Bee Keeping for Beginners

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About Course

Being a beekeeper is not just a hobby but is a craft that allows you to join a long line of beekeepers going back thousands of years.  It is an activity that is suitable for both young and old; a relaxing pastime to relieve the stress of work, something to take up in retirement, something to do together as a family, a topic that provides a lifetime of learning, and a great way to make new friends.

Our Basic Beekeeping course teaches everything you need to know to get started in beekeeping.  It covers the knowledge and activities with a foundation upon which to build towards attempting suitable practical experience of keeping your own bees.

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What Will You Learn?

  • Gain familiarity with the equipment and tools used to keep bees
  • Understand the costs involved to start keeping your own bees
  • Understand the biology of honey bees and their life as members of a colony
  • See how the collection of food by bees leads to pollination of plants
  • Learn how to set up an apiary and take precautions to reduce any nuisance to others
  • Learn what tasks you need to do throughout the year
  • Understand the practices necessary to maintain good apiary hygiene and healthy bees
  • Be introduced to the processes you can use to manage swarming
  • Start to learn how to read your bees and understand what is happening in the hive
  • Learn how to extract and bottle honey and harvest beeswax
  • Learn how to spot problems such as pests and diseases and suitably control them
  • Gain practical tips on how to successfully handle and manipulate colonies of bees

Course Content

First Aid – Stings and Management
Anyone who keeps honeybees will receive a bee sting sooner or later. There are no exceptions to this fact.

  • First Aid
  • Allergies And Anaphylaxis
  • Signs And Symptoms Of An Allergic Reaction
  • How To Treat A Snake Bite
  • What You Need To Know About Bee Stings
  • First Aid

Essential equipment
The basic equipment you will require to keep bees

The honeybee – anatomy
Honey bees have 3 body segments – head, thorax, and abdomen.

The honeybee – castes
Honey bees rely on an important social structure that is highly organised, self-replenishing and unique. The colony itself—taking up residence in the hive and journeying for food and water—consists of three types of honey bee: queen bees (egg producers), worker bees (infertile females), and drones (males whose purpose is to find and mate with a queen bee). These three castes form an integral system, or superorganism, where different bees take on different roles for the colony to thrive.

The honeybee – life cycle
The life cycle of honeybees consists of four stages: eggs, larva, pupa and adult. This entire process varies lengthwise amongst the different honey bees. It takes about 16 days for the queen, 18 to 22 days for the worker bees and 24 days for the drones

Honeybee Breeds
Honey bees, like all living things, vary in their traits across the species. Genetic differences across these breeds can lead to differences in attributes like temperament, disease resistance, productivity, color and much more. The environment has a huge impact on differences among bee colonies due to stimuli and response, but the genetic makeup of a colony is the basis for many of the characteristics that define a particular subspecies of honey bee. For as long as honey bees have been domesticated, beekeepers have known that different genetic stocks have distinctive differences that can be used to their advantage or ignored to their disadvantage. Whether it be pollination, a honey crop, bee reproduction, resiliency or otherwise, it is important to have a general grasp on what this means for you and your Beekeeping Goals.

Bee Communication
Honey bees use all of their senses to find the best flowers including: smell, color, shape, location, petal textures, and time of day. But what does a bee do when she wants to tell her sisters what she has discovered?

A queen bee is typically an adult, mated female (gyne) that lives in a colony or hive of honey bees. With fully developed reproductive organs, the queen is usually the mother of most, if not all, of the bees in the beehive.[1] Queens are developed from larvae selected by worker bees and specially fed in order to become sexually mature. There is normally only one adult, mated queen in a hive, in which case the bees will usually follow and fiercely protect her.


Handling Bees
All the preparation in the world cannot prepare you for what you are about to face. You’ve done your homework, read numerous books, watched dozens of beekeeping videos on YouTube, and perhaps you’ve even participated in a beekeeping course with your local beekeepers’ association. But there is no amount of study to compare with the actuality of hands-on experience.

Inspecting the colony
It is critical to inspect all hives on a regular basis, especially the brood. This is an important management practice to determine the presence or absence of many established pests and diseases within Australia. It is also an important precautionary measure for beekeepers to identify any exotic pests that may be in their hives, such as the exotic Varroa mite.

