Wisborough Green Beekeepers Association

a Division of West Sussex Beekeepers Association

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We concentrate on teaching the "basics" that include good colony handling techniques and factual things that all beekeepers should know in order to care for their bees responsibly, such as the life cycles of queens, drones and workers, the swarming procedure and disease recognition.

These we expect our members to learn at a very early stage. We provide the facilities and opportunities for learning and experience in a number of ways:-
This website where there is information on the "Practical Beekeeping" page.
Our library where books and leaflets can be borrowed free by members.
Winter meetings with bee and honey related presentations by members and guests.
Special events that include such things as queen rearing, honey extraction and disease recognition.
Apiary meetings where the majority of our teaching takes place.

We do not operate a mentoring system. We have an intensive apiary programme and there is little need for outside teaching, although of course we will help over the 'phone or by email and make visits where necessary. Our Demonstrators are very willing and helpful and we think time is best used by teaching in groups where several members get a benefit of demonstration and discussion, rather than with visits where only one does.

Daisy with large group of beginners
Daisy showing a large group of beginners how we open a colony. They were split into groups for further tuition

At the Apiary

Our teaching apiary was started in the mid 1960's. With a large number of colonies and well maintained equipment we are still providing high quality tuition. We are proud of the way our methods result in some new recruits becoming knowledgeable and competent very quickly.
Regular practical meetings are held throughout the summer on Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. Members, especially beginners, are encouraged to handle colonies of bees on their own. This is done in groups of similar ability in a relaxed atmosphere under the supervision of appointed Demonstrators. There are often events for special interests such as queen rearing, where members can learn how to rear their own queens. We are not idle!
There are many ways of trying to achieve the same thing in beekeeping with a lot of different methods employed, some being more suitable than others. There is often much advice given, but the circumstances in which they are used aren't always fully explained. In principle we only teach one way, with all Demonstrators teaching the same. Although this may appear dogmatic to some it reduces the confusion the use of different methods cause, especially to beginners. It also avoids the problems and failures that are caused when different methods are mixed. This policy works extremely well for us and means that we can easily help out a member if they have a problem with their own bees.

For biosecurity, safety and teaching reasons we do have some simple apiary rules:-

  1. Any gloves that belong to members and have been used offsite should be covered with disposable gloves that are provided.
  2. Only WG hive tools and smokers to be used.
  3. No moving between groups unless with the knowledge of the Demonstrator.
  4. Rings should be removed from fingers as a sting can quickly cause swelling
  5. Young people under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
  6. Unless there is good reason all attendees are expected to handle a colony if asked to do so by the Demonstrator. There is little point attending otherwise.

We all learn at different paces, some finding beekeeping easy, whilst others find it much more difficult. A colony of bees is basically a box with a wild animal in it and in the wrong hands could be a problem, not only to the beekeeper, but bystanders and neighbours as well. We therefore feel a responsibility to ensure as best as we can that all those past the raw beginners stage are competent beekeepers.

Our scheduled meetings become very hectic for those involved, especially the demonstrators. We are all trying to enjoy our own beekeeping. After all, we give our time voluntarily and it is a hobby that should be fun.

We are committed to assisting all beekeepers whatever their interest. As well as normal colony inspections there is usually a lot to see and do. We cover specific topics, both by demonstration and discussion, perhaps relevant to the particular time of year or in preparation for the future. We have a large number of colonies for teaching and there is usually something happening in a colony that is unusual, so we show everybody and if necessary discuss it.

The apiary needs to be managed as do all apiaries. This from necessity is done partly at meetings and partly between them. We often have ad-hoc meetings for a specific purpose. These are advised with an email, giving time and task to perform.

At scheduled meetings we have a demonstrator heading small groups of a maximum of six, often very much less, so learning can be done in a relaxed manner. If we have a spare demonstrator or an attendee needs tuition in a particular area we have one-to-one sessions, where the member may inspect one or more colonies on their own with the help of a demonstrator.

Scheduled meetings should only be attended by those who have passed through the Preliminary Sessions.