Jacob Wustner ’08, who majored in environmental studies at Northland, is taking his natural, organic beekeeping skills to a larger audience, teaching a popular online beekeeping course through Organic Life Guru.
In Bee Keeping 101: Organic, Natural, Traditional, Wustner instructs on topics ranging from honey bee biology to caring for the hive to harvesting honey, including feeding only pollen and honey and avoiding all plastic and treatments.
The course was filmed over an entire summer at the hive to show students how the season affects what bees do.
“A lot more people are trying to be organic beekeepers,” says Wustner. “They try to be hands-off, which is okay in some respects, but until you get your hands dirty and get inside the hive, you really don’t know what’s going on.”
As a second-generation beekeeper, Wustner learned beekeeping growing up in Missoula, Montana. He now lives in Stevensville, Montana, and owns Sapphire Apiaries, where he applies permaculture principles—self-sufficient, sustainable agricultural practices—to produce honey bee products, mushrooms, and produce. He is currently working to breed disease-resistant honey bees.
The professional beekeeping world is small, Wustner says, and most of the beekeeping newcomers are backyard hobbyists. “Beekeeping, like other forms of agriculture, has become so dependent on chemicals. I’m teaching to carry on the tradition of chemical-free beekeeping that’s been lost in the last thirty years.”
His online course has proved so successful that Wustner hopes to offer intermediate and advanced courses in the future. He has also started a new endeavor, milking cows at a biodynamic dairy and learning that aspect of farming. “I’m always going to be into bees,” he says, “but I’m getting into different types of permaculture and agriculture that I might want to do someday.”
Photo taken by Shannon Holmes ’09, Wustner’s partner and fellow Northland College graduate.