Learn About Beekeeping
We offer a beginners course which will teach you about beekeeping and give you the opportunity to see practical demonstrations, and to practise with the help of our trainers. Experienced beekeepers will be on hand to guide you and give you ongoing support.
To find out what beekeeping involves see the sections below or why not visit us and talk to our members (link to Hatch End Apiary section).
Once you have completed your beginner’s course you will have full access to our ongoing education programme. This includes mentoring, practical sessions, and talks on important techniques such as swarm control..
We also run improver’s courses and preparation for the BBKA Basic Assesment.
What does beekeeping involve
As beekeepers it is important that we care for our bees and ensure that they are not stressed and are free from disease. To find out what is involved in beekeeping check out our guidance notes on:
Time and commitment
The amount of time you need to spend bee keeping will depend up on the season and how many colonies you have.
Spring and Summer are the busiest times. expect to spend around 2 hours a week or more inspecting the colony to make sure it has enough food and is free from disease.
Regular inspections will be necessary to ensure that the colony will not swarm. Swarm control will take extra time.
Honey extraction takes quite a few hours in the Autumn depending on how many colonies you have. Expect to spend least 2-3 days.
October onwards: when you have settled the bees down for the winter there is less work. Inspections would only be quick and only necessary if you are concerned that their food stores are in short supply.
The hive would have to be checked on a regular basis to see if it is sound especially after snow or bad storms and winds.
Now is the time for cleaning up spare equipment (this can take quite a while) and planning and preparing for the new beekeeping year.
Where to keep bees
There are a number of options depending on your circumstances. If you belong to an association they will have some space is available on their apiary sites. You can also keep bees on an allotment but you will need permission from the council who will expect you to have taken a beginner’s course. If you decide to keep bees in your garden it would be wise talk to your neighbours first and to make every effort to ensure the bees don’t create a nuisance, in the beginners course you will be shown how to minimise any nuisance.
Your health and well being
Beekeeping requires some relatively heavy lifting, the boxes that hold honey (called supers) can weigh around 10kg and will need lifting from chest height to the ground and back. People with back problems should work with a partner.
Getting stung is an occupational hazard for beekeepers, although we try to minimise it by the techniques we use for handling the bees. Some people are sensitive to bee stings and can suffer an allergic reaction so it is important to keep a mobile phone with you or work with others around in case you are taken ill.
As a beginner you would only need to buy a very minimum of equipment, but you would also be paying for the course – which includes your first year of membership for the association. When you start to keep bees yourself you will need to buy a hive kit and frames. The total cost for this is likely to be in the order of £200. The association can provide members with a wide range of basic equipment at a discount.
It is unlikely you will need to purchase bees as the association has access to swarms which are collected, and often association members will be able to provide a colony.