BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — As the number of beekeepers in Louisiana decreases, state agricultural leaders are inviting a new generation to learn bee farming in a program geared toward high school students.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) is partnering with high school teachers to offer an apprenticeship in beekeeping to agriculture students. The department said it will sponsor five high school agriculture programs and/or educators with up to $10,000 in resources to set up beehives.

“Bee farming is vital to agriculture and substantially contributes to our economy,” said LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain, DVM. “Honey bees are important pollinators that help sustain the environment, and furthering education around their vital role is imperative for continued preservation.”

The beekeeping program includes two years of beekeeping education in enterprises and how to maintain successful beehives. LDAF hopes to see the one hive successful for over a year at each school and spark an interest in bee farming in a new generation.

Honey bee colonies were reported down 29% in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi on January 1, 2022, for operations with five or more colonies when compared to 2021, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Louisiana honey production in 2021 was reported down 6% by the USDA.

Those interested in joining the program can apply between Oct. 1-22. To view eligibility requirements, click here.