Beginners Course 2018

Learning to be a Beekeeper

               Melksham & District Beekeepers Association   -   An introduction to beekeeping   -   Booking Form Click Here

This short course is designed to introduce the important basics of beekeeping to anyone thinking about keeping bees as a hobby. It would also suit existing beekeepers who, without having had any training, feel they could improve their knowledge and experience. The course combines the basics of beekeeping theory with some practical experience at the club apiary. By the end of the course you will have sufficient skills and knowledge to set up your own hive and handle your bees competently and responsibly. Members of the club will be happy to offer continuing help and advice once the course has finished. The course is run by experienced and qualified local beekeepers.

By taking part in the course you will receive free associate membership of the Melksham Beekeepers Association for the remainder of the summer season, allowing you to attend our meetings, learn more about beekeeping, and meet established local beekeepers who will be able to offer vital advice and support to the new beekeeper.

Melksham & District Beekeepers Association (MBKA) has approximately 120 members and is one of five district beekeeping clubs within Wiltshire. The other clubs are Kennet, West Wiltshire, Salisbury, and Swindon. These clubs are affiliated to the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) which is the main national body for amateur beekeepers. It is recommended that new beekeepers join their local club which will become an important source of support and information as well as offering a range of interesting and enjoyable social events.

Melksham & District Beekeepers Association holds monthly meetings in Broughton Gifford Village Hall. Please click on this link to show map of Broughton Gifford Village and location of Village Hall  Meetings usually include talks and presentations from local beekeepers and nationally known experts about all aspects of bees and beekeeping. The meetings are usually attended by a beekeeping equipment supplier, giving you the opportunity to browse and buy seasonally relevant equipment and seek expert advice. The club arranges visits to various annual national beekeeping events and holds several purely social events each year, as well as an annual honey show. Membership of MBKA also allows you to attend any of the events and meetings held by the other clubs in Wiltshire.

You can find out more about Melksham Beekeepers at our website:

Course Details

The course consists of four evening sessions, as well as up to two practical sessions handling bees in the club apiary at Rowde, near Devizes, or at the apiaries of various club members. The apiary sessions will usually take place on a Saturday morning after the theory lessons of the course, exact dates are arranged nearer to the time according to the weather. The evening sessions all take place on a Tuesday on the following dates: 24th April, 1st, 08th, 15th May 2018. Each evening session runs from 7.00-9.00 pm, including a break for refreshments (free).

The course costs just £40 for the 6 sessions. Couples can attend at a cost of £60. Under 18s are FREE (limited spaces). The fee should be received in advance at the time of booking. Please use the provided booking form to book your place and send it along with your cheque. You can also pay by BACS. We advise booking early as the course is always oversubscribed.

Please feel free to email our course leader if you would like any further information:  Richard Rickitt    Email please click here and choose "Education Coordinator" in the drop-down category list.

Getting Bees

It is recommended that you do not order or acquire bees before attending the course. We will be able to advise you on the best methods of obtaining bees, as well as reputable sources. By joining the club you will be able to put your name on the club swarm list, which means you may well be able acquire a free colony during the swarming season.

Course Contents

Week 1 - An introduction to bees and beekeeping

This session introduces the history and biology of the Western Honey bee (Apis mellifera). You will learn how honey bees live, reproduce, and make honey and wax. The session will cover the way in which humans have interacted with bees throughout history and the development of the modern hive. The session will outline how modern beekeepers use hives to keep colonies of honey bees, how those colonies are maintained, and how honey is harvested. Other topics will include honey bee anatomy,, the types of flowers local bees will visit, and what happens when bees swarm.

Week 2 – Your first two seasons

Assuming you decide to acquire bees soon after completing the course, this session will inform you of what you will need to do in your first two seasons as a beekeeper. Starting with details about how and from where you might get your bees, how you will introduce them to their new home, and everything you need to do to look after them during their first summer. We will then explain how to safely get the bees through their first winter and spring, and then how to prepare for your first honey harvest.

Week 3 – Equipment

A hands-on look at the equipment used for beekeeping. This includes looking at hives and the various options available, as well as smokers, hive tools, protective clothing, feeders, and the varied paraphernalia that are essential to the new beekeeper.

Week 4 - Bee health and stings

This essential session looks at the increasingly important subject of bee health. Bees face a number of serious pests and diseases and it is vital that the beekeeper knows how to identify and respond to such threats. The bee health session will be delivered by Robert Carpenter-Turner, our regional government-funded bee inspector. The second half of the evening will look at how and why bees sting, what the likely consequences might be, and how you should respond to being stung – an inevitability for all beekeepers.

Practical sessions (x2)

These will teach you how to open a hive, handle your bees, and recognise what you see inside your hive. You will learn how to prevent your bees from swarming by performing an ‘artificial swarm’. You will also learn how to make a frame fitted with wax foundation ready to be used by the bees in your hive.


The contents of the course will teach you most of what you need to know before you start keeping bees. However if you decide to keep bees you will most definitely need one or two good beekeeping books from the beginning. You may wish to acquire a book or two before the course starts in order to be prepared. The following titles are recommended as good beginner’s guides. All of these are available from Amazon.

The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping, Second Edition

By Ivor Davis and Roger Cullum-Kenyon

ISBN-13: 978-1472920898

(Make sure you get the second edition which is much better than the first)

The Bee Manual: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Keeping Bees (New Ed)

By Claire and Adrian Waring

ISBN-13: 978-0857338099

Bees at the Bottom of the Garden

By Alan Campion

ISBN-13: 978-0907908975

Practical Beekeeping

By Clive DeBruyn

ISBN-13: 978-1861260499

A Practical Manual of Beekeeping: How to Keep Bees and Develop Your Full Potential as an Apiarist

By David Cramp

ISBN-13: 978-1905862238

An amusing bit of light reading, but not by any means a practical guide:

The Bad Beekeepers Club

By Bill Turnbull

ISBN-13: 978-0751544053