by Luke Adams
For over six years now St.Albans have been running their annual Beginner’s Course at the beginning of each year attracting an oversubscribed number of people to their fortnightly theory evenings to be ready for the practical hands-on beekeeping sessions come the Spring. This was then complemented by mentoring from experienced beekeepers at their two out-apiary’s Prae Wood and Oaklands College. However now St.Albans have decided to take a bold new step and take an entirely new approach to training these beginners.
The two main organisers of this year’s course, Marian Whittaker and Anne Phillips decided to run the practical mentoring sessions first and then carry out the theory sessions the following winter. This means that the theory training will still take place in January but this will be to the beginners who have undergone a beekeeping year with mentors at one of the out-apiary’s.
It was felt that serious beginners would find out what the practical side of beekeeping is all about and any that are unsure of whether they will like it or not will definitely know during the practical sessions rather than going all through the theory and then giving up which may waste valuable training time and also take up a beginners space on the course.
Marian and Anne together with a few other members have come up with a brilliant Beginners Pack which consists of an Apiary diary of when they are visiting the out-apiary, who their mentor is and also some basic bee information. The brilliant bit is that they have a course tick-box training plan that their Mentor’s sign when they think the beginner has achieved that appropriate task. Bearing in mind these are beginners, who haven’t learned any theory yet, all of the tasks are at a very basic level; like how to light a smoker, how to recognise a drone etc but their Mentor varies with each visit so they can see a variety of ways of doing things.
Another clever part of this idea is that their Mentor will be a Junior Mentor (ie a beekeeper who has been on a previous course less that 3 years ago) and they will show them the practical sides of opening up a hive and carrying out the examinations. On hand also will be Senior Mentors (experienced beekeepers) who will do the signing off process for the beginners Course training plan.
It is hoped that with their gained practical knowledge they will go into their theory course with a greater knowledge and they can be taught more detailed and important aspects of beekeeping.
We will give updates on how this new approach is working but it started the first week in April.