Intermediate (Improvers’) Beekeepers Course

This course is designed to follow on from the Beginners course and is aimed at consolidating and revising the material covered previously. It will introduce new topics which should be of interest to those who have kept bees for a year or more. It will therefore also be of interest to those who have already attended an introductory course or anyone returning to beekeeping after a gap of several years.

Completion of SCBKA’s Beginners and improvers courses provide an excellent basis for those wishing to prepare for the WBKA Basic Assessment which SCBKA is keen to encourage.

Course Aims

The course aims to develop participants understanding of the principles that underpin beekeeping and to develop their confidence and skills to read honey bee colonies and

manage them in a way that is both empathetic and enjoyable. The course is mostly theory but will include practical elements at an appropriate time in the calendar. These will include at a minimum disease inspection including both alcohol washes and sugar rolls for varroa detection, comb changes, artificial swarming and methods of splitting and uniting colonies, and queen marking.

Learning Outcomes

Although this course revises the material covered in the Introductory Course, the learning outcomes are still relevant. Participants should therefore already have some basic knowledge / skills in:

  • the basic theory of beekeeping
  • handled bees and feel relaxed about this
  • basic manipulation skills
  • sufficient knowledge to interpret the basic state of a colony in relation to the stages of brood and bee development
  • knowledge of the range and use of beekeeping equipment required and where to site an apiary
  • basic knowledge of the principal pests and diseases affecting bees in the UK along with relevant treatments
  • awareness of the importance of apiary hygiene
  • knowledge of the importance of swarm management and swarm control
  • an understanding of honey production and extraction In addition, participants will:
  • understand the basic theory behind the practical techniques of beekeeping
  • understand advanced beekeeping procedures that can be used to manage colonies during the active season, for example swarm prevention and control, comb management (including rotational comb change, Bailey comb change and shook swarm), making increase, uniting and moving colonies
  • understand the importance of wax comb and how to encourage the bees to draw this comb and why it is worth having spare fresh drawn comb
  • understand the life cycle of the honey bee and the characteristics and tasks undertaken in the colony
  • be able to identify the basic external anatomy of the honey bee
  • be able to identify the range of crops pollinated by honey bees
  • understand how to cage, clip and mark queen bees and introduce a new queen to a colony
  • have opportunity to raise and discuss matters relevant to their early beekeeping experience
  • understand the benefits of completing the WBKA Basic Assessment

Course Content

The theoretical content of the course will have four distinct elements, as follows:

  • Manipulation and Equipment
  • Natural History and beekeeping
  • Swarming, Swarm Control and effects
  • Disease and Pests

The theoretical elements of the course will be supplemented by a practical demonstrations at some point during or after the course (dependent on the time of year and the weather), usually at either the Association’s training apiary or one of the tutors apiaries. Here a ‘hands on’ approach will be encouraged from all participants. The practical demonstration will be subject to appropriate weather conditions.

