Beekeeping Courses on Colonsay, Scotland

In Class

Why not combine a weekend beekeeping course with a visit to one of Scotland’s most remote and beautiful islands. Courses are taught at two levels:-

Beginners - to suit complete beginners and those with some background and who are perhaps starting with their own bees.

Intermediate – to suit those with some experience but who wish to improve skills.

The Beekeeper

Andrew Abrahams has kept bees commercially on Colonsay for over 30 years and has wide experience of honey production and queen rearing. He holds the Scottish Beekeepers Association Master Beekeepers Certificate and has a BSc (Hons) Degree in Agriculture. He has teaching experience in both beekeeping and agriculture.

The Master

The Bees

Colonsay is home to one of Europe’s few populations of pure Black Bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) the UK’s native honey bee. (See posting on Colonsay Forum, Natural History 9th May 2010.) The bees are managed for commercial honey production and queen rearing, but are also of unique interest to honey bee conservationists and scientists studying bee diseases. The 50-60 stocks of Black Bees on Colonsay are self sustaining. Years of selection have produced a productive and gentle strain, easily handled by course participants

Bees More Bees

The Apiaries

Apiaries of 8-10 colonies are spread around Colonsay. Beekeepers can experience sites that vary from sheltered woodland to exposed heather moor land.

Colonsay although small in size has a uniquely wide range of bee flora. There is much to learn about bee forage and the many types of nectar that make up Colonsay's quality honey.

The Courses

All courses are limited to 8 participants, allowing everyone to get good access to the bees. Participants are encouraged to handle the bees and to raise their individual questions and concerns. Teaching is based very much on the premise that, we forget much of what we read or hear; we remember some of what we see; and we forget little of what we do.

If the weather permits, all teaching is carried out in the apiaries, working with and learning from the bees. Much emphasis is placed on learning how to handle bees gently.

The Courses and Material covered


· Where to keep bees and where not
· Bee forage – pollen and nectar sources
· Hives and hive parts. Importance of bee space
· Basic bee biology. The queen, drones, workers and their different tasks
· Starting with a small colony – nucleus. Handling and hiving a nucleus
· Colony growth and Swarming.
· Inspecting a colony, looking for queen cells, basic swarm control
· Honey production. Handling a small honey crop
· Feeding bees and over wintering
· Basics of honey bee diseases and their control


· Increasing colony numbers
· Making use of nucleus hives
· Swarm control and making increase
· Interpreting from outside without going inside
· Learning the skill of hive inspection
· Hive manipulations ….Pagden, Demaree, Snelgrove, Shaken Swarm etc.etc.
· Basics of Bee Breeding
· Methods of raising queen cells
· Using nuclei for queen mating
· Making up and operating mini-nuclei (Apidea)
· Handling queens and queen introduction
· Honey Bee diseases and their control
· Ways to improve the honey crop
· Extracting and handling honey
· Cut comb production
· Presenting and selling honey

Course Dates for 2019


Weekend May 4th and 5th

Weekend June 1st & 2nd


Weekend May 18th and 19th

Intermediate/Queen Rearing

Weekend June 22nd & 23rd


Ferry to Colonsay leaves Oban at 16.30 on Friday evening. Travel time approximately 2.15hrs. Course participants will be met from ferry on Colonsay and transported to their accommodation. Transport around Colonsay over the weekend will be provided. The ferry on Sunday evening leaves Colonsay at 19.00 and arrives in Oban at 21.15 [Ferry times subject to confirmation]


There is a wide range of accommodation available on the island. Course participants normally prefer to stay together at the Backpackers, which offers very comfortable twin room accommodation and a self catering kitchen at £25/night (2015 price). For other Self catering or B&B on the island see the colonsay website There is also the option of the Colonsay Hotel


Participants can either bring and prepare all their own meals, or excellent fare can be had at the Pantry or Hotel. Sunday lunch is provided within the course fee.

Protective Clothing

Due to possible risk of introducing bee diseases to Colonsay, all protective clothing will be provided. Please do not bring any item of your own.

Further information

email:   telephone: 01951 200365

Return to the Colonsay Website