BBKA basic assessment syllabus

Aim of the BBKA basic assessment

To provide new beekeepers with a goal and to give them a measure of their achievement in the basic skills and knowledge of the craft.

It is hoped that the basic will be a springboard from which to launch into the more demanding assessments. A pass in the basic assessment is a prerequisite for entry into all other assessments.

Basic assessment syllabus

1.0 Manipulation and equipment – practical

The Candidate will be aware of:

1.1 the care needed when handling a colony of honey bees.

1.2 the reactions of honey bees to smoke.

1.3 the personal equipment needed to open a colony of honey bees and the importance of its cleanliness.

1.4 the reasons for opening a colony

1.5 the need for stores

1.6 the importance of record keeping

The Candidate will be able to:

1.7 open a colony of honey bees and keep the colony under control

1.8 demonstrate lighting and the use of the smoker

1.9 demonstrate the use of the hive tool

1.10 remove combs from the hive and identify worker, drone and queen cells or cups if present, and to comment on the state of the combs.

1.11 identify the female castes and the drone.

1.12 identify brood at all stages.

Eggs (right) and larvae at various stages of development

1.13 demonstrate the difference between drone, worker and honey cappings.

1.14 identify stored nectar, honey and pollen.

1.15 take a sample of worker bees in a suitable container.

1.16 state the number of worker bees required for an adult disease diagnosis sample.

1.17 demonstrate how to shake bees from a comb and how to look for signs of brood

1.18 name and explain the function of the principal parts of a modern beehive.

1.19 discuss the concept of the bee space and its significance in the modern beehive.

1.20 assemble a brood frame and fit it with wired wax foundation.

1.21 discuss spacing of the combs in the brood chamber and super for both foundation and drawn comb and methods used to achieve this spacing.

2.0 Natural history and beekeeping oral questions

The Candidate will be:

2.1 able to give an elementary account of the development of queens, workers and drones in the honey bee colony.

2.2 able to state the periods spent by the female castes and the drone in the four stages of their life; egg, larva, pupa and adult.

2.3 able to name the main local flora from which honey bees gather pollen and nectar.

2.4 able to give a simple definition of nectar and a simple description of how it is
collected, brought back to the hive and is converted into honey.

2.5 able to give a simple description of the collection and use of pollen, water and
propolis in the honey bee colony.

2.6 able to give an elementary description of the way in which the honey bee colony passes the winter.

2.7 able to give an elementary description of how to set up an apiary.

2.8 able to describe what precautions should be taken to avoid the honey bees being a
nuisance to neighbours and livestock.

2.9 able to describe the possible effects of honey bee stings on humans and able to
recommend suitable first aid treatment.

2.10 able to give an elementary description of the annual cycle of work in the apiary.

2.11 able to describe the preparation of sugar syrup and how and when to feed bees.

2.12 aware of the need to add supers and the timing of the operation.

2.13 aware of the dangers of robbing and how robbing can be avoided.

2.14 able to describe a method used to clear honey bees from supers.

2.15 able to describe the process of extracting honey from combs and a method of straining and bottling honey suitable for a small scale beekeeper, including hygiene;

2.16 aware of the various web based resources relating to beekeeping such as BBKA and Beebase.

3.0 Swarming, swarm control and effects-oral questions

The Candidate will be:

3.1 able to give an elementary description of Swarming in a honey bee colony.

3.2 able to give an elementary account of one method of swarm control.

3.3 able to describe how to take a honey bee swarm and how to hive it.

3.4 able to describe the signs of a queenless colony and how to test if a colony is

3.5 able to describe the signs of laying workers and of a drone laying queen.

3.6 able to describe a simple method of queen introduction.

3.7 able to describe one method of uniting colonies and precautions to be taken.

4.0 Disease and pests – oral questions

The Candidate will be:

4.1 able to describe the appearance of healthy brood, sealed and unsealed.

4.2 aware of the reasons for good apiary hygiene. Beebase

4.3 aware of the reasons for regular brood comb replacement. shook swarm.

