Bee Keeping Events and Courses

Bee Keeping Events and Courses

The bee department at Buckfast Abbey has changed from honey production to education. Yes, the bees still make honey, which we harvest for the Benedictine Community who live at the Abbey, but we concentrate on the welfare of the bees and try to practice gentle bee keeping.

By learning about bees we can engage with them, respond more appropriately to their needs, and try to help with any problems which they could encounter - this could be anything from parasite control to starvation. We aim to work alongside each colony during every season and remain as flexible and responsive to the environment as they do.

This involves respectful and mindful management of the bees, as well as gentle handling, which takes into account their natural behaviors and instincts. Each colony has her own character, her own name and is important.

For a full list of courses, and to book, please...

Book Here

Beekeeping Workshop - Handling and Hygiene
Saturday 30th May, 10am - £6 
You owe it to your bees to take care when you inspect them. Hive manipulations should have purpose and cause as little stress as possible to your girls. Gentle handling is easier when you and your bees are relaxed, so what do you do if they are jittery and stingy? Clare and Martin offer their top tips about how to handle bees even when they are being feisty. Also: how to prevent the spread of disease and pathogens through good hygiene and well-structured working practices.

Beekeeping Workshop - Making Increase
Saturday 30th May, 2pm - £6 It’s always a good idea to have more than one colony just in case something goes wrong. Knowing when and how to split your bees is critical for: swarm control, making increase, and for queen rearing. Martin and Clare share some of the ways which they have found most successful for all three scenarios.

Beekeeping Workshop - Queen Introduction
Saturday 11th July, 2pm - £6 - Whether you have bought a new queen, or reared one yourself, she is a precious commodity. Get it wrong and she will be killed and thrown out by the colony. Learn how to introduce her to her new hive or nucleus safely. We will discuss a variety of tried and tested methods which can be used in a range of situations.

Beekeeping Workshop - Sex and the Wanton Virgin Queen
Saturday July 25th, 2pm - £6 - Promiscuous Queens are best! Over millions of years, honeybees have evolved an ingenious, if a tad risky, method of ensuring genetic diversity within the colony. Clare and Martin will illuminate this amazing process and explain the biology and mechanisms which facilitate a successful mating and the implications this has for the superorganism. They will also give you guidelines on how to recognise the signs when things haven’t gone so well, and what you might try to resolve the issue.

Beekeeping Workshop - Harvesting Honey
Saturday 1st August, 2pm - £6 - Robbing the bees can be stressful for both you and the girls. How much honey can you take and how much should you leave them? When is the best time to take it, and do you have to take it all at once? There are more ways than one to harvest honey. Which ones will you choose?

Beekeeping Workshop - Varroa
Saturday August 22nd, 2pm - £6 - In this workshop we will discuss the latest research concerning varroa and how it is really affecting our bees. We will explore some of the behaviours and mechanisms which various “varroa tolerant” races and feral populations have evolved to cope with the parasite, and consider the implications of these for our own colonies. We will offer practical advice on the best times to apply existing conventional treatments, and how other management techniques could help slow down the varroa population build up. 

Beekeeping Workshop - What The Books Don’t Tell You
Saturday November 14th, 2pm - £6 - What the books don’t tell you (and why bees change their minds!) Bee behaviour can seem confusing and we often resort to the anthropomorphic and rather desperate statement “Oh well, the bees don’t read the books!” Also there are also some seasons, when there are definite trends in bee behaviour which are different from the way things are supposed to happen. These aberrations perplex us, but also keep us on our toes. This workshop aims to debunk some of the common myths and misconceptions about bees which are often duplicated in many of the books, and will explore why our colonies continue to surprise even the most experienced beekeepers.

A mixture of theory and practical experience to start you off on your journey with honey bees. The course is designed to cover most of the bee keeping season from the spring build up and swarming to honey harvest and the preparation of bees for winter. We will be running two beginners courses in tandem every other week. This enables us to keep the group numbers low and allow some flexibility between groups, (if you can't make it one week you could always join the other group session the next).

Beginners Course A, cost £110
Tuesdays: 17th and 24th March; and 7th and 21st April; 5th and 19th May; 2nd and 16th June

Beginners Course B, cost £110
Thursdays: 19th and 26th March; 9th and 23rd April; 7th and 21st May; 4th and 18th June.

