Beginners’ Course 2024

Beginners in Beekeeping

HBKA has a commitment to educating the public in all aspects of beekeeping. We have a decades-long history of cooperation with Hinchingbrooke Park in providing facilities to demonstrate beekeeping to schools and the general public. This has stimulated interest in bees locally and we encourage and teach potential beekeepers in our annual Beginners’ Course. We would encourage all those interested in bees to take the course first before buying equipment or obtaining bees; mistakes can be costly!

We run only one course annually and we limit the numbers on the course. We believe that it is important to follow-up our teaching and practical course with provision of both bees and a bee buddy to support the new beekeeper. We can only do this effectively by keeping numbers low.

The course taking place on Saturday 6th April and Saturday 13th April 2024 is now full.

The course

We run two classroom sessions on successive Saturdays each lasting four hours (10am to 2pm) with a short lunch break in the middle. In 2024, due to possible refurbishment work at the Countryside Centre at Hinchingbrooke Country Park, the two classroom sessions will be held at the Memorial Centre, Thrapston Road, Brampton PE28 4TB. These are followed-up with a practical session in our Hinchingbrooke Park apiary. Practicals are dependent on the weather and so timing has to be flexible. The classroom sessions for 2024 will be on Saturday 6th April and Saturday 13th April. The practical session will then take place during late April/early May.

Classroom sessions

The first week consists of presentations on:

  • bee biology
  • basic equipment used in beekeeping
  • types of hives with their characteristics to help you choose the type to suit you best
  • pests, diseases and how to manage them

Bees are “livestock” and, like any other animals you might farm, you need to understand their behaviour, likes and dislikes in order to work with them to best effect. We provide advice (updated every year) on where and how to obtain equipment and how to avoid expensive pitfalls. Pest management and management of diseases those pests might carry is a very important part of modern beekeeping because of pests accidentally introduced into Britain over the last few decades.

The second week covers:

  • colony management throughout the year
  • dealing with swarming
  • collection of swarms and establishment of new colonies
  • siting of hives and how to be a good neighbour
  • hive products; how they are collected and used
  • regulations on the sale of honey

We will tell course members how to obtain bees (we provide them to all beginners who complete the course if they join the Association). Swarm management is a major part of beekeeping and we will show you how to prevent it and ensure regular new young queens in your colonies. We show you the principles of swarm collection and introduction to a hive. We cover the harvesting of honey, wax and propolis from your bees and selling your hive products.

All presentations are made available to course members on Dropbox so that note taking is minimized. In addition, lots of extra information is also made available after the course in Dropbox.

The tutors

Stuart Dobson and Paul Howe are now retired but had careers in research biology (though not on bees). They have experience of beekeeping over about 30 years each and they have been teaching the course for at least 20 years. Both encourage questions and interruptions during presentations – if the course doesn’t answer your specific questions and concerns it hasn’t worked. Both also make themselves available after the course to answer questions and provide advice.

The practical session

Practicals will cover protective equipment (some of it to protect you from the bees some to protect the bees from you!). You will open hives and handle frames covered with many hundreds of bees. You will, hopefully, find the queen in the colony. You will check for disease (the basics) and generally get used to gentle, safe handling of honey bees. You will see different types of hive which will help you to choose one.

Whilst most people think of bees as potentially aggressive stinging machines, they are actually good tempered and cooperative the vast majority of the time. If you learn to respect them, they will reward you.

The practicals are run by the Apiary Manager together with other experienced beekeepers and take place in the Association Apiary in Hinchingbrooke Park.

Costs and booking places

The cost of the course is £85. This covers the two classroom sessions and the practical session. We provide a copy of the book we recommend for beginners (an alternative book is available if couples both attend).

We ask for a £25 non-refundable deposit as people book for next year’s course. This is because we have to commit to a room booking and buying of books in advance and the limited numbers on the course make it impossible for us to deal with cancellations. The balance of £60 is payable 2 weeks before the course.

The course taking place on Saturday 6th April and Saturday 13th April 2024 is now full.