RBKA Training – Mentoring Groups

With the first signs of Spring, we are planning the apiary meetings for Wednesday evenings at Henfold, commencing from the 5th April.

Janet Kay has summarized our four mentoring groups that will be lead this year by herself, Colin Clement, Keith Mackie & Trevor Keast.

1. Beginners

This group is for new/starting out beekeepers, aimed at people who are in their first year of beekeeping. You probably don’t have your own bees, may never have looked inside a beehive and/or are considering starting with bees later this year with either 1 or 2 colonies. We also look forward to welcoming all who have been on Reigate’s Winter Beekeeping course with David Rudland.
Lead by Janet Kay, the aim of this group is a very practical, hands-on, introduction to the fascinating world of beekeeping. We will be covering the elementary principles and most importantly, will teach you good habits from the beginning. By the end of the year, we aim to have you confidently handling bees with a reasonable understanding of bee’s behaviour, types of bees and what is going on in the hive on a
seasonal basis.

2. Basics

This group is aimed at the second year of beekeeping and last year’s beginners will form the bulk of this group. The BBKA Basic Assessment delivered by RBKA is described as the ‘driving test’ for beekeepers, which is a very good analogy because like the driving test, it is a practical and oral assessment, but it does require a level of competency and knowledge to pass.
The ‘Basics’ is a very valuable qualification because it shows the world e.g. owners of land where you wish to have an out apiary, allotment holders, neighbours, that you have the experience and knowledge to keep bees safely.
This group is lead by Colin Clement and assisted by Jim Cooper, who will support you through the ‘Basics’ with practical sessions on Wednesdays at the Henfold apiary plus an hour on Zoom each week to explain the theory.
Taking the assessment is not mandatory but the vast majority of beekeepers at the club have the ‘Basics’ under their belt and with the fantastic support of Colin and Jim we have a 100% pass rate.

3. Improvers

Having learned the Basics, this group is for those with 3+ years of experience.
Lead by Keith Mackie, the aim of this group is to consolidate your existing knowledge and explore in more detail whatever the group is interested in, or is finding difficult.
Possible examples:

  1. Disease prevention, control, and comb change
  2. Post & Preventative Swarm Control
  3. Making an increase & uniting (amateur beekeeper)
  4. Creating nucs and apideas
  5. Manipulations when you can’t find the queen, or dealing with an aggressive colony
  6. Marking and clipping the queen

4. Advanced

This group is aimed at beekeepers who have been coming to Henfold for 4+ years and have probably got
more than 2 hives. Again, this group will be exploring and experimenting with topics that are of interest to the group and will be lead by Trevor Keast.
Possible topics:

  1. Vertical Splits for Post & Preventative Swarm Control
  2. Disease Control, Inspections and treatment
  3. Running a production hive to maximise the honey
  4. Making increases and Queen Rearing
  5. Minimal intervention, Varroa Resistance, Wild Colonies & Bait Hives

– Tutors

None of the above will be possible without the help of Reigate beekeepers volunteering as tutors. We are hoping that our wealth of experienced beekeepers will step forward to volunteer. Also we would like to pair up less experienced beekeepers as a second in command to cover for holidays and to learn on the job to tutor in future years.
If you are able to help please email me at and let me know a bit about yourself e.g. number of hives, number of years keeping bees and if you have a preference which group you would like to mentor.
Janet Kay
RBKA Education Co-ordinator

Summer Season Programme 2021 Schedule – update

Our Summer Season commenced during April with RBKA On-Line activities.

The Basic Assessment Study Group commenced weekly online meetings on Tuesday 6th April, at 7pm, with subsequent sessions each Monday at 7pm.

The first phase (all on-line) of Weekly Summer Members Meetings provided live inspections of a colony beamed via Zoom followed by Q&A’s.

The current second phase is providing the opportunity for the Basic Assessment Study Group to conduct colony inspections with Hive Tutors; as well as maintaining on-line Zoom meetings for Q&A’s and exchanges of advice and guidance for all other members to participate in.

[Read more…]

Basic Congratulations

Thumbs_UpA BIG thumbs up message from our County Exam Secretary and member of the BBKA Exam Board … Celia Perry … for Reigate Beekeeping Division candidates who took the BBKA Basic Assessment this July 2019 at the Henfold apiary..

“I am very pleased to say you all passed, so very well done, that is a credit to all your hard work”

With a pass mark being 50% and a credit being 70%, the following members now have their beekeeping ‘wings’.

Nick Clark, (Pass)
Lisa Gallo, (Credit)
Sue Hanley, (Credit)
Deborah Jardine , (Pass) 
Brian Kay, (Credit)
Andrea McIver, (Credit)
Richard Pfeil (Pass)
Helen Stocker (Credit)


“Your certificates and badges will be presented to you at the AGM in November”

And this from Andrew Cornwall

“Many Congratulations to all those who took their Basic Assessment this year. Another Full House of Passes and Credits. Well done to you all!
And thanks also to Colin Clement and Jim Cooper who deserve much credit for all their work tutoring on the hives & helping me in the Weekly Theme sessions.
Next year you’ll get the chance to either have a go at co-tutoring a Beginner’s hive or joining an Improver’s hive, under the joint direction of Vince Gallo & Mike Hill.
Thank you for being such a challenging and engaged group. You’ve kept me on my toes with your questions!
Many Congratulations again! Your hard work obviously paid off. You are now Beekeepers, no longer mere keepers of bees.”

