Beginners

Courses and Help on Starting Beekeeping

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Is Beekeeping for Me?

Five things to ask yourself

1. Have you Ever Been Stung by a Bee and Lived to Tell the Tale?

All beekeepers get stung occasionally – It’s nothing personal, the bees are wild creatures and are not tame pets. On saying that stinging can be minimised by careful and informed beekeeping

If you have been stung, you will know that it hurts! However, the pain is only short lived and most people only get a small swelling, rash and mild itching for a day or so. Some (a small minority) may have a more severe reaction, if you are one of these beekeeping may not be for you.

2. Are you Curious, Committed, Persistent and Maybe a Little Obsessive?

Beekeeping is a long-term endeavour. You will, as a beekeeper, need to make regular inspections of the colonies (about once a week) throughout the active season – approximately March to October. You will also need make visits to check on them during the winter months. Bees are livestock and require responsible consistent attention to maintain their wellbeing.

3. Are you a Student at Heart?

There is always something to learn. Even very experienced beekeepers are learning constantly about changes in colony management, the environment, bee behaviour, disease, medicines and many other aspects of beekeeping. 

There are many ways to learn and the best is to visit your local beekeeping branch to find out how to get started.

4. Are you Prepared to Invest Your Time, Spare Income and Energy?

Beekeeping can be hard work, (all that honey isn’t light) but this can be managed easily with help and if you keep your operation small (2 or 3 colonies). This also minimises the cost. Beekeeping is not a profitable, like all other hobbies it keeps eating your hard-earned cash.

There is a substantial upfront investment in your initial equipment and it is best not to spend anything until you have had some training at your local branch. The branches run taster days and beginner’s classes which are invaluable in deciding what equipment you really need.

5. Do you have a Good Place for the Hives?

Location, location, location. This is not just a property TV program. Finding the right place for your apiary is vital not only for you but for the bees as well. You need space to manage the colonies properly and this needs to be away from the public, children and pets.

If you have answered Yes to all the above questions Congratulations! You are about to embark on one of the most rewarding and interesting undertakings in the natural world.

Take a look at Ten Steps to Get You Started (Below)

 

 

Ten Steps to get you Started

 1. Join a Local Beekeepers Association

For those wishing to start beekeeping there can be no better first step than to join a beekeeping association. Most associations meet regularly to share information and insights. Most have beekeeping books, magazines and videos for loan and they bring in expert speakers. Grab a tea or coffee and a lemon square, chat to other members, you will get all the help and support you will need to get you through your early years in beekeeping.

Another benefit in joining Cheshire Beekeepers is that you will automatically become a member of the British Beekeepers Association and receive their monthly magazine and other benefits.

 2. Take a Beginners Course or go to a Taster Day

It is increasingly important for new beekeepers to have some training before purchasing any equipment or bees. It is easy to buy your kit then realise it’s not the best for you.

Most local association branches offer Taster Days where you can visit an apiary and try out handling the bees for an hour or so, under expert supervision. Then, if this experience of beekeeping has whetted your appetite you can enrol on The Beginners Course – where you will find out all you need to know to start keeping bees healthy, secure and safe in a friendly and mentored environment.

 3. Start Small (but not Too Small)

Even if you plan to scale up or if you have had little or no experience, it’s a good idea to start with one colony and build this up. This will give you an idea of what it takes, how your location works out and whether or not you really like beekeeping.

 4. Make a plan

There are a lot of things to think through when you start beekeeping so make a beeline (no pun intended) for your local Branch, get the training and make your plans. A beginner’s course will help you with many of these decisions.

 5. Consider Your Equipment

There are a lot more options in equipment than you might think, especially in hive components. It is a significant financial investment and you’ll be living with your decisions for a long time.

Check out local suppliers (your branch will know these and be glad to help). Don’t stint on your bee suit, smoker or hive tools, you want them to last.

 6. Review Local Bylaws and Register Your Colonies

There are no real legal restrictions to keeping bees in England. You will be expected to site your apiary where it will not cause a threat or concern to the general public, neighbours and your family. This does not preclude you from having hives in your garden so long as you do this with care and consideration for other people. Many beekeepers keep their colonies on an out apiary, or allotment.

There is also no legal requirement, at present, to register your bees but as a member of a local association as here in Cheshire, we believe it is vital to register your bees on the National Bee Units database, there are many advantages to this

 7. Protect Yourself

Firstly, make sure you, or anyone who is likely to come in contact with your bees, are not allergic to bee stings.

