Bee Basic Exam

Bee Basic Exam - June 2009



I am at that point of life where I don't plan on spending time studying to gain qualifications, you may, or may not have also reached that point. The point when you say, NO MORE.

But recently I found myself sitting with an examiner, at his Apiary, doing my Basic Beekeeping Exam.

So why do the exam? Hobbies are supposed to be fun, you don't need to qualify to do a hobby, do you? Well, some you do, some you don't, true, you don't need to be qualified to be a Beekeeper. If you just want to know the basics, there are lots of practical courses/evening classes to go on, you can join your local association and attend Apiary meetings. There is 'Mr.Hooper' and associates to read. Friendly beekeepers will always give you advice, even mentor you, however, I think it's a confidence thing.

Anyone can buy a suit, hive tool, smoker and all of the other recommended accoutrements, put bees in a hive, chuck some supers on and hope for the best, if they are lucky, they may not be disappointed the first year, but there will come a time when they go to the hive and find the Bees gone, or worse still, dead.

It struck me just before I started doing the exam, this would be the first time I had ever manipulated a hive in front of a stranger, whenever Andy comes over to my hives, I always let him do all the work, he is so good at it.

Anyway, I found myself on Saturday 30th of May, sitting in a lovely garden west of Romsey, full of information about how long it took brood to mature, how to diagnose diseases, how to prevent swarms (ha), how to collect samples of Bees in a matchbox (courtesy of Andy) and much much more.

My exam time was 9.15 in the morning, strange, I have never gone into a hive at that time before, I was therefore a little concerned about how the Bees would react. Of course, rather than a colony of Bees rubbing there eyes and saying 'Saturday Morning, what time do you call this?' they had been up and working for hours, so no difficulty there.

 Prior to the practical part of the exam, I had sat with John for about 35 minutes doing the 'theory' part. We did this in a relaxed way, sitting having a cup of coffee in the garden, talking and answering the questions John put to me. We then moved on to the practical side, John offered several hives for me to inspect, I chose one, then started the process of going through the chosen hive. The top super had a Queen rearing box in, the second super had some activity going on, with the Bees just drawing wax, I was then into the brood box. This was a large colony, but they were still drawing a couple of frames of foundation and to my surprise, I spotted the Queen on an almost drawn frame with just a few Bees on – that was lucky. I was able to point out all of the developmental stages of the brood from a couple of frames, Drone and Worker cells and even a couple of cells with chalk brood. I then put the hive back together. I answered a few more questions as we walked back from the hives, then John said the exam was over, what a relief!

I had a lovely time doing my exam, it was beautiful day, the sun was shining, I was in a beautiful part of Hampshire and I met up with a Beekeeper I did not know. He was obviously very knowledgeable about Bees. It was interesting to see his Apiary, how it was set up, talk about the varying problems we have both had throughout the year. It was also interesting, if a little daunting, to manipulate another persons hive whilst they were standing there judging your work.

Yes, doing the exam means you will have to do some study, but that just means you will be a better Beekeeper, thus, both you and your bees will reap the benefit. You will gain greater insight into these fascinating little creature that play such an important part in our lives – I think we all love our Bees, we all want to do the best we can for them, if not, why are we keeping Bees in the first place? it's certainly not for profit. Once you start to study for the exam, you may be surprised at how much you already know. 

We owe it to the Bees to be the best Beekeeper we can B.

Just in case you are wondering, I passed.