6 May 2013

BBKA Basic Assessment syllabus 2013 2014 2015 2016

This is the syllabus for BBKA Basic Assessment Syllabus (2013*), taken from the BBKA website.

The BBKA website will, of course, be updated to contain later versions of this syllabus -  

* There have been significant changes to the syllabus for 2016, as follows :-
A pass in the Basic Assessment is a prerequisite for entry into all other assessments.
1. Conditions of Entry
1.1 The Candidate shall have managed at least one colony of bees for a minimum of 12 months. 
1.2 The entry form and fee shall have been received by the Local Examination Secretary, or the Secretary of the BBKA Examinations Board.
2. The Assessment
2.1 An Assessor, approved by the Board, is required to conduct the Assessment at any suitable apiary. Normally only the Assessor and Candidate shall be present at the Assessment. The Board may wish a trainee Assessor or member of the Board to be present as an observer. 
2.2 The Assessment shall consist of four parts and the Candidate must achieve the pass mark in all four parts individually in order to pass the Assessment as a whole. The pass mark is 50% in each part. A credit will be awarded if the total mark is 75% or greater. The parts are: 
2.2.1 Manipulation and Equipment. Practical Assessment of the Candidate’s ability to handle bees and beekeeping equipment and the ability to interpret what is observed. 
2.2.2 Oral questioning and Assessment of the Candidate’s knowledge of Natural History and Beekeeping. 
2.2.3 Oral questioning on Swarming, Swarm Control and effects. 
2.2.4 Oral questioning on Diseases, Pests and Poisoning, 
2.3 Scientific names, although useful and show a greater depth of knowledge, are not required.
The length of the Assessment should not normally exceed one hour.

*there has been no change to the syllabus for 2015 but from 2015 the Basic Assessment will be graded as follows:
The exam board has decided to implement the ADM proposition to grant a credit if the candidate gets more than 75% in the 'Basic. The pass is 50% and the large majority pass so at least there will be some idea of the candidates abilities.
At first glance the syllabus looks too big, too complicated, and too full of difficult and scary stuff - stuff that will take ages to learn or revise. In reality there's nothing new because the syllabus comprises only what any beekeeper will (should) know after they've kept bees for a complete year - but few beekeepers realise how much they know, because they've never seen it all written down in one place.

A Beekeeping Association's "Beginners' Course" (usually held late winter) will have covered the theory of almost everything within this syllabus, but this will almost always have been done before a new beekeeper gets their own bees, and it's easy to forget the course content in the flurry of getting to grips with looking after your own colony. It's also easy to forget, or not realise, how steep a learning curve that first year of beekeeping is/was - from zero, or almost zero, to being able to look after one or more colony of bees confidently and competently, and without a more experienced beekeeper looking over your shoulder.

It's a good idea to attend a 'Disease Recognition' talk, or workshop, run by your RBI - their areas are huge, which is why the cycle of talks takes two or three years to repeat, but if you contact either your RBI or SBI they will be able to tell you when they will be running a training session within a reasonable distance of your registered address. (In some associations the volunteer BHAs are offering support and training, if they feel able to spare the time.)

Once the season is underway, practical sessions at a BKA's apiary** will (should) cover beekeeping 'best practice'. For brand new beekeepers this will include learning how to light a smoker and keep it lit, as well as how to use a hive tool. Practical work should progress apace, ensuring that new beekeepers can, confidently and quickly, carry out all practical aspects of beekeeping when they're on their own, in their own apiary - and know who to turn to if they need help.

**If your BKA only offers practical sessions for 'new' beekeepers, and nothing for continuing beekeepers or those preparing for their Basic, it won't be because they don't want to, it will more likely be because there isn't either the time, the volunteers, or the apiary resources.

Applicable from January 2013

To provide new beekeepers with a goal which will give them a measure of their achievement in the basic skills and knowledge of the craft. It is hoped that it will be a springboard from which to launch into the more demanding assessments.
A pass in the Basic Assessment is a prerequisite for entry into the next level of assessments.

(I have deleted this section because it's now out of date, as are parts of the syllabus below.
Please refer to the paragraphs at the top of the page and the syllabus as on the BBKA website for now.
I will update the rest of this page when I have time.)


The Candidate will be aware of:
1.1 the care needed when handling a colony of honeybees;
1.2 the reactions of honeybees to smoke;
1.3 the personal equipment needed to open a colony of honeybees and the importance of its cleanliness;
1.4 the reasons for opening a colony;
1.5 the need for stores.
1.6 the importance of record keeping.

The Candidate will be able to:
1.7 open a colony of honeybees and keep the colony under control;
1.8 demonstrate lighting and the use of the smoker;
1.9 demonstrate the use of the hive tool;
1.10 remove combs from the hive and identify worker, drone and queen cells or cups if present, and to comment on the state of the combs;
1.11. identify the female castes and the drone;
1.12. identify brood at all stages;
1.13. demonstrate the difference between drone, worker and honey cappings;
1.14. identify stored nectar, honey and pollen;
1.15. take a sample of worker bees in a match box or similar container;
1.16. state the number of worker bees required for an adult disease diagnosis sample;
1.17. demonstrate how to shake bees from a comb and how to look for signs of brood disease.

The Candidate will be:
2.1 able to name and explain the function of the principal parts of a modern beehive;
2.2 aware of the concept of the bee space and its significance in the modern beehive;
2.3 able to assemble a frame and fit it with wax foundation;
2.4 aware of the reasons for the use of wax foundation;
2.5 aware of the spacing of the combs in the brood chamber and super for both foundation and drawn comb and methods used to achieve this spacing.

The Candidate will be:
3.1 able to give an elementary account of the development of queens. workers and drones in the honeybee colony ;
3.2 able to state the periods spent by the female castes and the drone in the four stages of their life (egg, larva, pupa and adult);
3.3 able to give an elementary description of the function of the queen, worker and drone in the life of the colony;
3.4 able to give a simple description of wax production and comb building by the honeybee;
3.5 aware of the importance of pollination to flowering plants and consequently to farmers and growers;
3.6 able to name the main local flora from which honeybees gather pollen and nectar;
3.7 able to give a simple definition of nectar and a simple description of how it is collected,
 brought back to the hive and is converted into honey;
3.8 able to give a simple description of the collection and use of pollen, water and propolis in the honeybee colony;
3.9 able to give an elementary description of swarming in a honeybee colony;
3.10 able to give an elementary description of the way in which the honeybee colony passes the winter.

The Candidate will be:
4.1 able to give an elementary description of how to set up an apiary;
4.2 able to describe what precautions should be taken to avoid the honeybees being a nuisance to neighbours and livestock;
4.3 able to describe the possible effects of honeybee stings on humans and able to recommend suitable first aid treatment;
4.4 able to give an elementary description of the annual cycle of work in the apiary;
4.5 able to describe the preparation of sugar syrup and how and when to feed bees;
4.6 aware of the need to add supers and the timing of the operation;
4.7 able to give an elementary account of one method of swarm control;
4.8 able to describe how to take a honeybee swarm and how to hive it;
4.9 able to describe the signs of a queenless colony and how to test if a colony is queenless;
4.10 able to describe the signs of laying workers and of a drone laying queen;
4.11 able to describe a simple method of queen introduction;
4.12 aware of the dangers of robbing and how robbing can be avoided;
4.13 able to describe one method of uniting colonies;
4.14 aware of the reasons for uniting bees and the precautions to he taken;
4.15 able to describe a method used to clear honeybees from supers;
4.16 able to describe the process of extracting honey from combs and a method of straining and bottling of honey suitable for a small scale beekeeper;
4.17 aware of the need for good hygiene in the handling of honey for human consumption;
4.18 aware of the legal requirements for the labelling and sale of honey;
4.19 able to give an elementary account of the harvesting of beeswax;
4.20 aware of the need for good apiary hygiene;
4.21 aware of the need for regular brood comb replacement.
4.22 aware of the various web based resources relating to beekeeping such as BBKA and Beebase.

The Candidate will be:
5.1 able to describe the appearance of healthy brood;
5.2 able to describe the signs of the bacterial diseases American Foul Brood (AFB) and European Foul Brood (EFB), the fungal disease Chalk Brood and the viral disease Sac brood;
5.3 able to describe methods for detecting and monitoring the presence of varroa (a mite) and describe its effect on the colony including awareness of the effect of associated viruses;
5.4 aware of acarine (a mite) and nosema (a fungus) and their effect upon the colony;
5.5 able to describe ways of controlling varroa using integrated pest management techniques;
5.6 aware of the current legislation regarding notifiable diseases and pests of honeybees;
5.7 aware of whom to contact to verify disease and advise on treatment;
5.8 able to describe how comb can be stored to prevent wax moth damage;
5.9 able to describe how mice and other pests can be excluded from the hives in winter.


It is the responsibility of the Apiary Manager/Apiary Owner and the candidate to ensure that the colonies and associated equipment meet the specified criteria.

Before conducting the Assessment the Assessor should determine, as far as reasonably practical, that the following equipment is to hand:
  • a hive of a type familiar to the candidate consisting of a floor, a single broodchamber, excluder, super(s), crownboard and roof.
  • a queen-right colony of bees having worker and drone brood in all stages, with honey and pollen stores, and covering at least eight National brood combs (or equivalent) with a minimum of 6 of these brood combs (or equivalent) containing brood. Colonies affected by foulbrood or seriously affected by any other disease are unacceptable;
  • the component parts of a frame and a sheet of wired foundation together with the necessary nails and tools are in the possession of the candidate ready for assembly in front of the Assessor;
  • a matchbox or similar container to hold a sample of bees ;
  • a clean working smoker with spare fuel, clean hive tool(s) and any other items required to enable colony inspection;
  • clean protective clothing and equipment.
Ideally the Assessment should be conducted at an apiary not belonging to the candidate because the Assessment should not take into account the condition of the colonies presented. Local association apiaries or apiaries belonging to the Assessor are best because the quality of the bees is known before the Assessment.

Normally a group of candidates (up to 4 or 5) should be instructed to attend a common venue at about hourly intervals. When there is only one candidate to be assessed then the candidate should travel to the Assessor. This is highly desirable on economic grounds as well as quality of bees.

On the occasions that the Assessor travels to the candidate then if the Assessor considers that the colony offered by the Candidate is unfit for inspection for the purposes of the Assessment, then the Assessor is entitled to ask the Candidate to propose a second colony explaining the reasons why.

In a situation where the Assessor is offered a substitute colony by the Candidate and this colony is also unsuitable the Assessor cannot proceed with the Assessment.

Bold lettering within the text indicates the most recent changes.

There are 'notes' for each section of the 'Basic Assessment' syllabus:
BBKA Basic Assessment : Syllabus 2013
Basic Assessment notes - Part 1 : Manipulation of a Honeybee Colony
Basic Assessment notes - Part 2 : Equipment
Basic Assessment notes - Part 3 : Natural History of the Honeybee
Basic Assessment notes - Part 4 : Beekeeping
Basic Assessment notes - Part 5 : Disease and Pests
BBKA Basic Assessment notes : On the day

As well as my own notes, these sites may be useful for revision :
Mid-Bucks Beekeepers : Archive for the ‘Basic Assessment Exam’ Category
Miss Mellifera : BBKA basic assessment revision notes


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