A range of weekend courses for experienced beekeepers

Weekend courses to advance specific skills and study

The Short Courses provide valuable discussion, learning, and hands-on experience for those who want to improve their beekeeping, or who are planning to take the BBKA, SBA, WBKA, and FIBKA Assessments beyond the basic level. Each course covers a specific area of beekeeping practice, skills, or knowledge. Courses are limited to 10-12 attendees, with two expert tutors on hand.

The Short Courses are aimed at those beekeepers with 3 years of experience; they are not aimed at novices. We can provide guidance to applicants as to the appropriateness of our Short Courses to their stage of beekeeping.

One-day courses cost £145 per course place, and two-day courses cost £225 per course place. These prices include tuition, materials, refreshments, and decent lunches!

Check course dates carefully, as some peak-season courses may run over a Friday & Saturday in order to ease travel into and out of the Westcountry.

2024 course dates

Pollen Microscopy

20th & 21st April

For plants, pollen is the means to reproduction, for honey bees it is an abundant and rich foodstuff, providing for most of their nutritional needs. A good mixed pollen diet is essential to honey bee development and to the rearing of their brood. This course looks in detail at pollen produced by common bee plants, using the microscope to appreciate the elegance and variety of minute pollen grains.

We start with a guided tour of our pollinator gardens, collecting flower specimens, and then introduce the basics of making slides of pollen for examination under the microscope. We will then examine pollen loads collected at hives in the apiary, and analyse and identify pollen contained within a variety of honey samples. We will discuss and demonstrate the skills and materials needed for making longer-term reference slides so that you can begin to build up your own collection of pollen slides from your local flora.

This course would directly assist those studying for BBKA Module 2 (Honey Bee Products and Forage) or the Microscopy Certificate, or Welsh & Scottish equivalents.

Grafting in a day

4th May or 18th May

By selectively raising queens from our best stocks, we can improve the health and resilience of our honey bees, their suitability and adaptation to local climate and forage, and other desirable characteristics.

Grafting of larvae is one of the fundamental techniques in queen raising. It is a delicate operation, needing care and a good eye, but the skills can be learnt quickly from an experienced tutor. On this course you will practice grafting, both in the classroom, and in the apiary, so that you will leave with the skills and confidence required to continue grafting in your own apiary.

Whilst the success of grafting does rely upon safe transfer of tiny larvae, queen raising colonies also need to be in a receptive mood in order to raise those grafted larvae as queens. We will look at common configurations for queen raising colonies, using examples set up in our teaching apiary, and discuss the pros and cons of the different approaches.

Topics covered will include:

  • Tools and equipment required for grafting

  • Selecting larvae of an appropriate age

  • Transfer of larvae using paintbrush, Chinese tool, and Swiss tool

  • Establishment of queen raising colonies

  • Management of queen raising colonies

This course will be of interest to anyone studying towards the BBKA General and Advanced Husbandry certificates, and for students preparing for either BBKA Module 7 (Selection and Breeding of Honey Bees) or the recently introduced Honey Bee Breeding Certificate.

Apidea in a day

11th May or 25th May

The Apidea mating mini-nuc is well known but comes without instructions. Despite its popularity, advice on using an Apidea is not always easy to come by, and can be variable in quality and relevance to the British climate.

The course covers a number of practical techniques described in the book Using Apideas, written by course tutor Dan Basterfield.

Many beekeepers are taught or advised to consider an Apidea ‘finished with’ once a single queen has been mated. "Set it up with bees, feed, and a queen cell; leave for three weeks, then check for a laying queen" is typical advice. Whilst this does often work, it’s really just scratching at the surface of what you can do with an Apidea. In fact, each Apidea you establish could mate three or four queens successively during that season.

We view the process of setting up and running Apideas as having three distinct but overlapping phases - establishment, management, and recycling - and consider an Apidea to only be fully ready for use once it has mated its first queen and it contains her brood. What others consider the end point is, for us, just the start!

This course will be of interest to anyone studying towards the BBKA General and Advanced Husbandry certificates, BBKA Module 7 (Selection and Breeding of Honey Bees) or the recently introduced Honey Bee Breeding Certificate - or Welsh & Scottish equivalents.


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