Finally thanks, and well done to Andrew Cornwall and all the hive tutors for another great job with the Education Programme and once again to Celia Perry & Bob Maurer for providing the Mock Assessment experience.

Exams may not necessarily be the reason why people take up bee-keeping, but it is hoped that some of the candidates will want to go on and try either the Modules or the General Husbandry, or maybe both, in due course.

For more info on ‘life after the Basic’ Click here.

What is the ‘Basic’ about?

Teacher Bee IconYou’ll hear people talk about ‘doing the Basic’ and you might wonder what it is all about. Celia Perry explains …

The Basic Assessment  is set by the BBKA and if you pass, it demonstrates to the rest of the world that you have reached a certain level of competency in beekeeping. 

It has been compared with the driving test. But just as you can throw away your L plates on passing, it doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about driving (or beekeeping). If you want to keep your bees on land belonging to someone else or on allotments, you may be asked to show you have achieved a certain standard and this is it. [Read more…]

Basic Training Weekly Themes – available for 2017

Learning Steps (2)The topics of the BBKA’s Basic Syllabus to be covered each week at Henfold Copse are set out in a single PDF file to download for viewing and/or printing from this website.

The document and related information can be found under the EDUCATION menu tab above, or click here.

Please note that the document and its contents, all prepared by Education Coordinator Andrew Cornwall, is for the sole use of Reigate Beekeepers members and is not for further publication in any form.

Focus on the Basic

keep-calm-and-focus-on-the-basicsHave you been beekeeping for over a year and haven’t taken the Basic yet? Well, it’s about time you did!

The BBKA Basic Assessment (usually just called “The Basic”) is the foundation level for all beekeepers in England and Wales. It is often compared to a driving licence for bees. Which is sort of a fair comparison, but definitely puts some people off taking the assessment.

I cannot stress enough that it is an assessment, NOT an exam. I certainly wouldn’t want to take another driving test! The assessor has a list of questions to choose from. If you don’t fully answer a question, they will rephrase it repeatedly until they are sure that you don’t know the answer. You do not automatically fail if you don’t manage to answer a question.

Part one of The Basic is the practical part. You have to make a frame and fit it with foundation. You then have to light a smoker & keep it going during the manipulation. The manipulation is just the same as we do each and every week at Henfold. The assessor will ask you to identify brood in all stages and the different types of cappings. You will be [Read more…]

Basic Syllabus

The content of ‘Basic Beekeeping” follows the syllabus of the BBKA “Basic Assessment Syllabus” and is now divided into 4 main subject categories

  1. Manipulation and Equipment
  2. Natural History and Beekeeping 
  3. Swarming, Swarm Control and Effects
  4. Diseases and Pests

All of the above content can also be accessed from [Read more…]

Tips on the Basic Practical

16 tips to help you get through the Basic Practical Assessment.

  • Ensure you attend with a clean bee suit and gloves!
  • Clean your hive tools and gloves before & after, in the bucket of washing soda provided
  • Light smoker, use best fuel and take time to ensure it will last for 30 minutes
  • When approaching the hive and before smoking, check entrance for activity, if pollen is being brought in comment on it (it suggests brood is in the hive). Also confirm the orientation of the brood box (warm or cold) & take an inspection position at the hive accordingly. When inspecting you should stand either behind or to the side of the hive depending upon whether the brood frames are warm or, cold way. This avoids twisting your body to lift frames.
  • Give a few puffs of smoke at the entrance and around the lid. Take your time before opening the hive. Use smoker gently & sparingly.
  • Open hive and gently remove any supers on to the up turned roof, to one side of the hive. Place cover board on top of supers to keep bees quiet and reduce chance of bees from other colonies discovering the honey.
  • Remove queen excluder, check to see if queen on underside (if she is there, remove her into a clip & into your pocket for safety for the duration of the inspection). Place queen excluder to the side of the hive close to entrance.
  • Working from the nearest to you, remove the first frame and check if brood present on it. If not, gently place on the ground in front of the hive. If brood present, suggest to the assessor you start from the other end and replace the frame. Talk your way through what you are doing & why.
  • You may be asked to state if the hive is top or bottom bee space. Top bee space: there is ¼ inch gap between the top of the frames & the top of the brood/super box; bottom bee space: the top of the frames are flush with the top of the brood/super box.
  • You will be asked to identify eggs, larvae and brood (worker and drone).
  • You will need to identify stores and pollen, stating if you believe there are sufficient stores.
  • Finding the queen is not essential but, you will need to find evidence (all stages of brood) and should state that.
  • If asked to show how you would examine a frame for disease…….Shake bees off a frame (but, make sure you choose one without  the queen on it) by placing the frame in the space in the brood box (if required give yourself more room by removing another frame but, ensure the queen is not on it) and jerk the frame downwards avoiding knocking it on the sides or, other frames. Repeat until all or, nearly all, bees removed.  Describe what you are looking for and explain what you would expect to see if there was healthy brood.
  • If asked to take a sample of bees for disease testing……. You are looking for older bees, these will be bees furthest from the brood area (usually the outer frames);  Use a match box & open the match box and hold it against the frame. Gently run the open end of the matchbox along the frame and then close up the match box. A sample of approximately 30 bees is required for disease testing.
  • Gently close up the hive when the assessor requests you to.
  • Use smoke regularly (gently puff) to keep the bees in the hive.