Short Courses

Offered since 2010, these two-day courses are intended for those involved in teaching and mentoring within their local associations, and for those who are studying towards the more advanced UK Beekeeping Association assessments. They are led by NDB-qualified tutors and are restricted to small groups, offering a challenging environment in which real learning and useful discussion can take place.

Venues are used which allow courses to be run close to students from most parts of England and Wales. Each venue is equipped with modern teaching and laboratory facilities. Details of local accommodation and transport links can be provided upon request.


Course outlines

The following summaries give an indication of what is covered in each Short Course:

Adult Bee Diseases

We will develop an understanding of how colony health is affected by Acarine, Amoeba, Nosema, and the common viruses, and how these disorders can be managed. Practical work will complement this by providing field diagnosis and laboratory skills to allow positive diagnoses to be made, supporting timely and appropriate treatments.

Anatomy and Dissection

Studying honeybee anatomy helps beekeepers understand how bees have are able to carry out the many and varied tasks they perform. Honeybees have been evolving for 100 million years and have become superbly adapted to survive and prosper in their environment. The aim of this course is to study, explore and gain an understanding of honeybee anatomy and to learn the techniques required to carry out successful dissection.

Branch Microscopy

This is a version of the ‘Adult Bee Diseases’ course with the emphasis on training Branch Microscopists who can lead or assist with diagnostic services for a local Association. With an introduction/refresher to the compound and dissecting microscopes, we practice the diagnosis of Acarine, Amoeba, and Nosema diseases. Treatment strategies and recommendations are outlined. Sampling of adult bees and storage/postage of samples is discussed, along with the logistics of running an Association ‘Nosema Day’ to encourage awareness and diagnosis of potential problems.

Brood Diseases

We will explore the impact of the various conditions affecting the developing brood, practice recognition in the comb and look at associated aspects such as disease spread, prevalence, preventative measures and treatments. This wide-ranging examination of brood diseases is designed to provide would-be association tutors with the knowledge and confidence to be able to cascade this important information.

Colony Manipulations

This course aims to take you through key manipulations required for successful beekeeping. It looks at the theory and practical aspects of well used techniques, allowing beekeepers to undertake them successfully but also provide the theory behind them so that beekeepers can modify them to suit their own requirements and management systems. We spent time in the classroom and out in the apiary covering the following topics: making nucleus colonies, introducing queens, feeding colonies, sterilising using Acetic Acid, shook swarms, artificial swarms, progressive comb replacement, uniting colonies, and Bailey comb change.

Handling Skills

This course aims to improve the confidence and competence of colony manipulation by experienced beekeepers. This is not recipe beekeeping – we will not be teaching specific manipulations – but we will practice a number of underlying skills such as queen finding, handling, and introduction, working efficiently with large colonies, dealing with difficult colonies, disease inspection, and colony destruction. Hands-on activities are key to the course, as is discussion of planning, options, and contingencies.

Honeybee Behaviour

We will explore honeybee behaviour in areas such as seasonal population variation, communication mechanisms, foraging behaviour and organisation, workload distribution, and swarming. In each of these we are looking to know what is understood to be the factors that influence honeybee behaviour, and the possible outcomes in relation to different influences. Through understanding the natural behaviour of honeybees, we can better prepare ourselves as beekeepers to respond to their needs.

Integrated Pest Management

We will cover all aspects of varroa and cover the potential threat from other exotic pests of honeybees. Integrated Pest Management is a widely-used tool in agriculture in order to minimise the use of chemicals for pest control. The techniques help to keep populations of pests at levels below the threshold at which they damage their hosts thus delaying the use of such chemicals and helping to avoid or delay the onset of resistance of pests to effective treatments.

Microscopy for Beekeepers

The microscope is a powerful tool which can provide a great deal of insight into the health and environment of our honeybees. We develop an understanding of both the compound and dissecting microscopes, with clear explanations of optical principles and practical steps to set-up and get the most out of these instruments. Using practical examples of honeybee anatomy, disease diagnosis, and pollen analysis, students will be able to practice many of the skills required of an Association Microscopist or for the BBKA Microscopy certificate.

Migration for pollination

This course is aimed at the enthusiastic and experienced beekeeper who wishes to take their first steps in establishing out apiaries, moving colonies to farmed crops, or generally moving bees between sites. The equipment demonstrated and used will be that which such a beekeeper is likely to have or to acquire, such as an estate car, small van, or car with a trailer. This two-day course is unusual in that it will feature overnight work, with students moving colonies between apiaries – the aim is to build skills and confidence through direct experience.

Pollen and Nutrition

Honey bees rely entirely upon pollen as their source of proteins, lipids and other essential body-building materials. They have evolved exquisite behaviours to collect and store this food source. This course will examine all aspects of pollen, from its production in flowers to its collection and utilisation by the bees. We will also discuss foraging behaviour and examine the ways that pollen samples may be characterised and identified under the microscope.

Queen Raising and Stock Improvement

Queen raising from selected stocks allows us to improve our bees by spreading and encouraging favoured characteristics, not least by ensuring that our bees are healthy and well-adapted to their local environment. This course provides an insight into the establishment and operation of a mid-sized queen raising system, using an operational queen raising apiary as the basis of practical work. Hands-on activities are key to the course and include such aspects as setting up a queen raising system, grafting, preparation and stocking of mating nucs, and queen introduction.

Seasonal Management

Winter colony losses are regarded as a critical measurement of beekeeper success and broader honeybee survival. We view winter preparations as part of the natural seasonal cycle of beekeeping activity, and look to understand how the aims for our beekeeping and the management decisions we take at different times of the year may affect wintering readiness and success. We look in detail at the balance between objectives, aspirations, options, and unplanned events during the active seasons, and how these accommodate or disrupt a colony’s inherent seasonal cycle.

Developed by a qualified and experienced teacher, this is a distillation of the City & Guilds 7303 course, aimed specifically at beekeeping tutors and addressing typical learning situations encountered in the apiary, classroom, and when giving talks. We investigate the different methods by which adults learn, and how to apply this to maintain both interest and attention whilst delivering information more effectively. Through a series of practical and pertinent examples, tutors will improve their confidence and ability to impart their beekeeping knowledge and experience to others.

Swarm Control

We will explore why honeybees swarm, and how beekeepers can detect, manage and control this swarming. We will compare and practice all of the main swarm control methods – Pagden, Demaree, vertical split, shook swarm, nuc making, etc. We aim to give students a deeper understanding of the honeybeee behaviour behind swarming, and a good awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the commonly encountered swarm control and prevention methods. The course is classroom-based and does not use live colonies – however this allows us to step through various methods, pausing, repeating, or undoing specific manipulations without concerns of distress to colonies, concentrating on the principles and method in question.

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