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Introduction to beekeeping

UPDATE – OCTOBER 2021

The first part of our introductory beekeeping course, a winter theory course, is usually held from early January to early March. Normally by now we would be well advanced with bookings.

Holding the course as usual in the context of Covid is tricky – it’s always very popular, fully subscribed and busy with prospective new beekeepers and experienced hands. Beekeeping is a practical craft so the course is interactive and hands-on with lots of kit, samples and demonstrations. Zoom would be a poor fall-back so we’ve decided to wait and review options.

We may run it mostly as usual (perhaps reduced numbers / larger venue / thick coats + open windows); or defer it to spring, so that winter is behind us; or adjust our approach, eg combine some things more closely with practical sessions in the apiary.

Bookings for the 2022 course will open when plans are fixed.

Please do email us if you wish to register your interest or have any specific course or ‘getting started‘ questions.

We’ll update this page in due course and, if you’ve been in touch, we’ll drop you a line to let you know.

David Clague – FBKA Education


Farnham Beekeepers’ Association run an introductory programme for beginners. First is a winter theory course, followed by hands-on practical sessions from spring at our apiary at the Rural Life Living Museum near Tilford.

It is aimed at people new to beekeeping who are thinking of starting with bees, or who are interested to learn more to enable them to decide whether it is for them, but also existing beekeepers who would like to learn through a structured course.

Beekeeping Theory Course

The aim of the winter theory course is to cover the knowledge needed to get started with bees. Topics covered include:

  • Colonies – in the wild and in the apiary
  • Queens, workers and drones – what they do and how they work
  • Beekeeping equipment
  • The beekeeping year
  • Inspecting and manipulating a hive
  • Swarming – managing and collecting & hiving swarms
  • Health and hygiene
  • Honey and wax
  • Siting an apiary and getting started

The theory course runs for 8 sessions on Saturday mornings from 9:30 am,
and is held at the Tilford Institute, Tilford, Surrey, GU0 2DA

Each session lasts up to 2.5 hours, including a break for tea/coffee. We combine British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) beginners’ courses with our own material and format, for a mix of tutor-led lectures, video, practical and hands-on demonstrations. No live bees though – it’s winter!

Lead tutors & course organisers

David & Rosalind Clague – Farnham Committee members

Tutors

Oliver Chadwick – Farnham Committee member & BBKA General Husbandry certificate holder
John Fail – Farnham queen-rearing leader
Chris & Barbara Rushton – Farnham members
Alastair Welch NDB – Master Beekeeper (as available)

All course tutors and apiary demonstrators are experienced members of the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA).

Practical Sessions for Beginners

In spring, the course resumes with practical sessions at our apiary at the Rural Life Centre near Tilford. The aim is to help you to put your knowledge of beekeeping theory into practice so that you’re able to start keeping bees with confidence.

Colonies change substantially throughout the year and present a range of situations and puzzles that are hard to cover on a short course held at one part of the season. Exposure to the range of colonies, situations and hive types at our apiary will give you the full picture about getting started with bees.

We aim to start in mid-late April and sessions continue throughout the summer on Saturday afternoons and on Wednesday evenings. Due to the typical size of the class and number of colonies available early in the season, initially there will be a choice of Wednesday or Saturday (ie one or the other). Once we get deeper into the season there is more flexibility.

There are two stages:

  • Basic handling. First you’ll learn the basic skills necessary to safely handle and manipulate a colony of bees. Each week, after an initial discussion or demonstration, small groups will go with an experienced demonstrator to see how to open up and inspect a colony: first to observe and then practice the techniques. We will also show you other practical things such as how to make frames, clean equipment and so on. This typically takes about 4 or 5 sessions.
  • Colony management. With the basic mechanics of beekeeping under your belt, you’ll start to learn how to manage a colony through its annual cycle. Using your knowledge from the theory course, you’ll see how to ‘read’ the state of a colony from an inspection, ie understand what’s going on and what is likely to happen next, and take action to provide the bees with what they need and what you’d like them to do. You’ll see how to prevent swarming and what to do when the bees indicate that they have other plans! At the start, demonstrators will provide close guidance and advice, but with practice you’ll become able to perform and understand regular colony inspections and management, and start to tackle more tricky situations too.

After the initial period, it is not necessary to attend every week as it soon becomes less of a course and more of an experience-building process.

Fees and Application

Fees covering tuition, course notes & handouts, and theory course refreshments:

  • Introduction to Beekeeping programme – £160

    Theory course and practical sessions
    Associate Membership of Farnham Beekeepers from April – Sept

  • Theory course alone – £80

If you just wish to learn about bees and beekeeping or are undecided if you want to keep bees, you can attend just the theory course and decide later about continuing with the practical sessions. Similarly, if you have already attended a suitable theory course, you may be able to join us for the practicals, but please contact us for advice first.

The course is always very popular and places are limited – early application is recommended!

For application or more information, please email David Clague via: education@farnhambeekeepers.org.uk