Education and Examination Board

Syllabus of Examination for Proficiency in Apiculture: Honey Judge Examination

Honey Judge Certificates

Requirements to enter Honey Judge Apprenticeship/Education system.

  • A completed Application Form and fee shall have been received by the Education Officer by the February 1st of the year in which the candidate wishes to apply to enter the examination process leading to Honey Judge Certificate.
  • The examination process is open to those who hold the Intermediate and/or Practical Beemaster's certificates as a minimum.
  • The Candidate must produce written evidence (3 hard copies must be with the Education Officer in good time and no later than March 1st) of being a successful exhibitor and must give a list of shows, with full details of classes together with copies of prize cards, in which he or she has won prizes; the candidate must have obtained a minimum of 200 points spread over a minimum of four years at honey shows (with a minimum of 100 entries in the show) in a wide variety of open classes at County or National level (the points to be calculated as follows: 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes = 6, 5 and 4 points respectively; V.H.C., H.C. and Commended = 3, 2 and 1 point respectively. A weighting will be given to cards in classes with higher entries).
  • Evidence must also be submitted (again 3 copies) that the Candidate has served as a judge's steward a minimum of four times under FIBKA show judges at County or National shows, including at least one occasion at the Irish National Honey Show.
  • If all of the above conditions are met and the Application form is in order then the candidate is issued with a Record book. This outlines the extra requirements and time schedule that is to be followed before the Final assessment can be undertaken.
  • The final examination is a combined oral and practical test by two honey judges and is normally held during the week of the national honey show and will last for approximately two hours. A successful Candidate shall be known as a FIBKA Honey Judge.


The Final Examination
When all of the conditions as set out in the Record book are met the candidate will be allowed to sit the final examination.

The Candidate shall bring everything to the Examination necessary to allow the proper adjudication of any class in the show. The Candidate shall bring samples of liquid, creamed, granulated and cut comb honey, beeswax, mead and a comb suitable for extraction. These will be prepared as for exhibition and each shall be accompanied by a short written statement setting out the Candidate's opinion, as if he/she was judging them, of their good and bad points. A copy of the written statement to be presented to each Examiner. Faulty preparation of the samples shall count against the Candidate.

Not less than four samples from a variety of classes shall be provided by the Examiners for the Candidate's consideration. The Candidate shall judge these samples, identifying the first, second and third in order of merit.

The Examiners
The Final Examination shall be conducted by two Examiners who will consider:

  • The Candidate's samples and comments.
  • The Candidate's approach to judging (equipment, study of schedule etc.)
  • Examination and comments by the Candidate on the samples provided by the Examiners.
  • Judging by the Candidate of classes selected by the Examiners from the show benches (Test of method, orderliness and decision).
  • General questioning of the Candidates on any part of the syllabus.
  • The Candidate must pass in each of these sections to be awarded a certificate



The Candidate shall provide him/herself with the following equipment:

  • a set of standard grading glasses;
  • a hand towel (linen)
  • a section template or 6 inch rule;
  • a tape measure at least 72 inches long, for measuring the size of the base of displays;
  • a knife, similar to a honey extracting knife or carving knife for cutting the cakes;
  • a pocket magnifying glass;
  • a note book, pencil and ball pen;
  • a torch (with spare bulb and batteries);
  • a minimum of six glasses and honey tasting rods and two honey jars or tumblers;
  • a white coat and white hat;
  • a corkscrew;
  • a penknife;
  • scissors;
  • a box of matches for lighting candles;
  • a damp cloth in a plastic bag for wiping sticky hands;
  • an apple, dry biscuit or other suitable means of refreshing the palate;
  • tissues;
  • the show schedule;
  • a set of scales to check weights when a particular weight is specified in the show schedule


The Show Secretary
He/she shall indicate where a supply of water may be obtained. The show Secretary shall give details of duplicate entries where applicable.

