Georgia Master Beekeeper Program
Master Craftsman Beekeepers
The Master Craftsman certification represents the pinnacle of achievement in the Georgia Master Beekeeper program. Individuals achieving this rank have distinguished themselves as extraordinary practitioners of the craft of beekeeping, as well as credible spokespeople on the scientific approach to solving beekeeping problems and understanding bees as crop pollinators and members of natural ecosystems.
Master Craftsmen represent an idealized outcome of the continuing education model within the context of a public university. They are articulate, knowledgeable, and experienced in a variety of contexts. To achieve this level, in addition to holding all preceeding ranks, individuals must be intimately involved in a university-supervised research project, sit for a rigorous oral exam with PhD-level examiners, and exhibit a broad range of practical and theoretical knowledge on all aspects of bees and beekeeping. With criteria this high, it's no wonder that their numbers are few!
Bill Owens, native of Georgia, grew up around honey bees as a child. He loved nature and the outdoors. After a serving in the U.S. Navy, Bill settled in Monroe, Georgia and he started keeping bees of his own. Bill also joined the Monroe City Fire Department where he quickly moved up in the ranks. In 2000, Bill converted his small single hive hobby into a successful sideline business with over 100 colonies called Owen Apiaries. In addition to honey production, Bill owns and operates Georgia Bee Removal, a subsidiary of Owens Apiaries. Georgia Bee Removal is a company that removes honey bee colony infestations, as well as other insects such as yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets, from homes and businesses around the state. From 2004 to 2006, Bill assisted with field research at the University of Georgia honey bee lab.
Bill earned his AAS in Fire Science Technology at Lanier Technical College in 2005 and BS in Fire Science Management from American Military University in 2008. At the same time, Bill was also studying bees. After five years of study in 2006 through the University of Georgia and Young Harris College, Bill earned the certification and title Master Craftsman Beekeeper. Bill is the first beekeeper in Georgia to earn the highest certification in this trade. It is a title which he alone still holds as of today. Bill’s work is published in multiple news and magazine articles. He has honey bee research published in Apidologie, the leading journal devoted to bee science. In 2011, he co-wrote and published his first book on honey bee removals Bee Removal: A step by step guide. Bill does consulting work and speaking engagements on honey bees, bee safety, and the bee industry in general. He is a member of the Georgia Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) Committee and one of the leading developers/presenters of the training for public safety personnel in the state for the response of AHB stinging incidents. In his spare time, Bill teaches core curriculum of fire science at Georgia Piedmont Technical College (Formally Dekalb Tech) and is an continuing education instructor for North Georgia Technical College in their newly developed Basic Beekeeping program. He also designs websites and is the web master of the Georgia Beekeepers Association.
Bill has served in many leadership roles within the honey bee industry to include Chairman of the Eastern Piedmont Beekeepers Association, President of the Georgia Beekeepers Association, and Vice President of the Eastern Apicultural Society. Bill earned the Walton County Public Servant of the year in 2006 and City of Monroe Firefighter of the Year in 2003. His other roles at Monroe City Fire Department have included City Fire Inspector, Chief of Training, and Public Information Officer as well as the Chairman of the Walton County Local Emergency Planning Committee.
Bill is an entrepreneur, author, instructor, firefighter and beekeeper who enjoys the simple life with his wife Lisa, their dogs and acres of bees. Bill and Lisa hope to build a small house on their 10 acres of land in Morgan County, where they can have their own homestead.
In 2002 I planted a small fruit orchard on my property. Naturally I wanted some bees to pollinate the trees, so I cleaned up some empty beehive equipment that had been in storage in my in-laws barn and the next spring I began catching my first swarms. I initially had little practical knowledge about bees, but I found and latched onto an excellent mentor in my area, learning all I could. It turns out I had a knack for the bees and my knowledge and experience with these insects has expounded. The more I learned about bees, the more I realized I did not know. I began to search for a Master Beekeeper program and was delighted to find Young Harris Beekeeping Institute. I have to admit my love for the Appalachian Mountains biased me a little in my decision to select the Young Harris program, but I have never regretted it. I also take advantage of learning all I can at the USDA Bee Lab in Baton Rouge.
I started my beekeeping journey with two caught swarms, and now I manage about 50 hives. In 2006 I began assisting a commercial beekeeping family with queen rearing and have now expanded to raising queens in my own apiary, focusing particularly on selecting for hygienic behavior, honey production, and gentleness. In the spring of each year I have mated queens available from VSH and Minnesota hygienic stock.
Keeping bees has become a family adventure. We home school and my three sons all have their own hives (at their request) from which they sell their own honey and bees. They also are an invaluable help when I go speak at children’s groups and schools. Keeping bees has been an excellent way to teach first hand the importance of bees in our ecosystem, science (biology and microbiology), stewardship, and entrepreneurship. Many groups have made the field trip to my apiary to learn more about these wonderful creatures and I have been invited to speak by many different organizations hungering to know more about bees.
I am currently President of Hill Country Beekeepers, serve on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Beekeepers Association, and am a member of American Apitherapy Society and Monroe’s Herb Society. I sell queens, nucs, raw local honey, and beeswax. I mentor new beekeepers each year and am available for speaking engagements. I enjoy speaking on all beekeeping subjects, but have most experience in queen rearing, beginning beekeeping basics, Africanized honey bees, and Apitherapy.
1498 Mock Road
West Monroe, Louisiana