Honeybee natural history and Biology 

The candidate shall have working knowledge of:

  • the structure and function of the
    • alimentary
    • excretory
    • circulatory
    • respiratory
    • nervous systems
  • the exocrine glands and their secretions including the
    • hypopharyngeal
    • mandibular
    • Nasanov
    • sting and
    • wax glands
  • Metamorphosis in each caste of the honeybee including the number of days spent in each stage of the development from egg to larva, to pupa, to emergence of the adult;
  • caste differentiation in female honeybees particularly with respect to feeding
  • laying workers and drone laying queens and the conditions leading to them
  • the external structure of:
    • queen
    • worker and
    • drone and how to distinguish them in the colony
  • the structure and function of each caste with regard to:
    • mouthparts
    • legs
    • antennae
    • sting and
    • wings of each caste;
  • • The glandular changes in the honey bee throughout its life  in relation to:
    • Functions/duties within the hive
    • behaviour in the hive
    • orientation
    • foraging behaviour
  • Parthenogenesis and the mating behaviour of the honeybee queen and drone
  • The seasonal variation in the population size of the honey bee colony and hive management in response to these changes
  • the importance of pheromones, particularly
    • queen substance,
    • Nasonov pheromone and
    • alarm pheromones in the organisation of a honeybee colony
  • methods of communication used by honeybees including
    • dances,
    • food sharing
    • scenting;
  • the collection of
    • nectar,
    • pollen,
    • propolis
    • water and their use by the colony;
  • the conversion of nectar to honey and the inter-relationships of  nectar, honey and water
  • the distinguishing features of
    • swarm
    • supersedure cells
    • emergency queen cells
    • processes of swarming
    • processes of supersedure;
  • a method of rearing queens suitable for use in an apiary of  five to ten colonies;
  • methods of queen introduction including necessary precautions;
  • the signs of queenlessness and how to confirm the condition;
  • methods of marking and clipping queens and the advantages and disadvantages of these practices.

Apiary and honeybee management

The Candidate shall be able to give an account of and draw illustrative diagrams where appropriate of:

  • The types of hive and frame used by beekeepers in Ireland
  • Basic protective clothing required in beekeeping
  • Suitable gloves and reasons for your choice
  • The principles that govern the design of hives and frames including the concept of bee space
  • the use of wax foundation, wired and non-wired
  • How to begin beekeeping including the:
    • acquisition of bees
    • sources of equipment
    • costs
    • any precautions necessary
    • preparation of a nucleus of bees
  • The factors to be considered in the siting of colonies in home and out- apiaries;
  • The actions which can be taken to avoid bad-tempered bees causing a nuisance;
  • The year’s work in the apiary and how this depends on the local forage and the annual colony cycle
  • The principles involved in feeding the colony of bees, including
    • types of feeder
    • amounts of food
    • types of food
    • timing of feeding
    • any precautions necessary
  • The principles of supering and the relationship between supering and swarm prevention
  • The prevention, detection and control of swarming
  • Methods of taking  and hiving swarms of honey bees
  • The use and types of queen excluder used in Ireland
  • The methods of making nuclei and the uses to which nuclei can be put
  • The methods used to unite colonies of honey bees and any precautions necessary
  • Robbing by bees and wasps and associated dangers
  • Spring, Summer and Autumn management of honey bee colonies
  • Moving honey bee colonies and difficulties and dangers involved
  • Different methods of clearing bees from supers
  • How colonies are prepared for winter and how mice can be excluded from hives
  • Effects of honey bee stings and recommended first aid treatment
  • Importance and timing of changing/maintaining clean and hygienic hive parts
  • Bailey change in the hive
  • Methods of splitting colonies
  • Methods of Uniting colonies
  • Swarm control methods
  • How to introduce a new Queen to the colony
  • Capturing a swarm
  • The use of bait hives to catch swarms
  • How to manage a swarm once caught

Honeybee diseases, pests, pathogens and poisoning

The candidate shall be able to give an account of and draw illustrative diagrams where appropriate of:

  • the field diagnosis of American Foul Brood (AFB) and European Foul Brood  (EFB)
  • the life cycle of the causative organisms of AFB and EFB and their development within the larvae
  • the ways in which AFB and EFB are spread from one colony to another
  • the methods  of dealing with colonies infected with AFB and EFB including methods of destruction of colonies and sterilisation of equipment
  • The statutory requirements relating to foul brood, Varroosis and the
  • importation of honey bees and their implementation in Ireland
  • The life cycle and natural history of Varroa including its development within the colony  how it spreads and how it may be treated
  • The cause, signs and recommended treatment (if any) of the following brood diseases and conditions –
    • Chalk brood
    • Sac brood
    • Chilled brood
        Neglected drone brood
  • The cause, signs, and treatment (if any) of adult bee diseases;
    • Nosema
    • Dysentery
    • Acarine
    • Amoeba
    • Chronic Bee Paralysis
  • The laboratory methods of diagnosis of
    • Acarine
    • Nosema
    • Amoeba disease in worker honey bees
  • The fumigation of comb using acetic acid (ethanoic acid) including safety precautions to be taken;
  • Safety in using different chemicals and treatments used in beekeeping
  • The life cycle of Braula coeca and a description of the differences between the adult form and Varroa destructor
  • The signs of poisoning by for example
    • pesticides
    • herbicides
    • sprays
    • other chemicals to which honey bees may be exposed
  • The proper action to take when prior notification of application of toxic chemicals to crops has been given
  • The damage caused to colonies and equipment by mice and other pests and ways of preventing this
  • The damage caused by wax moths and the life cycle of both the Lesser and Greater wax moth (Achroia grisella and Galleria mellonella)
  • The methods of treating and storing comb with particular reference to preventing moth damage.
  • How to prepare and monitor sentinel hives for various new threats
    The agencies involved in gathering data relating to invasive species
  • Programmes which collate data relating to diseases and pests

Honeybee products, forage, plants and pollination

The Candidate shall be able to give an account of and draw illustrative diagrams where appropriate of:

  • The main requirements of the current statutory regulations affecting the:
    • handling
    • preparation for sale
    • composition
    • labelling and weight of containers of honey
  • How worker honey bees collect nectar and process it into honey
  • The methods used to decapping honeycombs and of separating the cappings from the honey
  • The extraction of honey from combs and the type of extractor used
  • The straining and settling of honey and its storage after extraction
  • The preparation and jarring of liquid honey including Ling Heather honey
  • The preparation and jarring of naturally granulated, soft set and seeded honey
  • The preparation of section, cut-comb and chunk honey for sale
  • Methods of determining the moisture content of honey
  • The physical properties of honey including its:
    • mineral content
    • specific gravity
    • viscosity
    • hygroscopicity
    • reaction to heat and
    • HMF content
  • The main constituents and physical properties of beeswax and how to recover beeswax from comb and cappings
  • The uses of other bee products such as
    • pollen
    • royal jelly
    • venom
    • propolis
  • The preparation of bee products for the show bench
  • The major nectar and/or pollen plants in Ireland and their flowering season
  • How honey bees collect nectar and pollen and how Sir Arthur Dobbs’ (Carrickfergus) studies in this field showed that honey bees were flower-faithful
  • The processes of pollination and fertilisation in a typical flowering plant
  • The genetic and evolutionary importance of cross-pollination, the importance of Mendel’s research in this sphere and the methods used by plants to favour cross-pollination;
  • The composition of  nectar and its variations and the effect of differing weather conditions
  • The origins and typical composition of honeydew with a brief description of the characteristics of honeydew honey.

Adapted from the original syllabus devised by Prof. Breandán Ó Cochláin