Getting Started

One of the most frequent enquiries we get is "I am interested in keeping bees, how do I get started?"

Step 1
We highly recommend you start by doing our Beekeeping Beginners Theory Course which takes place around January each year.  Even with all the books and the power of the internet/YouTube, getting structure theory from a bee farmer and quizzing beekeepers builds you knowledge very quickly.  This should be followed by hands learning practical techniques - step 2.

Step 2
A very good beekeeping practical course is run by Berkshire Agricultural College at Burchetts Green near Maidenhead.  This runs from around April/May time each year, BUT BOOK EARLY due to over subscription.  This will prepare you to actually start keeping bees that same year.  Orders for a nucleus (NUC) of bees should normally be placed with the bee supplier during the winter of the year before you want to keep bees. (Oct-Jan)

Step 3
If you have missed both of the above, then you can still build your knowledge, have fun with bees and make progress towards keeping bees :

I.    Join Reading Beekeeping Association or other association as a Country member for £16
By joining as a Country member means you can attend the summer apiary visits.  By attending you :
  • get to learn practical techniques by watching a bee hive inspection up close
  • get to have a go at frame manipulation alongside the experienced beekeeper
  • talk, listen and ask lots of questions of other experience beekeepers
  • brings theory, opinions and practise together
II.    Register your interest for our course by going to the Courses page.

Step 4
To keep bees you need to be a Full Member of a beekeeping association which entitles you to bee disease insurance (BDI) - see Membership page.
If you have attended the Reading Beekeeping Association Beginners Theory Course and join Reading Beekeepers Association, you can go on the Reading Swarm Collection register. During the summer we collect swarms reported to us by the public and deliver them to our beginner beekeepers on the register.  This helps our beginners get bees to look after and gives swarms perfect homes to live in - hive. See Swarm pages. To keep bees you would need to upgrade from Country to Full Membership to ensure you have BDI insurance.

Beebase Guidance
Very useful link is from Beebase :

Basic Exam
To further your knowledge, you should consider taking the BBKA Basic Exam.  You must have managed one colony for at least a minimum of 12 months to qualify taking the exam.

See Basic Assessment files below.

For further information please see the BBKA website

RBKA Education 2019 Beyond the Introductory Course

If you are looking to extend your beekeeping knowledge and extend your beekeeping skills then the following may be of interest. If you want to know more about any of the following or join a training group then contact Jenny Morgan RBKA Education Officer


Once you have your bees you can ask to have a mentor to enable you to have some support with your beekeeping.

Club Apiary

During the beekeeping season there are regular meetings at the club apiary – sign up to the RBKA members Facebook group to keep informed of dates and times. A programme of training is planned for 2019 to include Handling Skills, Disease Recognition and Queen Rearing.

Junior Certificate

Under 18 and want to test your beekeeping knowledge? Then this could be the one for you

The Junior certificate consists of 4 elements

  • 10 minutes of oral questions

  • A short written paper

  • Making a frame

  • Present your beekeeping diary

Basic Assessment

If you have been beekeeping for over a year then you can join our Basic Assessment group. The Basic Assessment is the first step on the BBKA qualifications ladder. It is a practical assessment of your ability to conduct hive inspections and your knowledge of bees their behaviour, life cycle, swarming and diseases. You need to have passed your Basic Assessment to be able to take any further BBKA qualifications.

As an association we encourage everyone to have their Basic Assessment Certificate as it indicates a basic level of competence to keep bees. Many organisations are asking for those keeping bees on public land or wishing to demonstrate live bees at an event to have this basic qualification.

Basic training including the theory and practical skills will take place from April 2019 – assessment July 2019. Contact Jenny Morgan RBKA Education Officer to join the training.

If you have your Basic Assessment then there are several qualifications you can take:

BBKA Modular Examinations

There are seven examinations covering different aspects of beekeeping. Each module has a detailed syllabus and an hour and a half exam is set on the topics in the syllabus. You will have to do extended reading and make sure you have an understanding of the depth of knowledge required to answer the questions. The exams take place in March and November each year. Details can be found on the BBKA website.

The next study group will start in January 2019 and will be for those wishing to take Module 7: Bee breeding and Genetics in March. All attending the study group are expected to attend regularly and contribute as this has proved to be a successful method of preparing for the examinations. Contact Jenny Morgan RBKA Education Officer to join study group.

BBKA General Husbandry

If you are considering taking your General Husbandry then make sure you sign up for the BBKA training events advertised in the BBKA News and on the website. Start your own queen rearing and keep detailed records of your beekeeping. A detailed knowledge of all aspects of beekeeping as well practical manipulations at your apiary and a visit to your extraction and bottling area are a part of the assessment.

Attend the Spring Convention, The National Honey Show and as many talks, practical demonstrations as possible to increase your knowledge of beekeeping. Study the syllabus carefully it takes about two years to prepare for the assessment.

BBKA Bee Diseases Certificate

You need a detailed knowledge of disease vectors and pathogens, manipulations conducted to minimise infection, disease legislation. You will be expected to conduct specified manipulations as well as answer questions. This exam takes place at an apiary other than yours. Contact Jenny Morgan RBKA Education Officer educationrbka@gmail.comto join training group.

If you have any questions about training or improving your beekeeping knowledge contact Jenny Morgan RBKA Education Officer

Further Beekeeping Reading and Useful websites

The following are a few of the many sources of information you may find helpful

Beekeeping Websites


National Bee Unit

National Honey Show

Norfolk Bees u-tube

Schools: Bee Talks and Beekeeping

If you want a beekeeper to come into school and talk about bees and beekeeping or to help you set up beekeeping in school contact Jenny Morgan RBKA Education Officer


Honeybee  Inside Out                   Celia Davis

Honeybee Out and About            Celia Davis

Honeybee Biology                               Winston

Haynes Manual Beekeeping         Claire Waring

Bees and Honey                              Ted Hooper

Giles McLoughlin,
22 Feb 2016, 07:42
Giles McLoughlin,
22 Feb 2016, 07:44
Giles McLoughlin,
22 Feb 2016, 07:42