Bees, Beekeeping and Honey

Course CodeSGH8
Fee CodeSG
Duration (approx)20 hours
QualificationCertificate of Completion

Learn to keep a beehive (or many) for better plant pollination and honey production.

  • Online Course
  • Self Paced
  • Automated Self Tests
  • Can be completed in as little as 20 hours


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and nature of bees and beekeeping
    • Locating a hive
    • Types of bees
    • Review what you have been learning
  2. Bee biology
    • Bee physiology
    • Castes and their roles
    • Review what you have been learning
  3. Equipment, materials, obtaining bees
    • Obtaining bees
    • Step by step honey extraction
    • Review what you have been learning
  4. The Hive – types, construction, inspection
    • The hive
    • Choosing the right hive
    • Inspecting hives
    • Review what you have been learning
  5. Working Bees: seasonal husbandry and harvesting
    • Seasonal tasks
    • Honey production
    • Working with the different bee species
    • Review what you have been learning
  6. Bee Health Management
    • Pests
    • Diseases
    • Viruses
    • Review what you have been learning
  7. Bees in the Landscape
    • Attracting bees to your garden
    • Review what you have been learning
  8. Using Honey and Bee Products
    • Review what you have been learning
    • Final assessment


Bees can be kept in most places, but you do need the right type of bee and need to provide it with an appropriate microclimate.

Finding suitable sites for hives is very important.  Hives are often moved from place to place, (following the blossom) so that the bees have a plentiful food supply and make more honey. In some seasons some beekeepers move the hives every two or three weeks.  For those that just want to keep themselves in honey, find the most suitable site and leave the bees to it.
There are often complaints arising from carelessly positioned hives.  This tends to place beekeeping in a bad light as far as the general public is concerned.  There are several factors to be considered:

  • Comfort of the bees: The hive should be sheltered from strong winds, face the morning sun, and preferably be in shade at midday. Hives should be as widely spaced as possible.  They should be raised off the ground by at least 45cm to avoid dampness. This also stops toads from jumping up and eating your bees - and these are one of their worst enemies, along with ants.
  • Safety of yourself and neighbours: Most people will suffer some localized swelling and itching if stung by a bee, but around 0.5% of people may be much more sensitive to bee venom. In extreme cases the reaction can involve faintness, difficulty breathing and at the extreme, a sting can be life threatening. Sometimes people who have not been previously over sensitive, can develop a significantly heightened allergenic response. If for any reason you or anyone around you may be particularly sensitive (e.g. if you are giving a demonstration of bee keeping to the general public), carry anti-histamine and /or an EpiPen (adrenaline injection) with you for use in any emergency.
  • There are some things that upset bees: Rough handling of hives, poor location, storms, end of honey flow, and excessive noise (e.g. lawnmowers).  Care should be taken when working your hives not to upset them if possible.  Avoid working with them when your neighbours are around. Remember that bees near roads and footpaths can sting passers-by.  They will sometimes even fly in the evening towards street lights and houses.
  • Water: At different times, bees need water.  Although they use very little water during a good honey flow, this need increases in hot weather.  If there is no water within half a mile of the site, it needs to be supplied otherwise bees may seek water from neighbouring properties e.g. swimming pools or leaking taps. Place corks, wood, bark or straw on the water's surface so the bees do not drown.  Do not site hives around dams or where mustering takes place - cattle can be flighty during mustering.

An ideal site has a hedge or fence at least 2m high between the hives and your neighbour or footpath.  This forces the bees to fly up over the fence so anyone on the other side if out of their flight path.  Remember a poorly sited hive is an angry one.


Not all bees are the same. Most people who keep bees will keep "honey bees" Some will keep other types, such as "stingless bees". There are actually thousands of different bee species. Some live in hives. Some are solitary bees, living alone.

Bees are often confused with wasps; but they are not wasps! Bees belong to several different families and there are thousands of different species; but all are related, and share the following characteristics:

  • All have hairy legs; aiding in collecting pollen.
  • Plumose (feather like) hairs can be found somewhere on the body
  • Larvae are normally fed with honey (sometimes called bee bread)
  • Many (but not all) have long tongues that are used to eat nectar
  • The bees that are kept for honey are social, living in large communities, but few other species live in large communities. Most bee species live a solitary life.

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