Dr. Jennifer Haeger graduated from the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. Since then, she’s had a winding career path, which recently led her to become a master beekeeper through Cornell University.
What initially interested you in veterinary medicine?
My father was a physician in human internal medicine, so I have always had an interest in medicine. I briefly wanted to be a pediatrician, but my love of animals drew me to veterinary medicine— which is pretty close to pediatrics if you think about it!
Can you describe your career path after graduating?
I had a long and winding path after vet school that saw me start, but not complete, a pathology residency at LSU; work for several years at different clinics as a small animal practitioner with a light interest in exotics back in Michigan; become a lab technician at U of M for a few years under a veterinarian; and finally, leave the veterinary profession to receive a master’s degree in forensic science at the University of Auckland. I am currently a full-time fiction writer and beekeeper, though I still keep my veterinary license and veterinary accreditation active in order to be able to administer veterinary care to bees.
Why did you decide to become a master beekeeper?
I have been a board member with the Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers (A2B2) almost as long as I've been a beekeeper and had an amazing first bee mentor, Meghan Milbrath, now an assistant professor with the Department of Entomology at MSU. After becoming more and more involved in beekeeper education over the years and completing several bee schools both online and in-person, becoming a master beekeeper seemed like the next logical step. It was also over COVID, so it could be considered my lockdown project.
Did you learn anything during your time at MSU that helped you with beekeeping?
I was lucky enough during vet school to get a chance to work with Dr. Jim Sikarskie in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine wildlife ward. Working mainly with wild raptors, I feel this experience helped prepare me for the unpredictable field of beekeeping. Also, having learned about the biology and behavior of a number of different species certainly helped me understand the biology and behavior of honey bees better.
Do you have any advice for current veterinary students interested in learning more about beekeeping?
Absolutely! The Veterinary Information Network (VIN) offers several courses on bees and beekeeping, and there is even a veterinary accreditation module on honey bees, which are now considered an important agricultural species sometimes in need of veterinary care. Also, I've seen several honey bee medicine offerings at veterinary conferences in the past few years, and there's always Honey Bee Medicine for the Veterinary Practitioner by Terry Ryan Kane and Cynthia M. Faux. (Terry is a member of A2B2, by the by!) Get involved with your local bee club or online with MSU's Pollinator Initiative – which has just opened up a new building on campus – and check out the tab "Bees Need Vets.” There's also the Michigan State University Beekeeping YouTube channel and Facebook page. I'd also suggest checking out this video on the A2B2 website entitled "So You Want to Be a Beekeeper.” There are already great bee information resources at MSU, but I'd also love to come and talk to vet students about bees or answer any questions they might have: email@example.com.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time, I manage several honey hives with the Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers as well as the A2B2 mentorship program. I also manage the observation hive at Domino's Farms Petting Farm and have my own hives there. When not working with bees, I love to read, hike, and play board games. (One of my latest favorites is called Apiary by Stonemaier Games and is about futuristic space bees!)