Honey bee natural history and Biology

The candidate shall be able to give a detailed account of:

  • how knowledge of the number of days spent in each stage of brood development from egg to adult can help the beekeeper to solve practical problems;
  • the effect of feeding on caste determination with an outline discussion of the differences between brood food and royal jelly;
  • the difference between summer and winter worker honey bees
  • the signs of laying workers in a colony:
    • the circumstances in which they are produced 
    • how the situation may be remedied;
  • the signs and the causes of a drone laying queen in a colony and how it may be remedied

Honey bee behaviour

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

  • the function and behaviour of the worker honey bee throughout its life including
    • the types of work done
    • duration of work periods under normal circumstances and
    • the variations in behaviour due to seasonal changes in the state of the colony;
  • the seasonal variations in the population size of a honey bee colony
    • an explanation of such variations
    • hive manipulation and preparation in response
  • the social organisation of the honey bee colony
  • the behaviour of the foraging bee and its work methods in the field including orientation
  • the behaviour of the worker bee towards intruders and the theories
  • advanced to describe the means by which colonies recognise intruders
  • the collection of nectar and water and their use by the colony
  • the collection, storage and use of pollen by the honey bee colony
  • the collection, transport and use of propolis by the honey bee colony
  • the conditions leading to swarming and supersedure

Honeybee diseases, pests, pathogens and poisoning

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

  • the treatment of AFB and EFB including methods of destruction of colonies and sterilisation of equipment
  • the signs and symptoms of poisoning by natural substances, pesticides and herbicides
  • crops most likely to be sprayed thereby causing damage to honey bee colonies
  • methods of spraying and the sprays which are likely to be least detrimental to honey bee colonies
  • methods which can be used by the beekeeper to diminish the problem of spray poisoning
  • action to be taken when spray/chemical damage is suspected
  • how to identify the following pests and how they affect the colony and the remedial action taken:
    • larval greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella)
    • lesser wax moth (Achroia grisella)
    • small hive beetle (Aethina tumida)
    • varroa mite: Varroa destructor, and Varroa jacobsoni
    • acarine, Tracheal mite (Acarpis woodi)
    • asian hornet (Vespa velutina)
    • bee louse (Braula coeca)
    • spiders, earwigs, and cockroaches, wasps
    • mice
    • pine martens, squirrels, mink

Apiary and honeybee management and history

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

  • the management of colonies for the production of comb honey
  • the use of honey bees as pollinators in orchards and fields of seed crops including arrangements to be made with the farmer/grower
  • the production and use of pollen supplement and substitutes
  • methods of swarm control suitable for use in small and large beekeeping enterprises
  • methods of monitoring and maintaining the health of colonies
  • the setting up and management throughout the season of an observation hive and the uses to which it can be put
  • the identification of pollen grains -using named examples – by their:
    • colour
    • size
    • specific shape and structure
  • an outline account of the technique of melissopalynology to determine the floral source and geographical origin of honey samples
  • the life history of one selected species of each of the following found in Ireland:
    • solitary bee and
    • social bee (other than Apis mellifera)
    • wasp
  • the history of beekeeping in Ireland and of leading contributions to the knowledge of the honey bee, honey bee practices and the use of the CDB hive
  • ancient Irish beekeeping and its interrelation with both agriculture and our ancient laws as can be seen in the Brehon Laws and in Becbretha.

Connection with the public

  • setting up the observation hive
  • management of an observation hive
  • transport and care of hive/colony
  • safety in relation to use in public at exhibition
  • location of apiaries in public areas
    • security
    • safety
    • access control
    • evaluation of risk
    • preparation and completion of risk assessment form
    • first Aid needs and awareness in dealing with bees
  • awareness of special considerations needed when dealing with live bees
  • security and safety when transporting bees outside the home apiary

Selection and breeding of Honey bees

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

  • the life cycles of drones and queens in the immature stages
  • a system of record keeping used in the assessment of queens and their progeny
  • age of adult drone and queen when ready to mate
  • timeline from laying of the egg to readiness to mate in the:
    • queen
    • drone
  • timeline of each stage of metamorphosis egg/larva/pupa/emergence
  • the deciding principles used for the selection of breeder queens and drones:
    • temperament
    • foraging ability
    • hygienic behaviour of the bee
    • swarming tendency
    • overwintering history
  • preparing colonies to:
    • raise queens and
    • raise drones for mating
  • methods of queen rearing suitable for a beekeeper with five to ten colonies and methods more suitable for larger scale queen rearing operations
  • materials and equipment needed for queen rearing
  • a method of instrumental insemination and assessment of the role this technique could play in honey bee breeding;
  • the signs of queen-less-ness and how this may be confirmed;
  • colour-coding and other methods of marking the Queen
  • clipping queens and the advantages of this practice
  • distinguishing Queen cells produced under:
    • emergency
    • supersedure
    • swarm impulse
  • methods of queen introduction
    • the principles underlying the process:
    • the precautions to be taken
    • difficulties in relation to different strains of bee and colony condition
  • the setting up of mating nuclei and precautions that need to be taken
  • the use of an apidea
  • differences in handling/managing bees depending on the particular strain of bee
  • selection of breeder queens and the reasons for this
  • selection of drones and the reasons for choices
  • methods of raising queens
  • methods of grafting eggs to produce queenss
  • significance of life-cycle timelines of both drone and queen
  • the importance of bee behaviour in relation to breeding queens
  • significance and the implications of inbreeding.

Seasonal management of honey bees 

  • siting an apiary in relation to
    • weather
    • climate
    • overhanging structures both natural and man made
    • access
    • security
    • safety for people and animals
    • sources of forage
    • competition from neighbouring apiaries/native pollinators
    • source of water
  • forage available to bees throughout the seasons
    • nectar sources
    • difference between nectar sources and the implications
    • pollen sources
    • propolis source
    • water availability
  • preparing bee colony and beehives for honey flow
  • the use of honey bees for pollination in agriculture
  • factors to be considered when bees are moved to a new site for forage:
    • safety
    • security
    • equipment
    • materials
    • access
  • Differences in harvesting of honey from different floral sources

Autmn treatment and preparation for winter

  • reasons to treat for varroa
  • approved treatments available in Ireland and how to use them
    • when it is suitable to treat
    • how is the treatment administered
    • withdrawal period
    • effect on the colony
    • how to deal with residues following treatment
  • sterilising hive parts and equipment for storage
    • chemical and other procedures used
    • methods of storage of equipment
    • sterilising equipment and clothing after use
  • food stores prepared and provided by the beekeeper to overwinter
  • food requirement in the colony for winter
  • securing the hive for winter

The harvesting of honey and preparation for show or sale

  • how to harvest and prepare different floral honey
  • how to prepare
    • run honey
    • creamed honey
    • section honey
    • cut-comb honey
  • regulations relating to labelling honey which is presented for sale
  • importance of good hygiene in preparing a food product for human consumption

Current protocols to protect against harmful invasive species 

  • details of some named species which may prove dangerous
    • Asian hornet Vespa velutina,
    • Small hive beetle Aethina tumidia,
    • Tropilaelaps mite
  • identification of possible species
  • effects of invasive species on the honey bee
  • Irish agencies dealing with invasive wildlife species and how to interact with these
  • how to install a sentinel hive

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