Event Info

Teaching Events

There are three types of BIBBA event to help and encourage beekeepers to raise their own queens from locally adapted colonies, rather than to use imported queens that may not suit their environment, or run the risk of importing pests and diseases.

  • Bee Improvement For All (BIFA) days
  • BIBBA Open Days
  • One and two day Bee Improvement Courses

These are detailed below.

BIBBA Open Day – Improve Your Bees

A day of theory and practice for all beekeepers

This is an all day summer event to help increase the knowledge of beekeepers of all abilities on bee improvement. Attendees are encouraged to rear queens from desirable colonies that are docile, calm on the comb, productive and suit their local conditions.

There will be one or two PowerPoint presentations to inform attendees of the basic principles of bee improvement, together with some simple suggestions on how the ordinary beekeeper can improve their own bees.

There will be several demonstrations with live colonies on topics such as:-

  • Colony handling, assessment and recording
  • Methods of raising queen cells
  • Making up and managing standard frame nuclei, queen and cell introduction
  • Cell raising methods – queenless colony – queenright colony – cell starter, etc

Improving bees by raising your own queens – one and two day courses

The improvement of bees is an important part of beekeeping. The suitability of bees to the environment and their temper are issues that concern the caring beekeeper, but are not often included in tuition.

These courses will cover many of the topics and techniques that will suit the “ordinary” beekeeper, with a large practical element that is easy to understand. It is intended to be fun, not intense technical information.

Below are further details:-

Who is it aimed at?

This course is aimed at beekeepers who have several colonies, are involved in a bee improvement group or are considering starting one. It will suit those who want to raise good quality queens by using “artificial” methods in batches of 6 or more in controlled conditions. The information gained should prepare attendees for producing many more queens on a regular basis if required.

Attendees should know the “basics” of beekeeping, i.e. the life cycles, swarming procedure of a colony, disease recognition, etc, and be able to see eggs and young larvae. This is not a course for raw beginners, although it may suit fairly inexperienced beekeepers who know the “basics”, can handle bees reasonably well and are capable of learning quickly.

It will be an advantage for attendees to have attended one of the BIBBA “Bee Improvement for All” (BIFA) days, though not essential.

Note: If you suffer reactions to being stung by honey bees you are advised not to attend this course. Circumstances vary, where some locations may not be in an area that enjoys a speedy ambulance service. It is also unlikely there will be tutors or attendees who are able to deal with an emergency.

Why should we improve our bees?

Many older beekeepers agree that bees are not as tough or as suitable for our climatic conditions as bees once were. This could be for a number of reasons, including the continued importation of bees and queens, “treatments” and “supplements” that mask problems and the failure of beekeepers to cull the poor doers.

When we look to “improve” our bees, perhaps we should take into account the characteristics that have served honey bees so well since their re-colonisation of Britain following the last ice age.

To help make our beekeeping more pleasurable we can select for characteristics that we prefer, such as gentleness. This is a much more rewarding and sustainable approach than simply buying replacement queens that may be imported, which have the added risk of introducing diseases.

What will be covered?

There will be both practical and theoretical elements, with time spent at a number of colonies of bees.

Amongst the topics we hope to cover are:-

  • Colony handling techniques.
  • Making up and managing queen mating colonies and nuclei.
  • Discussing and demonstrating Q/C building methods.
  • Clipping and marking queens.
  • Q/C raising colonies.
  • Assessing colonies and deciding which to raise queens from and which to cull.
  • Selection criteria.
  • Recording.
  • Working with other beekeepers.
  • Setting up and running a bee improvement group.
  • Equipment required – buying, making, improvising or modifying.
  • Drone production.
  • Q/C distribution.
  • Queen introduction.
  • Mating control.
  • Some of the myths.

What equipment is needed?

There will be some time spent at the bees, so you will need clean protective clothing. It is asked that leather (or similar) gloves aren’t worn, firstly to avoid the possibility of spreading foul brood and secondly to be able to handle and “feel” the bees without being clumsy. If gloves are worn they should be new and lightweight, such as disposables, because queens and bees may be handled.

Apiaries at some locations may be in rural areas with rough ground, so may require stout footwear.

Magnifying aids, if required, to see eggs and young larvae.

All equipment that is brought on site should be cleaned beforehand.

We strongly suggest a notebook and/or laptop.

A camera for practical sessions is always useful and its use will be encouraged, but please don’t use one to photograph the projector screen, as it annoys other attendees.

All other equipment will be supplied.

See also Course etiquette below.

What can I expect?

A well run course with a limited number of attendees, so the tutors aren’t overstretched and we can give individual attention.

Experienced tutors who will be teaching from their own experience, not from books or the web. Please accept they may not have experience of all methods – few people have, however, there will be a number of options, so you can make your own mind up which you prefer.

