Module 6 here I come

I’ve taken the probably over-ambitious decision to take the British Beekeeping Association’s Module 6: Honeybee Behaviour written exam in March. I have about 9 weeks left to revise, which I’ll need because when I downloaded a past exam paper this week I discovered I could only answer one question!

The BBKA offers seven exam modules: Honeybee management, Honeybee products & forage, Honeybee diseases, Honeybee biology, Honeybee behaviour, Selection & breeding of Honeybees & Honeybee management & history. I’m jumping straight to Module 6: Honeybee behaviour because it seemed the most interesting – sorry Module 1 but I don’t care much about memorising the different frame sizes of various hive types!

Beekeepers who pass all eight modules plus the practical ‘Advanced Certificate in Beekeeping Husbandry’ receive the official BBKA accolade of ‘Master Beekeeper’, which my Basic Assessment examiner last summer had sewn onto her beesuit.

Here’s a few questions from the Module 6 past paper I purchased:

Q1: Name in full the primary pheromone from a virgin queen that attracts drones on her mating flight

(A: 9-ODA – 9-oxodec-2 -enoic – really hope I don’t have to spell this out in full!)

Q4: Where in the hive is the ‘dance floor’ said to be located?

(A: the vertical face of the comb near the entrance, where worker bees do their dances to show other bees where they’ve found some cracking flowers)

Q10: The repellent pheromone that acts to deter foragers from an already visited flower is which of these options -Heptanone b: Geraniol c: 9-HDA d: Iso-pentyl acetate?

A: 2-Heptanone. The pheromone 9-HDA is emitted by queen bees for a calming influence that promotes stability of the swarm. Geraniol is a pheromone produced by the scent gland of honey bees and attracts other bees to the location. Isoamyl acetate and 2-Heptanone are both alarm pheromones used by bees. The former is used as a beacon to attract other bees and provoke them to sting, while the latter is a potent pheromone used by foragers to scent-mark recently visited and depleted foragers, which indeed are avoided by foraging bees. (Answer given to me by Andrew Brown on the Q&A website Quora, which is a bit like Yahoo Answers only good).

Q14: List three ways in which trophallaxis is used to advantage by honeybees

A: Trophallaxis is just a fancy word for food sharing. During the exchange of nectar bees pass on scent messages. Food is also exchanged as part of the wagtail dance from the dancing bee to onlookers, so they know what they’re heading for. Sharing a common food source gives bees a distinctly similar smell, helping bees in a colony to recognise each other (similar to us eating brussel sprouts at Christmas?).

Some of the questions require one word answers, others are mini-essay style questions. They aren’t exactly general-knowledge stuff – I could hardly find the answers to any within my enormous edition of Collin’s Beekeepers Bible. To revise I will be buying books on the recommended reading list and have also downloaded the excellent free study notes available from the Mid Bucks Beekeepers Association blog, which gave me the answers to the questions above.

Today the local Ealing beekeepers met up for the first time since Christmas and we watched a video of beekeepers in India. The Asiatic Apis Cerana honeybees which beekeepers there keep are very gentle, so much so that the beekeepers in the video wore no protective clothing and were reaching in with ungloved hands to break off comb from hives. They also were moving bees from one hive to another by scooping them up with bare hands! Made me feel like a right coward for always having my beesuit firmly on.

There was also some discussion about the need for secure places on allotments or similar locations where beekeepers can keep bees. The Ealing association knows of about 170 hives in the Ealing area – as not all beekeepers are members there are probably about 200-300 hives in total. So we’re beginning to feel a little squashed for space! Suitable places are hard to find because vandalism is such a problem. So if anyone in the local area wants to volunteer their garden or allotment as a space for a hive Ealing beekeepers would love to hear from you.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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