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Introduction to Beekeeping (BF 160)

beesGetting your hive operation off the ground.

Whether you currently are keeping honey bees, or are considering adding them to your farm, a basic understanding of bee biology, diseases, pests and setting up your colony for success are essential.

An A to Z plan starting with understanding the difference between a drone, queen and nurse bee, siting your apiary, a plan for Varroa mites, and effective winterizing techniques will help ensure your hive(s) make it through the winter so you can harvest honey the following season.

This course, taught by experienced beekeepers and the NYS Honey Bee Extension Associate will give you real-world experiences paired with academic concepts.

Target Audience

ALL LEVELS – This course is geared for those who have plans to start keeping bees within the next 1-3 years, or who have been keeping honey bees for fewer than three years. Disease and pest issues will focus on the Northeast region of the country, though others will find much of the content useful to their locale.

Course Objectives

At the completion of this course, you will:

  • Have an understanding of basic bee biology
  • Gain management skills to support responsible decision making
  • Be able to get your apiary colony through the first years of production


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters and ask questions to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing. Access details will be posted in MOODLE once you have registered and logged in.


March 2 – April 30, with Webinars each Thursday evening from 6:30 – 8:00pm EST


Laura Biasillo is the Agricultural Economic Development Specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.

Sue Garing is a Master Beekeeper, member of the Board of Directors (and past president) for the Southern Tier Beekeepers, as well as on the Board of the Empire State Honey Producers, as well as owner of Sue Garing Honey & Garlic.

Course Outline

Week 1: Getting to Know Bees

Topics covered: Introductions. Overview of our online “campus” (Moodle), course outline, and basic bee biology, roles and jobs. We’ll discuss how to find a queen bee in your hive, what a bee is and isn’t, and finally the importance of having a local experienced beekeeper as your mentor and joining a local bee club.

Week 2: Setting Up Your Apiary

Topics covered: Create a calendar ordering, installing and getting your bees through the summer. Considering in setting up your apiary. “A year in the apiary” – life cycle. Time commitment. Goals and Hive Management Practices. When to order & from whom? Buying versus raising versus swarming a new queen. Timing and starter feeding.

Week 3: Basic Equipment for Your First Year

Topics covered: What do you really need? Styles of equipment. Expenses. Create a budget.

Week 4: Basic Hive Inspection, Part 1

Topics covered: Hive Inspection Protocol. Brood (why is it important and evaluating brood health). Learn to ID honey & pollen storage. Are my bees developing correctly? How much honey do they need to make it through the winter? Do I need a queen excluder?

Week 5: Basic Hive Inspection, Part 2 (What to do when things go wrong)

Topics covered: Hive Robbers. Swarm. Re-queening. Bad temperament & disease.

Week 6: Introduction to Pests & Diseases

Topics covered: Varroa Mites. Protocol options for common pests & diseases.

Week 7: I have honey, now what?

Topics covered: Basics of honey harvesting. Packaging, labeling & storage. What you need to do if you want to sell honey & value-added products.

Week 8: Preparing Your Colony for the winter

Topics covered: Feeding options, evaluation & timing. Bee biology review. Insulation options. Pest protection.


Course fee is $280. Sign up a month in advance to get a $25 discount on each course, plus a $50 total discount off registration for 3 or more courses.

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