Absconding is when all of your bees, including the queen, completely moved out of their hive. They may leave behind the brood that hasn’t hatched and pollen. Absconding is usually a sign that there is something wrong in an established hive. Bees can abscond for many reasons: overcrowding, lack of forage, ant invasion or heavy infestations of the small hive beetle. A swarm that is recently caught can also abscond as they are not an established hive. It seems that newly installed swarms have a greater tendency to abscond than well-established colonies. They can just leave if they dislike their new home.

What is swarming exactly? It is basically the bees’ natural means to reproduce and propagate their species. In this process, the colony will split into two or more colonies and create a new hive in a new location. This doesn’t mean that all of your bees will leave the hive, although they will raise a new queen and continue to thrive. This usually occurs during spring, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Most beekeepers try to prevent swarming as it can result in low honey yield, however, swarming is not a sign of a weak colony. When your colony swarms, ensure that they have a new queen either by letting them raise their own or breeding one for them. Sometimes after swarming, the new queen may fail and your colony will end up queenless. They can also dislike the new queen and not accept her that may end up them killing her.

Collecting a swarm

Swarm control

Splitting the hive

Making a nucleus

Record keeping
There are a number of reasons why it is useful to keep colony records, including the history of a colony, information to help you understand and manage it better, for assessing the characteristics to help you select colonies to rear queens from, or those to cull. There are a number of ways of doing this and it is a matter of personal choice. I think colony records could be split into three areas that I will loosely term "Colony Records", "Breeding Records" and "Treatment Records". These can be separate or combined.

Seasonal management
Management of honey bees varies based on whether pollination or honey production is the primary objective. A simple scheme for those interested in maximizing honey production can be a template for any beginning beekeeper. Managing honey bees involves seasonal manipulations of hive space to provide room when necessary for the expanding brood-rearing area and for storage of surplus honey. Good management includes reducing colony space during periods of dearth of incoming food, preventing swarming of bees, feeding food supplements to offset any shortcomings in winter stores or to help stimulate brood production during critical periods of colony development, keeping young and good-quality queens in colonies, and managing diseases and parasites.

Pests and Diseases
If you detect a pest or disease in any of your hives, it is important to take the appropriate steps to eradicate it. This must be done as soon as possible to prevent robber bees from spreading the pest or disease to other hives in your apiary or to the hive of other beekeepers. Weak hives are far more likely to be robbed and so maintaining good hive strength will reduce the risk of spreading diseases and pests.

Pollen is the honey bees' main source of several important nutrients. Consequently, an adequate pollen supply is essential to ensure the long-term survival of a colony and to maintain its productivity. Part 1 of this 2-part review focuses on the botanical composition of bee-collected pollen and its protein and mineral content. Further, we discuss the impact of pollen on honey bee physiology and assess the pollen requirements of individual workers and larvae.

Understanding the biology of flora and its value to honey bees is core knowledge for successful beekeeping. Bees feed on nectar and pollen. No food equals no bees! Beekeepers need to know the floral resources around them, and the nutritional value of those resources to bees, to keep their bee colonies healthy.

Hive – types
New beekeepers can sometimes be intimidated by the many choices they face. There are indeed many options for equipment, tools and clothing. There are even choices in terms of which type of honey bee to consider. However, the most visible decision they will make is the choice of beehive. This will be the focal point for visitors as you proudly explain your love of bees and, more importantly, for your bees to enjoy as the colony thrives. But what choices do you have when it comes to hives? They short answer is that you have many choices, including some very esoteric and fascinating options. However, there are three main types of beehive in use today - the Langstroth, the Warre and the Top Bar. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. Like most things in beekeeping, many beekeepers will tell you that their way - and their hive - is the only way to go.

Constructing a Hive and Frames
The beehive is the cornerstone of all modern beekeeping. It provides a safe place for honey bees to store food reserves and raise the constant supply of young needed to keep colonies healthy and strong. Understanding the various components of the hive and how they function is an important first step to successful beekeeping.

Products of the hive
Beekeeping is about more than just honey production. Bees create other products such as wax, pollen, propolis and royal jelly. For older bees, they also create bee venom. As a result, there is a range of possibilities for beekeepers to consider

Practical Lesson

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