Beekeeping Beginners’ Course Program 2022

The High Weald Beekeepers’ Beginners’ Course is designed in 2 parts. Part 1 provides a 2-session classroom/zoom-based introduction and overview to the fascinating world of bees and beekeeping; a session on building hives; and a session in the apiary to meet the bees. This course costs £70.00

Those inspired by Part 1 to go further into beekeeping can then continue into Part 2 which will involve handling and working with bees in the apiary. Following the annual cycle of the beekeeping year this should provide you with all the necessary skills and information to start keeping your own bees. This part of the course costs £140 and includes the A5 courses notes book plus membership of the HWBKA & BBKA and BDI insurance for up to 3 hives for 1 year. NB – due to the ongoing problem with the COVID 19 pandemic there is still some uncertainty as how the course will the run. The first 2 sessions may be in Jarvis Brook Hall for example or more likely by Zoom. Subsequent sessions may either be at the association apiaries or at a tutor’s apiary depending on government advice at the time.

The Beginners’ Course will be structured as follows:

  1. Saturday 26th of February (Jarvis Brook Memorial Hall / or more likely by Zoom )
    • Welcome. Introductions, Admin. (registration, name badges, fire procedure, etc,)
    • Introductory Presentation – An overview of the world of bees and beekeeping
    • Joining the association. Information about the local association membership, insurance & other benefits.
    • Presentation of a hive and the functioning parts of a hive.
    • Where to keep bees. Where to purchase, construction of hives, etc.
    • Concept of Beespace.
    • Impact on hive design & use one example of a basic moveable frame hive.
    • Basic bee equipment, personal protective equipment, tools: record keeping hive products.
    • Recommended books.
    • Bee stings. allergy, precautions & first aid.

  2. Saturday 12th of March (Jarvis Brook Memorial Hall / or more likely by Zoom)

    • The biology of the honeybee.
    • CD about the life cycle of the honeybee.
    • Bee Life cycle. Identification of the 3 castes.
    • Development of bees from egg to adult.
    • Functions of the 3 castes in the hive.
    • Organisation of the colony - various worker tasks.
    • Reproduction of the colony.
    • The swarming impulse.
    • The bee’s annual cycle.
    • Bee products: honey, wax, pollen, & propolis; how & why the bees use them. Water.
    • Foraging bee communication, pollination, and interaction plants & bees.
  1. Saturday 26th of March (Horsted Green Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary)

    • A practical session
    • Hive designs, and choice of hive & equipment.
    • Building your own flat pack hive and frames
    • Making hives & frames from flat-pack kits,
    • Care & preservation of hives. Cleaning & sterilisation of used and second-hand equipment.
  2. Saturday 9th April (Horsted Green Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary )

    • Inside the hive - An introduction to live bees and handling them.
    • Situation of the Apiary and the hives.
    • Apiary hygiene.
    • Apiary 'etiquette', clothing, and equipment.
    • Attitude towards opening hives.
    • Demonstration of space and the moveable frame hive principle.
    • Identify the 3 castes of bees, honeycomb, pollen. Open and capped brood, etc.
    • Appearance of normal heathy & chilled brood.
    • Foraging activity of bees.
    • Organisation of the colony, division of labour, workers various tasks, dance communications. Wax making & comb.
    • building, storing nectar & pollen, identify nectar sources from pollen loads. Inspecting a colony, handling & record keeping.
    • Temperament and productivity of different strains of bee.
    • Note! marked Queen
  3. Saturday 23rd April (Slab Castle Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary )

