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Introduction to beekeeping 2024

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 – bee diseases& pests
  • Honey and wax – taking a crop
  • 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, GU10 2DA

The dates for 2024 are – Saturday 13, 20, 27 January; 3, 10 & 17 (not 24) February; 2 & 9 March

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


John Fail – Chair of Farnham Beekeepers
Chris Rushton – Farnham treasurer & membership
Barbara Rushton – Farnham member
Greg Cobb – Farnham swarm collection coordinator

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

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 weekly right through the summer on Saturday mornings to the end of the beekeeping season.

Depending on the size of the class and number of colonies available early in the season, we may offer Wednesday evenings as an alternative, but this will be confirmed nearer the time.

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 refreshments:

  • Introduction to Beekeeping programme – £200

    Theory course
    Practical sessions through the whole season
    Associate Membership of Farnham Beekeepers from April – Sept

  • Theory course alone – £100

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: