Learn how to keep honeybees on the Isle of Man
It’s been five years since I took the Isle of Man Beekeepers introduction course but I continue to recommend it to anyone interested in bees. Each January the Federation offer a six-week class for those on the island who want to learn how to keep honeybees. I can’t tell you how invaluable it’s been in learning the basics but also in meeting local beekeepers and finding out just how lucky we are to keep bees on the Isle of Man. Without the class I’m not sure that I would have become a beekeeper.
Great things about the class are:
- You learn all of the basics of keeping honeybees to the standard of the BBKA.
- Different local beekeepers will teach your class so you’ll learn a wide range of styles and tips.
- Networking. Other beekeepers will help you on your journey even after the class.
- Invitation to join the island-wide and local federations.
- Learn about Varroa mite and how to keep it off the Isle of Man.
- Beekeeping books. The book you’ll use in the course will become a manual you’ll flip through for years to come. It is: The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping. The book I was taught from is: Guide to Bees & Honey by Ted Hooper
- Learn how to build a hive and frames and about all the equipment you’ll need.
- If you complete the class you’ll be prepared for getting set up in time for the summer season.
- The course concludes with a day working with real bees.
Beekeeping is a hobby and vocation for people right around the world but it’s becoming more difficult due to honeybee population decline. There’s been a lot of studies on why our bees are suffering and the general consensus is that there is no one reason for it. Suspected causes include Neonicotinoid pesticides, lack of wildflowers and other forage plants and trees, stress due to commercial transport of bees, climate change, and the Varroa mite.
The last factor directly pertains to our little island. We’re a very special place in that we’re free of Varroa and one of the last places on earth where bees are relatively healthy. Varroa is a tiny mite-like insect that lives on bees, feeding on them as a parasite. At best it weakens the health of bee colonies and at worst it’s could be a factor in your honeybees not surviving. If there’s one thing that you take out of the class, it’s to never bring bees in from outside the island and to never purchase used equipment that isn’t local either. That way you’re helping to keep our bees as healthy as possible.
Beekeeping is a venture that will intrigue, baffle, excite, frustrate, inspire, and sometimes panic you. The first year is the most difficult as I found out with just getting my first colony set up and then watching as they swarmed during the annual swarming season – my personal beekeeping posts are here. I cannot emphasise more that the information and contacts you’ll gather in the Isle of Man Beekeepers class will help you through the tough times to see you whoop with glee during your first honey harvest.
Even if you decide to not continue with setting up your own hive, you’ll leave the class better versed in how important honeybees are to us and what you can do as a non-beekeeper to help them survive another year.
The course is held two evenings per month from January to March and one in April. If you complete the course you’ll be invited to a field day with more experienced beekeepers. It’s then that you’ll finally be able to don the suit and get your hands into a hive. I remember my first practical day nearly five years ago and the excitement of finally seeing how managing a hive really happens.
If you’re interested in joining the course, please contact Cilla Platt, the IOM Beekeepers Training Officer, on 07624429383 or leave your details on this online form. For more information on the class visit the IOM Beekeepers online.