    • Inspecting the colony. Handling bees
    • Activity at entrance.
    • Attitude to opening and inspecting hives.
    • Use of the smoker.
    • Bee space.
    • Comb: Worker cells Drone cells
    • 3 castes: Queen, Workers, 
    • Stores: Nectar, Capped honey, 
    • Appearance of healthy brood and cappings
    • Eggs, and Larvae (open brood)
    • Sealed worker brood. Sealed drone brood
    • Common early season brood problems.
    • Chilled brood? Chalk brood?     Bald brood?       Wax moth?
    • Colony organisation (brood nest development, location of pollen & honey stores, etc.)
    • Division of labour – Examples of worker tasks / activities in the hive
    • Cleaning & polishing cells
    • Wax making & comb building.
    • Storing nectar & pollen.
    • Exchanging food.
    • Feeding larvae.
    • Feeding the queen.
    • Resting.
    • Guarding.
    • Foraging
    • Dance communications.
    • Queen egg laying.
  4. Saturday 14th May (Slab Castle Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary)

    • Making increase; Swarms & Swarming.
    • Natural swarms / Shook Swarm.
    • Use of nuclei.
    • Finding the Queen.
    • Two methods of swarm control; Artificial swarm & Queen-right nucleus
    • Taking the Queen out on a nucleus.
    • Dealing with Swarming.
    • Signs indicating swarming has taken place.
    • Dealing with the colony that has swarmed.
    • Collection of swarms.
    • Bees in buildings.
    • Capturing a swarm. Hiving & feeding.
    • Other seasonal routine jobs: supering, comb replacement, sacrificial drone comb,
    • Practise handling bees.
  5. Saturday 11th June (Slab Castle Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary)

    • Pests & Diseases.
    • Diseases and treatments for Varroa.
    • How to look through a colony for brood disease.
    • Checking for adult bee diseases.
    • Taking a sample for analysis.
    • Notifiable diseases.
    • Ministry system for bee disease control.
    • Looking for Varroa: screen floors & mite drop, drone comb monitoring, other varroa treatments.
    • Use of chemicals & resistance.
    • Chemical poisoning
    • Learning how to recognise healthy brood comb and normal behaviour of the bees.
    • Checking for other pests & diseases: wax moth, chalk brood, sac brood, acarine, nosema, etc.
    • Importance of brood comb renewal.
  6. Saturday 2nd July

    Bee safari

  7. Saturday 6th August (Horsted Green Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary)

    • Honey extraction.
    • Treatments for Varroa.
    • Methods of clearing bees from supers:
      • Clearing boards
      • Chemical fumigants
      • Brushing bees off
      • Blowers used by professionals
      • Pros & Cons of each method
      • Re-arranging full & part filled combs
    • Estimating what could be taken.
    • Practice “hefting” a hive – to gauge when supers are full
    • Potential of robbing & preventing spread of diseases.
    • After the honey is extracted the supers are still very wet with honey & given back to the bees to clean up.
    • Importance of keeping supers to the same hive they came off.
    • Honey will attract robbers & wasps. Reduce entrance to assist guarding bees.
    • Only replace the supers late in the afternoon / early evening to minimise robbing.
  8. Saturday 3rd September (Slab Castle Apiary or in your / your tutor’s apiary )

    • Preparing your hive for winter.
    • Protection from the weather.
    • Use of mouse guards.
    • Protection from other animals.
    • How to weigh a hive.
    • Practice ‘Hefting’ a hive and using suitcase scales.
    • Preparing sugar syrup.
    • When to feed.
    • Removing cleaned suppers.

These are just to give you an idea of the length of the course, and the amount of time commitment required.  We may alter or change a few dates.

Dates are indicated for each session above. Most sessions will conclude with a debrief.

(these can vary, so please check joining instructions).

N.B. The content of any session can change depending on the weather, the season, and what the bees are doing at that current moment.

As the course is subsidised by the High Weald Beekeepers’ Association, it is expected that you will renew membership in October (Part 2 of the Course includes membership until October 2022). This will allow you to continue to receive topical tips and to have access to the winter sessions that are organised. Some of these sessions are crucial if you are to be able to keep your bees for a second season. Sessions typically deal with how to build up healthy colonies, and how to prevent swarming, the latter only being cursorily dealt with on your course and being something that challenges all beekeepers every year!

(please see a summary of these further sessions and other membership benefits on the "Events page" and in our Membership Guide).