Introduction to Bees and Beekeeping Course 2024


Course Overview

The purpose of the theory course is to educate and make one realise that there is a lot of work involved with looking after honeybees. Honeybees are wild animals and it is important to learn how to handle them, when to open a colony and how to go about this properly. We will address these issues in the course which comprises of nine lectures (which take place at Portmoak Hall, Scotlandwell) plus apiary visits, where small groups of you will visit a local apiary with an experienced beekeeper to get some hands on practical experience. Not all honeybee colonies are good tempered and to open a hive with no experience can lead to all sorts of trouble. I have known inexperienced people get numerous stings because they do not know how to control and look after the colony. The colony is then abandoned and that leads to further trouble with neighbours and the public in general.

The country is not short of honeybees and a lot of the media publicity given to the shortage of bees relates to bumblebees and other solitary bees. In fact, in some areas there are too many honeybees, resulting in a shortage of forage for all pollinators, which can cause stress in the colony and that can lead to an ecological imbalance. 

If you are concerned with the plight of bees the best thing to do is to plant lots of bee friendly plants and put up wild bee boxes. By providing nesting sites and forage you will encourage many more bees and other pollinators to your garden/area.

Having said all that beekeeping can be a fascinating hobby but one has to be dedicated and be prepared to learn. In fact one never stops learning about bees and beekeeping. 

The course is open mainly to those living within Fife and there will be a limited number of places on the course so it is important to register as early as possible. Registration will close on the 31st December 2023. If the number of applicants exceeds the restricted number then their names will be entered on a waiting list.

Enid Brown. President of Fife Beekeepers Association and Dunfermline and West Fife Beekeepers Association.

Course Details

Combined Fife Beekeepers Introduction to Bees and Beekeeping Course, 2024

All lectures take place on Thursday evenings throughout January, February, March and April at Portmoak Hall, Scotlandwell, with lectures commencing at 7.30pm. Please make a note of these dates in your diary.

Thursday, 18th January, 2024 – Week 1

Introduction to the Course – Enid Brown with talk by new beekeeper Andrew Douglas
• Structure of the course
• Role of the associations – Fife Beekeepers Assoc, Dunfermline & West Fife Beekeepers Assoc. Scottish Beekeepers Assoc. and the benefits of joining.
• Useful books and websites.
• Why do you want to keep bees?
• Just a few of the plants suitable for bees.

Thursday, 25th January, 2024 – Week 2

Equipment Required for Keeping Bees – Enid Brown and David Morland
• Detailed description of parts of a hive – video.
• Choosing a hive – different types and materials.
• What is a ‘nuc’
• Essential equipment
• Clothing
• Cost

Thursday, 15th February, 2024– Week 3

Bees and Their Life Cycle – Margaret Murdin
• Different types of bees
• Evolution with flowering plants
• What are honeybees and where do they fit in
• What is a colony
• Life cycle

Thursday, 22nd February, 2024 – Week 4

Choosing an Apiary Site – David Morland and John Durkacz
• Forage
• Neighbours
• Security
• Stings

Thursday, 29th February, 2024 – Week 5

Keeping Bees Healthy – Enid Brown
• Importance of knowing the common diseases and viruses that affect bees.
• How to inspect a colony – video
• Be familiar with normal frames showing brood at all stages.
• That way you will recognize and abnormal/diseased frame.
• Varroa treatments

Thursday, 21st March, 2024 – Week 6

Autumn/Winter Management – John Hendrie
• Beekeeping never stops
• What can be done during autumn and winter

Thursday, 28th March, 2024 – Week 7

Spring/Summer Management – John Hendrie
• Approaching the busy season
• Importance of being present (not on holiday)
• What’s involved.

Thursday, 18th April, 2024 – Week 8

Frame Making – Enid Brown, David Morland, Andy Rivers, John Hendrie, Ian Gilray • Building a flat pack hive
• Frame making

Thursday, 25th April, 2024 – Week 9

Honey Harvest and the Importance of joining the SBA and your Local Association – David Morland
• Products of the hive
• Food safety, hygiene, the law

The tutors on this course are all experienced and qualified beekeepers.
Those wishing to take the beekeeping further (having realized all that is involved with looking after bees) will be allocated a mentor who will arrange times and dates when you can visit his/her bees.
The mentor will take you through all that is involved in opening and inspecting a hive giving you the opportunity of plenty of ‘hands on’ experience.

One thing that will be emphasized during the course is the importance of NOT PURCHASING BEES ONLINE. You will get the opportunity of purchasing local bees. Do not get bees or spend too much money until you have experienced handling bees and have decided that you are prepared to spend the time and look after them properly.