4.4 able to describe the signs of the bacterial diseases American Foul Brood (AFB) and
European Foul Brood (EFB), the fungal disease Chalk Brood and the viral disease
Sac brood. Beebase. (NB Check out the Beebase image gallery)

4.5 able to describe methods for detecting and monitoring the presence of varroa
and describe its effect effect on a colony including an awareness of the effect of associated viruses.

4.6 aware of acarine and nosema and their effect upon the colony. Beebase

4.7 able to describe ways of controlling varroa using intergrated pest management techniques.

4.8 aware of the current legislation regarding notifiable diseases and pests of honey bees.

4.9 aware of whom to contact to verify disease and advise on treatment. Beebase contact page. (NB: you can contact your mentor in the first instance.)

4.10 able to describe how comb can be stored to prevent wax moth damage. Beebase

4.11 able to describe how mice and other pests can be excluded from the hive in winter.

End of syllabus

Conditions of entry
  1. 1.1 The Candidate shall have managed at least one colony of bees for a minimum of 12 months.
    1.2 The entry form and fee shall have been received by the Local Examination Secretary, or the Secretary of the BBKA Examinations Board.
    1.3 The candidate must be a member of the BBKA.
  2. The Assessment
    2.1 An Assessor, approved by the Board, is required to conduct the Assessment at any suitable apiary. Normally only the Assessor and Candidate shall be present at the Assessment. The Board may wish a trainee Assessor or member of the Board to be present as an observer.
    2.2 The Assessment shall consist of four parts and the Candidate must achieve the pass mark in all four parts individually in order to pass the Assessment as a whole. The pass mark is 50% in each part. A credit will be awarded if the total mark is 75% or greater and a distinction if the mark is 90% or greater. The parts are:
    2.2.1 Manipulation and Equipment. Practical Assessment of the Candidate’s ability to handle bees and beekeeping equipment and the ability to interpret what is observed.
    2.2.2 Oral questioning and Assessment of the Candidate’s knowledge of Natural History and Beekeeping.
    2.2.3 Oral questioning on Swarming, Swarm Control and effects.
    2.2.4 Oral questioning on Diseases and Pests,
    2.3 Scientific names, although useful and show a greater depth of knowledge, are not required.
    The length of the Assessment should not normally exceed one hour. The final date for an assessment is 31st August.
Notes to help the Association prepare the apiary

It is the responsibility of the Apiary Manager and the candidate to ensure that the colonies and associated equipment meet the specified criteria.

1. A queen-right colony of bees having brood at all stages, with honey and pollen stores, and covering at least eight brood combs and at least one honey super. Colonies affected by foulbrood or seriously affected by any other disease are unacceptable.

2. The component parts of a brood frame and a sheet of wired foundation together with the necessary nails and tools ready for assembly in front of the Assessor.

3. Suitable container to hold a sample of bees.

4. A working smoker with spare fuel, hive tool(s) and any other items required to enable colony inspection.

5. Clean protective clothing and equipment.

Ideally the assessment should be conducted at an apiary not belonging to the candidate. Association apiaries or apiaries belonging to the assessor are ideal because the quality of the bees is known before the assessment.

Normally a group of candidates (up to 4 or 5) should be instructed to attend a common venue at about hourly intervals. When there is only one candidate to be assessed then the candidate should travel to the assessor. This is highly desirable on economic grounds as well as quality of bees.

On occasions where the assessor travels to the candidate then considers that the colony offered is unfit for inspection, the assessor is entitled to ask the Candidate to propose a second colony explaining the reasons why.

In a situation where a suitable colony cannot be offered, the Assessor cannot proceed with the Assessment.

Where assessors travel to an apiary, it is essential that an apiary manager or other responsible person should be present for the duration of the assessment(s). This is for health & safety and safeguarding reasons.

Details of how to contact emergency services must also be available and should include a map reference and postcode (where applicable).

If these requirements are not met the assessment will not proceed and fees will not be refunded.

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