By Savanna Shriver
CNHI News W.Va.
Debbie Martin currently maintains approximately 120,000 bees in the four hives in her garden.
On September 3, she was named a master beekeeper by the West Virginia Beekeepers Association, making her the third female master beekeeper in the state. She has been a beekeeper for almost 14 years and has maintained up to 32 “bee boxes”. In 2020, she was honored as West Virginia Beekeeper of the Year.
To become a master beekeeper, the Monongalia County resident had to go through the three levels of the program, which include a written exam and a practical exam. The first level is the apprentice level, the second is the certified level and the master level is the last. To complete the masters level, Martin gave a presentation on forgiveness, which is where bees get nectar and pollen, at the West Virginia Beekeepers Association fall conference. The conference took place September 9-10 at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center.
Martin has also worked with the East Fairmont High School Beekeeping Club by volunteering and donating supplies to the program. She donated the school’s first bundle of bees, which was historic for the school, said Jamie Ford, a science teacher at East Fairmont High School and an adviser to the Beekeeping Club.
“It was the first time bees had bees. She was with us for the four years the Beekeeping Club fought to have bees on campus. She volunteers her time to help us take care of the three hives on campus. … We really appreciate all that she has done to help us,” Ford said.
Martin helped educate students about the biology of a bee and safety procedures on handling the hive. She keeps track of the queen in the hives by making sure there’s a healthy brood, or eggs and larvae in a hive, whatever it is, and enough food.
She is an active member of the Mon County Beekeepers Association, where she helped coordinate the Beginner Beekeeping Course, as well as many other duties, association president Mike Lamp said.
“She worked very hard and helped a lot of people. At a time when pollinators and pollination education are so important, the dedication shown by these people is to be applauded,” Lamp said.
When not beekeeping, Martin spends time gardening and canning vegetables, sewing, and volunteering with the Marion County Humane Society. She’s been volunteering and spending time with the dogs at the shelter for over a year, which is fun and rewarding, she said.
“My dad was an animal lover, so I thought I had to help. … I love seeing them go, but sometimes I hate seeing them go,” Martin said of dogs when they’re adopted. .
Martin is dedicated to helping as much as she can, in many ways. She often drove over two hours to someone’s house with a queen bee to give her, so she could establish her hive or help her when her bees swarmed out and left the hive.
“I just love the friendship and camaraderie involved. I love meeting and talking with people and sharing our interests and passion for what we do. I love to educate and inform. I constantly offer my services to people Everyone knows I’m just a phone call away,” Martin said.
One of her main missions is to educate and interest more people in beekeeping, she said. She advocates for more people to enroll in the master beekeeper program.
“We encourage people to take the program because, at the very least, it encourages you to be a better beekeeper,” Martin said.