Secondly, most beekeepers wear gloves – these are not the old-fashioned type of thick leather which were only worn for protection, the modern gloves tend to be thin nitrile with a thin latex (doctors type glove) worn over the top – these are worn to prevent the spread of disease and NOT for protection. You WILL get stung occasionally but wearing the gloves keeps your scent away from the bees and minimises the risk of stinging.

You will see many bee suits on offer and it is best to get recommendations from your local beekeeping branch 

You will also need suitable footwear – Steel toe capped Wellington boots are Ideal as you can tuck the legs of you trousers/bee suit into them and if you do drop a heavy box of bees or honey on your foot they will help protect you.

Thirdly, if you are a member of Cheshire Beekeepers you will automatically get public liability cover and some Bee Disease cover via our association with the British Beekeepers Association.

 8. Look and Learn

Courses, books, magazines, discussions with other beekeepers and conferences are all crucial in building expertise and confidence but nothing prepares you better than a Beginners Course at your local Association.

 9. Keep Notes

Further to ‘looking and learning’ keep notes on what you are seeing and doing. Some beekeepers keep a journal to track what’s in bloom, weather, actions taken, learning, mistakes, questions. Jot it down!

 10. Enjoy

Finally, give yourself a break. You will make mistakes. You will do some really dumb things - but that’s the way it is. Beekeeping is one of the most enjoyable and interesting endeavors you will ever encounter, but even seasoned beekeepers will tell you that it’s forever a work-in-progress. Do your best, keep learning, keep going, and have fun.

 

Beginners Courses

North Cheshire Branch

Beginners Course in Beekeeping

The course comprises two parts, Theory and Practical

The 1st Theory session is on 15th January 2018

2nd Session 29th January

3rd Session 5th February

4th Session 12th February

5th Session 19th February

6th Session 5th March

7th Session 12th March

8th Session 19th March

The Practical Sessions begin Late April / Early May. Start dates are weather and  bee dependant and will be announced at a later date.

The cost is £40.00 for the Theory course and £40.00 for the Practical Course.

Contact Maria Heywood at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information and joining the course.

South Cheshire Branch

We will be running a Beginner’s Course on wednesday evenings, 7.15 - 10pm at Sandbach Library, commencing Jan 23rd for 7sessions.

The course will cover the basic knowledge you will need to start keeping your own bees, and will include practical sessions at the Club Apiary during the summer.

Cost for the course - £80 including membership of the Beekeeping Assoc.

If interested email Di Lyne:- This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Stockport Branch

The course will be in 3 parts:

 1) Technical part will cover knowledge of bees and beekeeping and provide the basic knowledge needed to start keeping your own bees. It begins on 8th January 2018 for 9 weeks. The venue is Aquinas College, Stockport and runs from 7 - 9pm. Refreshments will be provided. The cost is £75.

 2) The practical course, over several weeks in late spring and summer, enables you to handle bees, in the presence of experienced beekeepers, and understand the day to day process of beekeeping. The venue will be at the Woodbank Apiary, Stockport on dates to be decided.

 3) Later in the year there will a honey extraction night demonstrating the best way to harvest your honey. Date to be decided. The cost of the practical course and extraction evening is also £75.

 Alan Towse is the course co-ordinator and he can be contacted, for more details or an application form, on  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Phone: 0161 439 2937.

 

 

 

The following BBKA assessments are also available via your local Branches

Junior Certificate

Under 18 and want to test your beekeeping knowledge? Then this could be the one for you.

The Junior certificate consists of 4 elements

  • 10 minutes of oral questions
  • A short written paper
  • Making a frame
  • Present your beekeeping diary

This examination is intended to meet the requirements of schools, Scout and Guide groups together with those not qualified to enter for the Basic Assessment. Additionally, it is intended that the examination will reflect the candidates interest of apiculture and encourage them to go forward to the next examination, the Basic Assessment.

Basic Assessment

To take the Basic Assessment you should have managed at least one colony of bees for a minimum of 12 months.

The Basic Assessment syllabus can appear daunting at first glance but closer inspection will show that it merely lists the basic things which all beekeepers should know.

The assessment is completely practical/oral and takes place mainly at the hive in a local apiary.

 

 More information about these assessments can be obtained via your local Branch