will be made accordingly and Mentees are encouraged to respect their Mentor’s stated guidelines and to be as transparent as possible about their own preferences.

Information for NewBees looking for a Mentor

Before asking for a Mentor, you should start have already started learning about beekeeping.  There are lots of resources available, and your mentor is not expected to teach you everything about beekeeping!   It is highly recommended that you take an online or in-person beginner beekeeping course before you ask for a mentor.  Your mentor will expect you to have a basic understanding of the following topics:
– the honey bee lifecycle
– beekeeping management best practices
– the significant threat posed by Varroa destructor
– IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices

1- Start by familiarizing yourself with the existing resources on the Club website: 
NewBee FAQ  
Inspector’s Notes 
Beekeeping Calendar 
– archived meeting minutes (for most meetings, there are usually timely beekeeping tips at the end of the minutes)

2- Complete a beekeeping course.  There are some excellent local (and online) courses and resources available on the Club’s Education page.  Note:  ALWAYS confirm online info with a local, experienced beekeeper.

3- You should also attend monthly Club meetings (last Tuesday of each month) and ask questions during the Tips/Suggestions discussions (usually the last half hour of most meetings).

4- As well, you will want to attend bimonthly NewBee Q&A Zoom sessions (and you can ask for past Q&A Recap notes) as they are intended to help you. 

5- Tips from the North Island Bee Inspector:  “It’s also important to take advantage of the free inspection services offered by the Ministry of Agriculture ( which focus on outreach and education.  Don’t attempt to work in isolation; many times the help may make all the difference in whether your bees thrive and survive.  Go to field days and get together with your neighborhood beekeepers.”

6- You should have completed most of your research on hive types, required equipment and source for bees (nuc or package, local or imported) and be very close to purchasing (or have already purchased) before you request a mentor.  Generally mentors feel that they can be most helpful to you when you are actually “elbow deep” in your own hive(s) and need advice on what you discover.  Their advice is intended to be a complement to your course and other bee education. 

Beekeeping is not a casual, passive activity.  Your bees won’t survive if you just let them “do their own thing” in your back yard (this is actually neglect…NOT beekeeping!).

Be aware of the learning curve – it is very steep and somewhat irregular.  There is a lot to learn, it is not always straightforward, and there is still mystery, controversy, and the unknown to be discovered (beekeeping is a SCIENCE and an ART). 

Beekeepers can be very individualistic, and you will have to navigate (or learn to navigate) varied opinions and the roller-coaster experience of online information.  You will encounter widely differing (possibly conflicting) opinions and advice.  Learn to distinguish between opinion(s), personal preference or style, and science-based conclusions or data.  In beekeeping, there are often several ways to accomplish the same thing; beekeepers may offer advice based on their own management style, practices or goals.  As well, an experienced beekeeper may have different end-goals in mind for specific hives (and if you aren’t aware of those differences, you may not understand the rationale for some management or treatment decisions).  If you aren’t good with ambiguity, or if you need everything in black and white, beekeeping will be an eye-opener for you!

Recognize that sometimes your Mentor may have a clear-cut answer for you, and at other times, there may appear to be too many options.  Develop a good working relationship and respect your mentor’s choices and decisions, as they are based on experience (that you don’t have yet!).  A good mentor will encourage you to ask questions, think critically, try a variety of approaches, and develop methods that work for you and your bees.

Mentees must be CVBC members and are asked to:
· complete a beekeeping course (online or in person) BEFORE asking to be matched with a mentor
· arrange to obtain all your equipment and bees (package or nuc) before meeting your mentor (or as quickly as possible afterward)
· commit to 1 year of participation with the assigned mentor
· register apiary and comply with provincial and municipal requirements governing beekeeping
· attend regular Club meetings and organized field/education days whenever possible
· respect your mentor’s time and privacy, and be punctual when visiting their apiary
· read a variety of books, magazines, and online info related to beekeeping information
· learn what to look for during a hive inspection
· keep beekeeping records for review and learning
· recognize that beekeeping is a lifelong commitment to learning
· contact the Mentor Program Volunteer with any questions or concerns

Information for experienced beekeepers considering becoming a Mentor

Mentors must have a solid, successful background of beekeeping experience (preferably over 5 years).  As a Mentor, you will want to develop a friendly, constructive working relationship with your NewBee (your “mentee”).  You are not expected to maintain your mentee’s hive(s) or teach everything about beekeeping, but you should aim to support your mentee by answering questions and suggesting directions and/or resources for further learning.  You do not need to always have “the answer” – in fact it will help your mentee if you can try to distinguish between what you do (by preference or for specific reasons) and other options that will achieve the same end.  Ideally you will be able to teach your mentee beekeeping best practices as per BC Min of Agriculture guidelines, including IPM (Integrated Pest Management).  Guide your mentee to think critically about new information.  You should not have to spend hours with your mentee, and most communication can be by telephone or email.  Your mentee should visit your apiary, and you can demonstrate, explain and answer questions about your management practices.  Ideally, your mentee will get some hands-on experience under your supervision.  You may choose to visit your mentee’s apiary to give feedback as they begin to put into practice what they have learned.  As a Mentor, please keep the Mentor Program Volunteer informed of progress and if any concerns arise.

Mentors are asked to:
· commit to mentoring for a minimum of 1 year
· initiate contact with your assigned mentee (See First Meeting below)
· invite mentee to watch or participate when working your hives (and ideally visit mentee’s apiary to watch them at work)
· try to respond to your mentee’s questions within 24 hours and make suggestions for further learning
· inform the Mentor Program Volunteer if there are concerns or problems

The Mentor should arrange for a first meeting/conversation with the Mentee and should try to accomplish the following: 
– clarify and agree on any COVID-19 safety measures implemented
– confirm address/location, type/number of hives
– decide preferred contact method and best time(s) for contact
– discuss any time constraints or boundaries
– set up a tentative schedule of important events (arrival of bees/equipment, feeding, first few visits, etc.)
– mention any do’s and don’ts or important personal preferences (on both sides)
– answer any questions the Mentee might have about the working relationship or about bees/equipment, etc.
– set a date for the next contact


As we are currently looking for a volunteer to fill this position, please contact any member of the Executive if you would like a Mentor, or if you would like to volunteer (either as a Mentor or as the Mentor Program Volunteer).

The Mentor Program Volunteer role will interest members who are good communicators and interested in meeting people.  No beekeeping experienced is required so it’s a great opportunity for NewBees to get involved and connect with other NewBees and seasoned beekeepers!  If you’d like to volunteer or for more information, contact any member of the Executive