Most of us declared, on leaving full time education an unspecified number of years ago, that we would never, ever take another exam. The studying, the stress, the anguish while waiting for the results – and to what end?
BBKA (British Beekeepers’ Association) has a structured set of assessments and exams. The entry-point is “The Basic“. The syllabus may look frightening at first sight, but a beekeeper with a couple of years’ experience should be able to tick most of the items quickly. Your association education secretary will help you to fill in any gaps. The assessment is at a local apiary (not yours) and the assessor will watch as you inspect the bees just as you would with your own, asking a few questions along the way. A short question and answer session follows. It’s a basic test of your competence, not to catch you out but to allow you to prove that you can handle bees effectively.
So far, so good. The Basic is almost intuitive, and does not involve written tests. However, the next step is to embark on “the BBKA written Modules” “The Modules“and it’s here that you are asked to step back into books, to study and to write.
Module 1 (Honey bee Management) is the place to start; you could consider it to be the “Advanced Basic”. This module takes you into the nooks and crannies of fundamental beekeeping – selecting a hive, selecting an apiary site, hygiene, swarming, nuclei, drifting, robbing and so much more. The hardest part of this is recovering the ability to write for 90 minutes – the length of the written exam. We just don’t do it nowadays! You gain because it forces you to widen your knowledge so that you can begin to recognise things that go wrong well ahead of time and will be able to avert disaster more often. Without having a learning target, it’s too easy to restrict knowledge to what you see on a day-to-day basis.
There are 7 Modules in all, as well as further practical examinations; the General Husbandry, Advanced Husbandry, Microscopy, Show Judge, Honey Bee Breeding, Honey Bee Health, and – at the end of the trail, for the revered few who make it – the Master Beekeeper.
However, if you only take The Basic, you will have proved that you are a competent beekeeper; if you add Module 1 to that, you will have proved that you are a very competent beekeeper. Module 3 (Honey bee Pests, Diseases and Poisoning) is a hugely important one given the changes in beekeeping over recent years.
The important starting point for each module or assessment is to read and understand the syllabus. You must then invest some time to study and learn; the knowledge gained will not go amiss. Correspondence courses are available from the BBKA website, your association education secretary will be able to help, and if you can get together with others to form a small study group you will find that the shared knowledge and encouragement pulls you through the moments of self-doubt.
So … if you remember promising to yourself many years ago that you will never take another exam, think about the benefits to yourself and to your bees about breaking that promise. Ask your association education secretary how to make a start.
DATES FOR BBKA MODULE EXAMINATIONS
Examinations for Modules are normally held twice each year, normally in on a Saturday morning in March and in November. Please check the BBKA website for this year’s dates.