NC’s new Commercial Beekeeping program driven by growing demand for beekeepers

Environmental Technician student Christine Combe checks out beehives at Niagara College’s new apiary, with the help of Dennis Edell, director of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association.

Environmental Technician student Christine Combe checks out beehives at Niagara College’s new apiary, with the help of Dennis Edell, director of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association.

With a significant and growing demand for highly-trained beekeepers across Canada and around the world, Niagara College has introduced a one-year hands-on Commercial Beekeeping Graduate Certificate program – the first of its kind in Eastern Canada.

The three-semester program will see its first intake of approximately 30 students begin studies at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus in January 2017. With the winter start, the program will run parallel to the normal annual lifecycle of the honey bee, from the winter slumber to honey extraction, to returning the bees to their hives for overwintering.

“Our commercial Beekeeping program is a shining example of one of Niagara College’s key strengths – our ability to work closely with industry to develop high-quality academic programs that respond to specific needs in our community and beyond,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson.

The program is truly hands-on, with an on-campus apiary – with 30 actively managed hives – serving as the centrepiece of the program.

“The need for a skilled labour force to offset the loss of a natural ecological process is significant,” said Al Unwin, associate dean of Niagara College’s School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies. “The development of this program aligns with our overall approach to agri-food, where pollinators are an increasingly important part of a vibrant food system. We’ve worked closely with industry to create a hands-on program that will produce graduates that are knowledgeable, highly skilled and experienced.”

The demand for skilled workers to support the pollination services industry is significant. In its most recent agricultural census, Statistics Canada estimates a need for more than 3,600 commercial beekeepers by 2026.

“I commend Niagara College on the launch of the commercial beekeeping program for our province,” said The Hon. Jeff Leal, Ontario’s minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Training and education are key elements to supporting and improving the health of honey bees in Ontario. Innovative programs like this one play an important role in the future of the apiary sector.”

Niagara College’s program has been in development for four years, in collaboration with the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA), which represents 80 percent of beekeepers in Ontario.

“The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association is particularly pleased to have partnered with Niagara College on the concept and launch of their new Commercial Beekeeping program,” said Tibor Szabo, president of the OBA. “Today’s commercial beekeeper faces many challenges both locally and globally. This is a great first step for anyone thinking of a career in beekeeping.”

The Commercial Beekeeping Graduate Certificate program is a post-grad program open to students with a diploma or degree from an accredited college or university in agribusiness, agricultural sciences, environmental science/resource studies, horticulture or natural sciences, or an acceptable combination of education and experience. Learn more about the program online at

Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Continuing Education courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit

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