Bees, Beekeeping and Honey

Course CodeSGH8
Fee CodeSG
Duration (approx)20 hours
QualificationCertificate of Completion

Learn to keep bees for better pollination of food plants and honey production in your garden.

A course for anyone wanting to become more self sufficient

Farmers and orchardists seeking to improve crop pollination

Gardeners/horticulturists

Anyone with a passion to try beekeeping -even as a hobby.

 

Lesson Structure

  1. Scope and nature of bees and beekeeping
    • Locating a hive
    • Types of bees
    • Review what you have been learning
  2. Bee biology
    • Bee physiology
    • Castes and their roles
    • Review what you have been learning
  3. Equipment, materials, obtaining bees
    • Obtaining bees
    • Step by step honey extraction
    • Review what you have been learning
  4. The Hive – types, construction, inspection
    • The hive
    • Choosing the right hive
    • Inspecting hives
    • Review what you have been learning
  5. Working Bees: seasonal husbandry and harvesting
    • Seasonal tasks
    • Honey production
    • Working with the different bee species
    • Review what you have been learning
  6. Bee Health Management
    • Pests
    • Diseases
    • Viruses
    • Review what you have been learning
  7. Bees in the Landscape
    • Attracting bees to your garden
    • Review what you have been learning
  8. Using Honey and Bee Products
    • Review what you have been learning
    • Final assessment

Bees are Very Important

Apart from the honey they provide,  bees are extremely important in other ways. If it wasn’t for bees (and other pollinating insects) many of our plants, including edible crops, would disappear. But bees need plants to survive too; plants provide pollen as a food source to bees and many types of plants, in order to reproduce, need bees to facilitate the pollination of flowers.  As humans, we rely on plants, bees and insects; a neat circle of life.

Although not all crops rely on insects to pollinate them (some are pollinated by wind or through self-pollination within the flowers), scientists estimate that over 70% of the food crops we eat and around 90% of the world’s wild plants rely on bees (and other pollinators) for pollination. Without pollination, our food crops would be far less productive, even negligible. 

Bees also collect pollen from plants that are not crops - those in our gardens, in natural landscapes, and even from weeds. Bees are not the only creatures that pollinate flowers though: wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, mosquitoes and even birds and bats also help do this great job!
In recent times there has been much talk about the world’s threatened bee populations, so we can all do our bit to help by attracting and keeping bees in our gardens.

There are Different Types of Bees 

Honey bees are not the only important pollinating bee. Native bees play a significant role in both plant and crop pollination too. 

Native Bees

Native bees occur in many parts of the world. There are several hundred different types of bees that live in the UK, some solitary and others social bees living together in hives. Europe is thought to have around 2,000 different bee species that are either indigenous or have been residents since 1500 AD.

In Australia alone, there are approximately 1500 different native bee species, some as small as 2mm and others up to 2.to 4cm long. Native bees are almost always solitary creatures – they tend their young in burrows in the ground, or in hollows found in timber. There are also 10 Australian species of stingless bees (referred to as ‘social bees’). These bees are known for their excellent crop pollinating skills along with their delicious honey, and this has also made them popular in recent times with beekeepers. They are however only found in the northern parts of Australia.

Our native bee populations are most important to biodiversity – they pollinate most of Australian native plants. 

Honey Bees

The honeybee (Apis mellifera) is thought to have originated in Southeast Asia, but is now widespread across the world
Scientific research suggests that although it may compete with native species to an extent, it does not harm them or chase them off. Native bees will forage alongside honeybees, but honeybees are far more efficient foragers and they can withstand lower temperatures whilst foraging compared to our native bees. Due to this better foraging ability honeybees will out-compete our tiny native species, especially if food sources are low. This is another reason to improve biodiversity in our gardens by planting as many bee-attracting plants as we possibly can - so there is enough food for our native bees to forage alongside the introduced honeybees.
Honeybees Make Good Pollinators for several reasons:

  • Honeybees have very hairy bodies which trap pollen and this is then carried from one flower to the next, helping pollination.
  • Honeybees use nectar and pollen to feed their young – so they visit many flowers to obtain it. 
  • Honeybees pollinate a variety of flower species however they are not indiscriminate about this, they focus on one species of flower at a time – this makes them very efficient and reliable pollinators.   
  • They increase in population as potential food sources increase and they will move (or can be moved if you keep bees) from one place to another to access the best feeding grounds (this, in turn, provides the best pollination potential too).

Feral Bees

Several species of feral bees often occur along with the honeybee. The following two are of most importance:  
1. The bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) - which is only prevalent in Tasmania (it is illegal to import these bees or to introduce them to the mainland). The bumble bee does compete with native species and tends to take over feeding grounds to the exclusion of native bees. 
2. The Asian bee (Apis cerrana) - is another more recent introduction and considered the most destructive to our native bee populations because it is highly adaptable, and therefore potentially highly invasive. This species is currently restricted to northern Queensland. 

Help Bees and Others Pollinators by Planting Lots of Plants

Having a wide range of pollen sources helps preserve biodiversity; a garden filled with a variety of plants creates a diverse environment, which attracts all sorts of beneficial insects and animals, including bees. A biodiverse garden is a healthy garden too, because when you attract a lot of insects and birds you maintain balance. The more ‘beneficial’ types you attract, the better chance there is of controlling the ‘unwanted’ insect species that attack your plants. We may have little control over what happens in the wider world, as far as the continuance of species is concerned, but gardeners can help (in our small way) to ensure that the co-dependence between plants, animals and us, which has been successful for so many thousands of years, continues to thrive in our backyards.   

ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW

There are always new things happening in the world of beekeeping; new types of bees being kept, and new types of equipment being developed.

Varroha mites have spread widely around the world challenging bee health. Stingless bees have become popular in some places in more recent times. Free flow hives were patented in 2017

We are continually updating our knowledge and how we deliver our courses, to keep our students up to date.

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