Andrea Duc’s 2019 Beginners Course

Andrea DucJamie Duc
When my husband and I first thought we’d like to take up bee-keeping we initially went on a one day “taster course” at a local college. Having done that we decided bee keeping was something we’d like to do, but we’d wait until the following year to get some bees. In the intervening time we discovered that the HWBKA ran a beginners course, which took prospective bee-keepers through the whole bee-keeping year. As we were finding the prospect of getting our own bees a little daunting we decided to sign up for the course – and we are very glad that we did! The world of bee-keeping is so much more complex than we ever imagined and we would have been at a total loss without the guidance and support that the course provided.

The course consisted of monthly sessions varying in length, running from March to September and was supported by a useful and user-friendly reference book. These sessions took us through all aspects of keeping bees. For example, it covered: hive building (providing much needed help with constructing a new home for our bees); the tricky issue of swarming; handling bees generally; feeding them and dealing with robbers (of the bee/wasp variety); honey extraction (this was great fun) and preparing for winter. It also held a bee safari, which sadly we missed. The course providers also strongly encouraged those on the course to get their bees as soon as possible and provided useful contacts within the Association who had bees available to buy at competitive prices. We did this and then our bee journey really began.

To support course members once they had obtained their bees the course provided everyone with a “bee-buddy”. I can’t even begin to describe how invaluable this has been to us on our bee journey. Our buddy was always there to support us with queries (no matter how silly) and would come to help us with inspections when we were losing our way a bit. We had a particularly tricky start, as our bees had swarmed before they arrived (so they had no queen) and they were aggressive. Our bee-buddy assisted us with the process of re-queening, which is an amazing thing to do – especially when you have only just got your bees. During that process we then lost a cast of bees, so our bee colony was much reduced and still aggressive. Our hopes of extracting any honey seemed slim at that point and we considered re-queening again due to the aggressive nature of our bees. However, our bee-buddy helped us with getting more suitable protection and, as our confidence developed, we really got into the swing of this fascinating pastime. After much thought we decided to keep our queen as she proved to be an excellent layer and our colony start to grow quickly.

We were delighted to extract 11 pounds of honey in September, despite our tricky start. We could never have achieved this without the advice, guidance and assistance of the committed members of the HWBKA who ran the course. Our particular thanks go to Malcolm Wilkie and our bee-buddy, Peter Coxon, who both shared their experience and time with us extensively. Our thanks go also to Steve and Keith, who supported Malcolm in the running of the course and were also generous with their time and knowledge. And last, but by no means least, we’d like to thank the other members of our bee course WhatsApp group with whom we shared all the ups and downs of our bee-keeping journey.

This was a great course and we highly recommend it to anyone thinking of taking up bee-keeping – you’ll learn a lot, make new friends with a common interest and have a lot of fun along the way. You’ll also be better beekeepers as a result.