I was a complete beginner last year and thought I would do the course and then get bees the following year. Malcolm the course leader suggested getting bees as soon as possible. I got mine from the association. This was a scary prospect but as I realised, it was an important step, as you only learn to be a bee keeper by keeping bees!
The best bits: firstly and undoubtedly the course leader Malcolm and his helpers. They gave support and advise throughout which would have taken me years to realise. Honestly without them I may have been overwhelmed and could have given up.
Secondly it was the mistakes of myself and others as we all learnt from each other’s actions; learning what appeared to work and what didn’t! We were able to keep a sense of humour which was vital!!
For example as a new beekeeper I found it difficult to gauge when to put the supers onto the hive and so the brood box became congested with stores and they swarmed early. Because the brood box continued to be clogged with stores, they swarmed a second time. However later in the season I tried to control this but it went too much the other way. In consequence at the last session we had to take out frames of foundation because I had split the brood nest and Malcolm and Steve didn’t think this was a good idea at all in August/September. So what was appropriate at one time of year was no longer appropriate at another time of year!
Also the WhatsApp group helped us to share images and see conversations. It particularly helped me when my bees swarmed and then sent out a cast that went 18ft up my crab apple tree!
Malcolm came round to help me recover them and he went up and down that high tree three times. Finally got them and we had to requeening the bees and we heard the queen piping which was very special. Unfortunately the original queen was still up the tree!! Another new beekeeper Paul offered to look after the cast that were now in a nucleus box with the new queen until the old queen (up the tree) had moved away and the chance of them returning to her had gone.
I would have lost these bees without this help but as it turned out they are still doing well and I now have two hives instead of my initial one! .
If you have got the time from April to September, want to look after honey bees and see them prosper, learn about how to manage them from experienced beekeepers and maybe get some honey then I’d say that this course is the best course you will find!