Basic Beekeeping Assessment

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2013

On 12 August at the Gregynog Apiary, a small band of brave Montgomeryshire Beekeepers took their Basic Beekeeping Assessment. The results aren’t in yet, but even without knowing the outcome I already know that I learned a lot by preparing for the assessment. Even learning how to clean all my beekeeping equipment properly was a bonus, especially now we are even more aware of the importance of apiary hygiene. (I found washing soda got the bee suit really clean, and also the hive tool and smoker). And it was a good excuse to read all those books that have been languishing on the bookshelf.

Our instructions for the day were simple enough – turn up with a clean bee suit, disposable gloves, hive tool, smoker, and parts of a frame to make up. The assessment is then in two parts – a practical and a question and answer session – and takes about an hour altogether. Both were relatively relaxed sessions, thanks to Dinah Sweet and her husband.

I found the practical session more stressful as I am used to handling the hive with someone else – it is much easier to keep the smoker going and move the supers with another pair of hands, plus it takes at least both of our heads to work out what the bees are up to and what we should try to do about it. So anyway, my smoker did go out during the assessment, and I noticed that Dinah smoked the bees a lot more than we normally do. I had to name the parts of the hive, talk about why I was using the smoker, and identify the bees, brood, pollen and honey, as well as shake a frame clear of bees and talk about what would be the signs of various diseases. It was interesting handling a strange hive – the frames were lined up the “warm” way, which threw me a bit, but the bees were very good.

The Q&A session was more enjoyable. Some things you can learn – like the lifecycles of the Queen, workers and drones, and some things you had a choice about answering (for example how to avoid either Woodpecker or Moth attacks!). I did wish I had read up more on diseases – though the new disease recognition cards from WBKA were really helpful. Assembling the frame proved there are many different ways of doing things – but it was interesting to see how everyone did it and the reasons why.

So all in all – well worth doing, not too stressful, and lots to learn from doing it. I hope more beekeepers take the exam next year. Contact me if you are interested in doing it so I can get in touch as soon as we have dates - probably early next year. And finally thanks to everyone that helped get the apiary ready for us.

Julie Pearce