Wisborough Green Division

West Sussex Beekeepers Association


We concentrate on teaching the "basics" that include good colony handling techniques and factual things all beekeepers should know such as the life cycles of the three castes, the swarming procedure and disease. 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 monthly bee and honey related events including lectures and presentations by members and beekeepers from outside.
Special events that include such things as queen rearing or 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 rather than with regular 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 four 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 ability groups under the supervision of appointed Demonstrators in a relaxed atmosphere. 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 much better than others. There is often much advice given, but often the circumstances in which they are used aren't 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. It works extremely well for us and means that we can easily help out a member if they have a problem.

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.
  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.
Introductory and ability groups

The influx of new people into beekeeping in recent years is giving Beekeeping Associations a problem as there are far more people wishing to learn than there are experienced and knowledgeable beekeepers. In times of stability there is normally a smooth natural progression and we can usually satisfy the needs of all, but if there is an imbalance it means the advanced beekeepers can be neglected and we must make sure that doesn't happen. Many BKAs are dealing with it by simply not accepting any more beginners. At Wisborough Green we think that attitude is short sighted and we are taking positive steps to meet demand.

We have ten approved Demonstrators who we rely on heavily and bearing in mind some of them have only a few years' experience and need to gain more themselves we must make sure they have an opportunity to further their own beekeeping.


These will be those new to beekeeping, existing beekeepers who were not previously members or previous members who have returned after a long absence. See "New Members"

Those in this group will probably come to several meetings before being invited to join the Beginners/Intermediate groups at scheduled meetings. They will be in a small group, if possible with a different Demonstrator and will handle a colony of bees on their own every time they attend. Protective clothing for the head and top part of the body will be provided.

Preliminary sessions will be arranged on an ad-hoc basis depending on demand and availability of Demonstrators. Dates will be sent by email and it is your responsibility to check regularly. As we have restrictions on the availability of Demonstrators and protective equipment and in order to make group sizes suitable for learning, places at each preliminary meeting must be booked in advance. Those in the Preliminary group will not be asked for a subscription unless they already have bees.

We do not recommend those with no previous beekeeping experience purchase any bees or equipment until being moved into the Beginners/Intermediate group and speaking to a Demonstrator.

PLEASE DO NOT TURN UP TO SCHEDULED APIARY MEETINGS as we will be unable to accommodate you.

Booking in for Preliminary group only

It is only those in the Preliminary group who need to book into meetings.

This to be by email only to John Glover  (Cc Roger Patterson)

In emergency call him on 01403 751 899 or mobile 07900 453 750. Make sure you have a reply.

If John is unavailable then try emailing Roger  01402 790 637/07976 306 492.
This will allow us to put you in a group and allocate you a Demonstrator before the meeting.

You will be given one firm date and one pencilled in. If you do not wish to attend after the first session please inform us, if you do then confirm the pencilled in date.

We will not normally allow attendees to turn up without booking. If you are unable to attend after booking please phone to cancel as someone else may be waiting for a place. We would normally try to accommodate all those who wish to book in but there are limitations on protective equipment and availability of Demonstrators.

Ability Groups

These have been introduced to assist both Demonstrator and beekeeper with those in the same group being of similar ability. The Apiary Manager initially puts members in the group they are most suited to and Demonstrator feedback allows members to move group. This is based on handling and knowledge. The good or potentially good will swiftly move into a higher group and although they may not always have the knowledge of the higher group they will have the ability to learn quickly.


These will have progressed from the Preliminary group, but not have attained the knowledge or colony handling skills of the Intermediate stage. They will typically be in their first 2 years of beekeeping, but once again will be subject to assessment by the Demonstrators, as some may progress faster than others. It is incredible how quickly some learn and they may be invited to join more advanced groups as well. It is expected that some in this group may not yet have their own bees. All those in this group will normally pay a subscription.


This is where we would expect most of our members to be as this is where much of the basic learning will be done. In this group you will learn and develop your skills so you can competently handle a number of full colonies on your own, including swarm control, simple queen rearing, colony assessment, disease recognition and control, making increase from within your own colonies, honey harvesting and processing, etc.


Will have gained enough knowledge and skill to handle full colonies competently without help and have a sound knowledge of common colony management techniques and diseases. You will have the ability to deal with the vast majority of problems you may have thrown at you, or have the potential to do so. You would normally have a number of colonies of your own.


We all learn at different rates and some find 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 highlight a potential problem if we see it and it may be that we have to inform some that we feel beekeeping isn't for them.

We hope everyone will support us in trying to deal with this complex issue and can see that by arranging members into ability groups we can provide better tuition suitable to the ability of the individual. Our scheduled meetings become very hectic for those involved and we are trying to help them enjoy their own beekeeping. After all, we give our time to this voluntarily and it is a hobby that should be fun.

Although we probably have more colonies for tuition than any other BKA in the country our bees are heavily overworked and subject to a lot of stress. The cohesion of a colony is disturbed every time it is opened and this also greatly lowers the temperature of a broodnest which has to be put right by the bees. On Saturdays some colonies are inspected several times and they are always open far longer than they should be. It is hoped our approach will be kinder to the bees as well as allowing us to give better training to aspiring and established beekeepers.

We are committed to assisting the more gifted to move ahead as fast as their ability allows and it must be accepted that some will go into the next group faster than others.