  1. Manipulation and Equipment The course tutor will:
  • demonstrate the care needed when handling a colony of honey bees demonstrate the reaction of honey bees to smoke
  • describe the personal protective and other equipment needed to open a colony of honey bees and the importance of its cleanliness
  • discuss the reasons for opening a colony
  • outline the importance of and the need for stores
  • describe the importance of record keeping, including veterinary medications administration records
  • open a colony of honey bees and demonstrate how to keep the colony under control demonstrate lighting and the use of the smoker
  • demonstrate the use of the hive tool
  • remove combs from the hive and identify worker, drone and queen cells or cups if present and comment on the state of the comb
  • identify the female castes and the drones identify brood at all stages
  • demonstrate the difference between drone, worker and honey capping identify stored nectar, honey and pollen
  • demonstrate taking a sample of worker bees in a match box or similar container
  • outline the process and number of worker bees required for an adult disease diagnosis sample
  • demonstrate how to shake bees from a comb and how to look for signs of brood disease name and explain the function of the principal parts of a modern beehive
  • outline the concept of bee space and its significance in the hive demonstrate the process of queen marking and explain its benefits
  • describe the spacing of combs in the brood chamber and super for both foundation and drawn comb and methods used to achieve this space.
  1. Natural History and Beekeeping The course tutor will:
  • provide an elementary account of the development of queens, workers and drones, in the honey bee colony
  • describe the periods spent by the female castes and the drone in the four stages of their life, e. egg, larvae, pupa and adult
  • describe the division of labour within the hive
  • name the main local flora from which honey bees gather pollen and nectar
  • provide a simple definition of nectar and simple description of how it is collected, brought back to the hive and converted into honey
  • provide a simple description of the collection of pollen and use of pollen, water and propolis in the honey bee colony
  • provide a simple description of the way in which the honey bee colony passes the winter discuss the considerations for setting up an apiary
  • describe what precautions should be taken to avoid the honey bees being a nuisance to neighbours and livestock
  • describe the possible effects of honey bee stings on humans and suitable first aid treatment describe the annual cycle of work in the apiary
  • describe the preparation of sugar syrup and how and when to feed the bees outline how and when to add honey supers
  • describe the dangers of robbing and how it can be avoided
  • describe a method of clearing bees from honey supers in advance of their removal prior to honey extraction
  • describe the process of extracting honey from combs and a method of straining and bottling of honey, including hygiene.
  • provide an overview of the resources available to beekeepers, including WBKA, DEFRA, BeeBase, etc
  1. Swarming, Swarm Control and Effects The course tutor will:
  • describe the process of swarming in the honey bee colony, including causes, natural history, primary and cast swarms
  • discuss swarm prevention techniques describe one method of swarm control describe how to collect a swarm and hive it
  • describe the signs of a queenless colony and how to test if a colony is queenless describe the signs of a laying workers and of a drone laying queen
  • describe a simple method of queen introduction
  • describe a method of uniting colonies and precautions to be taken
  1. Disease and Pests The course tutor will:
  • describe the appearance of healthy brood, sealed and unsealed explain the reasons for good apiary hygiene
  • explain the reasons for regular brood comb replacement
  • describe the signs of bacterial diseases American Foul Brood (AFB) and European Foul Brood (EFB), the fungal disease Chalk Brood and the viral disease Sac Brood
  • describe the methods for detecting and monitoring the presence of varroa (a mite) and describe its effect on the colony including the awareness of associated viruses
  • explain the effects of acarine (a mite) and nosema (a fungus) on the honey bee colony describe ways of controlling varroa using integrated pest management techniques outline current legislation regarding notifiable diseases and pests of honey bees provide information on who to contact to verify disease and advise on treatment advise how to store comb to prevent damage by wax moth
  • describe how mice and other pests can be excluded from hives in winter
  • mention other exotic pests including small hive beetle, Tropilaelaps mite, and Asian Hornet

Recommended Reading and Information Sources

Whilst it is not a requirement, SCBKA recommends participants purchase Ted Hooper ‘s “Guide to Bees and Honey” or the British BBKA Guide To Beekeeping (second edition) by Ivor Davis and Roger Cullum-Kenyon.

The Haynes Bee Manual is a useful step-by-step guide to keeping bees.

The course tutor will outline other information sources to include the benefits of joining an association, enrolment on BeeBase (online at the National Bee Unit), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Welsh Beekeepers Association (WBKA), South Clwyd Beekeepers Association (SCBKA), local and national suppliers of beekeeping equipment.

Support for Continuous Learning

It is recommended that participants join South Clwyd Beekeepers Association for ongoing support, for example apiary meetings during the summer months, evening meetings throughout the year, regular mailshots keeping members fully up to date, membership of the Welsh Beekeepers Association and copy of the Welsh Beekeeper Magazine, etc.

Course Evaluation

SCBKA will carry out course evaluation by means of paper or electronic questionnaire. The purpose of such evaluation is to assess the quality of training courses provided and to respond to, and act on the results.

Course Dates 2024

The course will take place over 3 Saturdays 10th Feb, 17th  Feb  and 24th 09:00 – 16:00 hrs

Course Fee: The course fee of £100.00 also covers tuition at the weekly SCBKA apiary inspections (Saturday or Sunday subject to weather)


The course will take place at Plas Pentwyn Community Centre, 1A Castle Rd, Coedpoeth, Wrexham LL11 3NU


This course has been designed to follow on from the introductory course. It broadly follows the syllabus for the WBKA Basic Assessment.

Both the introductory and intermediate courses should help those beekeepers who wish to prepare for the WBKA Basic Assessment.

If you would like to register for the 2024 course, please complete the form below.

If you require any further information about the beginners course, please contact

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