Beginners Course C, cost £110
Saturdays: 21st and 28th March; 11th and 25th April; 9th and 23rd May; 6th and 20th June.

Both courses are from 10am till 12pm
Please note: there are no classes in July to give the bees a break and to allow students holidays.

It is impossible to learn everything there is to know during only 8 weeks so students are welcome to join our community beekeeping group on a Sunday afternoon, during or after the course has finished, to top up their experience and understanding.

One of two separate afternoon sessions which explore the phenomena of honeybee swarming.

Saturday May 2nd 2pm till 5pm 
This workshop will deal with the why, how, and when? A better understanding of what the bees are up to may help you to be more effective in the ways which you choose to respond to their actions.

Saturday May 16th 2pm till 5pm 
This one will focus more on different swarm prevention and control methods.
Each workshop is £6 but the two can be booked for £10

Seasonal Workshops

Four workshops for second year (and beyond) apiarists which will focus on the tasks and considerations required for a successful beekeeping year. These sessions will be a mixture of theory, discussion, and some practical work where appropriate and weather dependent.

Spring - Saturday April 11th 2pm till 5pm

When is the best time to carry out your first inspection? What should you be looking for? What could you do to put things right if things have gone awry. When should you add your first super? When, how, and why a comb exchange could really benefit your bees.

Summer - Saturday June 13th 2pm till 5pm

Did your bees swarm and are they recovered enough to take best advantage of the summer honey flow? Will there be a June gap? Could you identify and fix a poor queen mating problem? How often should you inspect the girls during July?

Autumn -Saturday 5th September, 14:00

With so many jobs to get done in a such a short space of time: taking honey; checking for stores and feeding; varroa treatments; consolidating boxes; insuring the queen and the rest of the girls are fit enough to go through winter; it’s good to have a plan.

Winter - Saturday 9th January 2021, 14:00

Should you examine your colonies in winter? Are there other ways you could safely gather information about what is happening inside your colony without delving into the brood box? How to assess food stores, and ways you could guard against isolation starvation. Why a one off winter varroa treatment is so effective. 

These can be booked separately or as a block of four at a reduced price by clicking here: Season Tickets

All workshops are £6 each or all four for £20

Tea, coffee, biscuits and all manner of herbal beverages will be provided.

Taster Days from April to September 2019

For people thinking about taking up beekeeping.

We will be running four separate days on the following dates (this is not a four week course - each day is a self-contained unit which is repeated to allow more opportunities to attend).

Saturday 4th April
Tuesday 12th May
Saturday 4th July
Saturday 18th July
Thursday 3rd September

The day starts at 11am and finishes at 4pm with an hour for lunch (bring your own or fine at the grange restaurant on site).
We will be giving you an overview of the basic responsibilities and commitments involved in keeping bees alongside the costs and where best to get your kit. You will have the chance to see inside a hive and experience the fascinating world of the honey bee first hand. A full information pack will be given out for you to keep.

Cost £25

*This is not a substitute for a beekeeping course. It's an attempt to let you know what you might be letting yourself in for if you decide to take up beekeeping as a hobby!

We love people visiting our bees
Bee keeping groups or other hobby clubs/ institutions, are all welcome whether you have any knowledge about bees or not. It could be just a group of friends or a family group who want to experience the wonder of bees up close and personal. Family groups must be accompanied by at least one adult. Then youngest child age restriction is 5 years.

All visits last a couple of hours and can include a talk, a visit to the bees (bee suits provided and weather permitting) and some light refreshments with a chance to chat and ask questions. The maximum group size is around 10 (give or take a few)
These dates are available for Abbey visits (all on Sunday mornings between 10am and 12pm). The charge is £5 per adult and £2 for a child

May: 3rd; 10th; 17th; 24th; 31st
June: 7th; 14th; 21st; 28th
July: 5th; 12th; 19th; 26th
August: 2nd; 9th; 16th; 23rd; 30th

You need to pre-book visits preferably by email but you can write or phone.

Clare and Martin are available to give talks to your local hobby group; association; school; or establishment. The topics which we offer range from a general bee keeping talk for complete beginners to specialised selection of subject matter from disease to swarming or history to biology. We can come to you with a projector and laptop or you could come to us.

We charge £30 plus travel expenses.

Outreach and mentoring
We can help you with your bees at home by coming out and troubleshooting or advising you on management issues. We charge £10/ hour plus traveling expenses.

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