This course will be fun, interactive and full of encouragement to explore the joys of raising your own queens that have the characteristics you want. The knowledge gained will help give you the satisfaction of producing your own queens and the confidence to assess and improve them.

Attendance is not intended to be a quick fix to improve your bees and that is it. Bee improvement is an ongoing part of beekeeping in the same way that honey production is.

We believe that beekeeping should be fun, not a chore. We don’t give attendees loads of information that is based on narrow thinking and difficult to absorb, but tried and tested methods that are simple to understand.

The order in which the course is presented may be adjusted to suit the weather (or the forecast!). If we expect our bees to make the best of our unpredictable climate, then so should we!

These courses are held in a number of locations. Local conditions, apiaries, bees, equipment, personnel and facilities may vary considerably. Please accept and respect that hosts may not keep bees in the same way that you do.

Course etiquette

In order to present this course, we rely on bees being provided by the hosts. It is therefore reasonable they are treated with the utmost respect.

All colonies are to be handled with care and by using the appropriate quantity of smoke to control them.

No smokers or hive tools are to be used, other than those supplied.

In order to identify stocks to raise queens from or for queen culling (we don’t expect to kill queens!) we will place them in order of preference. This is for instructional purposes only and not to be seen as criticism of the bees kept by our hosts.

What is or isn’t included?

Please see individual events for details.

Anything else?

We try to hold these courses in areas where there are opportunities for accompanied persons or the chance for an extended stay.

Although not part of the course it is hoped that attendees will meet up for a meal on the first evening, so they can get to know each other and have a chance to relax in the company of others with the same interest.

The Tutors

These will be experienced beekeepers. Please see individual events for details.

The Venue

Please see individual events for details.

The course fee

Please see individual events for details.

These courses are expected to be popular, therefore early booking is advised. Bookings are taken on a first come first served basis. When full, a waiting list will be created. If you cancel more than 14 days in advance you will have a refund. If cancelled within 14 days of the event your fee will only be refunded if the place can be filled. In both cases a £10 administration fee will be deducted.

“Bee Improvement for All” (BIFA) Days

A whole days learning how to improve your bees.

BIBBA are committed to helping beekeepers to improve their bees and those of the surrounding area, by raising queens from their better colonies and culling the poor ones.

Bee Improvement should be of interest to all beekeepers and for a number of reasons including temper, quietness on the combs and suitability to the locality.

The queen is an important factor in the characteristics of a colony, so colony assessment and queen selection need more attention than many beekeepers give them. This does mean rearing queens, but the bees give us many opportunities during the summer to raise new queens with little effort needed by us.

“Bee Improvement for all” is a one day course that is designed to help beekeepers use these opportunities to improve their bees, as well as giving information to those who wish to raise more queens. Some speakers and books don’t serve the beekeeper with a few colonies very well, as they often use methods that are beyond the needs of the ordinary beekeeper. This course is organised to help and encourage beekeepers of all abilities to improve their bees, using simple techniques without the need for specialist equipment.

Amongst the topics covered will be:

  • Setting the criteria you want in your bees.
  • How to assess your own and other people’s colonies.
  • Recording your assessments using simple methods.
  • Rearing queens from local bees to avoid relying on buying them.
  • Deciding which colonies to use queen cells from and which queens to cull.
  • Using natural queen cells the bees build.
  • Producing “Artificial” queen cells for those who want more queens.
  • Changing queens in colonies.
  • Making up mating nuclei.
  • Getting queens mated.
  • Working with other beekeepers and the local BKA.

There will be plenty of information on colony management, with emphasis on understanding what is happening inside colonies and keeping things simple.

Many beekeepers believe some of the current bee problems have partly been caused by the continued importation of bees and queens. This course will help beekeepers to rear their own queens from local stock and not rely on imports.

“Bee Improvement for all” courses are organised by BIBBA on a nationwide basis, sometimes in conjunction with local BKAs or bee breeding groups. They are all day events, but the timings will depend on local arrangements.

The very successful BIFA days were started during the winter of 2013/14, with 11 events in Berkshire, West Sussex, Lancashire, Cheshire, Guernsey, Jersey, Shropshire, two in Yorkshire, Worcestershire and Wiltshire. There were around 1,100 attendees and the feedback was tremendous. There were 15 events in 2014/15 winter, and eight in 2015/16.

read some feedback!

The hosting BKAs did a brilliant job in organising the events and publicising them locally. They were a huge success and they should take the credit for it. This shows that everyone worked together for the benefit of bees and beekeeping. The real benefits were gained by the beekeepers who have been given a lot of simple information that will allow them to improve their bees.

If you would like to have one of these courses in your area please contact BIBBA Conference and Workshop Secretary Roger Patterson by email