General Information
The Candidate shall be required to:

  • give an account of the composition of nectar and its variations;
  • give an account of the conversion of nectar to honey, including chemical changes of the basic sugars and the storage of honey by the bee;
  • give the approximate percentages of the major constituents of a honey of average composition;
  • describe and discuss the variations of honey deriving from plant, soil and climatic differences;
  • give the definitions of viscosity, density and specific gravity;
  • give an account of the production of beeswax by the honeybee and the conditions, nutritional and physical, which are necessary;
  • describe and discuss the samples he/she has brought;
  • describe the written statements on the samples;
  • describe his/her procedure on being invited to act as Judge (including reference to the show schedule and rules);
  • demonstrate the use of his/her judging equipment, (grading glasses, tasting rods, etc.).
  • describe the various methods of arriving at a decision (points or comparison);
  • describe and demonstrate his/her procedure at the show bench and in particular his/her system of sequence of operation, and the "weighting" given to flavour, viscosity, cleanliness, etc.;
  • describe and discuss the following:- honeydew; heather honey (thixotropy); natural granulation and soft set honey; (frosting, type of granulation, fermentation).
  • describe and discuss the following: - honey cakes and confectionery.
  • describe and discuss the following: - beeswax (natural colour, aroma and any adulteration of the beeswax); beeswax candles and models.
  • describe and discuss "natural faults" of section honey, cut comb honey and combs suitable for extraction (wax moths, Braula);
  • describe possible faking. e.g. loose cappings put on open cells, overheating or "cooking" of honey in preparation of samples of honey for the show bench, caramelising of honey, bleaching.
  • show an appreciation of the necessity of good food handling hygiene by Judges, Stewards and Exhibitors.

Honeyshow Schedule and Rules
The Candidate shall be aware of:

  • the contents of the BBKA Booklet "A Guide for Judges and Exhibitors of Honey and Bee Produce";
  • the implications of studying the show schedule and show rules before he/she commences judging the honey and bee products at the show, particularly with reference to the type of jar, weights, sizes, numbers, area of exhibits for display;
  • the necessity to use standard colour grading glasses;
  • the rules concerning multiple entries where these are permitted;
  • the general rules concerning the award of challenge cups, trophies and special awards.

Legal Requirements
The Candidate shall:

  • be aware of the current legal requirements for the labelling of jars of honey. Where labels are required to be put on jars of honey e.g. commercial classes and some gift classes, the labels shall be in accordance with the latest legal requirements;
  • give an account of the regulations governing the preparation of honey for sale including the suitability of the premises and equipment.
  • Liquid, Granulated, Soft Set, Heather Honey & Composite Classes

The Candidate shall be aware of:

  • the different types of honey;
  • the correct use of standard honey grading glasses;
  • the difference between naturally granulated honey and soft set honey and the requirements for the honey to have dry tops with no scum and that fine granulation is preferred to coarse;
  • the difference between ling heather honey and bell heather honey;
  • the requirement for all exhibits to be scrupulously clean, and to downgrade or disqualify as necessary;
  • the advisability of using the comparative system of judging, except in the composite, cakes and honey sweetmeats classes where a points system may be preferred.

Comb Suitable for Extraction, Cut Comb and Sections
The Candidate shall be aware of the need for:

  • cleanliness in all comb honey, especially in cut comb and sections where there will be no signs of Braula or Wax Moth;
  • no granulation or fermentation in all comb honey;
  • complete cleanliness of the woodwork of comb honey, the woodwork of sections and the plastic container of cut comb honey;
  • checking that sugar syrup feeding has not been used to complete the filling of combs. If detected the exhibit shall be disqualified.


The Candidate shall be aware of:

  • the details in the show schedule concerning the type of bottle and cork, and the permitted ingredients used in the preparation of mead;
  • the differences between dry mead and sweet mead;
  • the mead being clear with virtually no sediment in the bottom of the bottle and no secondary fermentation;
  • other "meads" such as melomel, metheglin, cyser and pyment.
  • The alternative methods of judging mead classes.


The Candidate shall be aware that:

  • the weight will be in accordance with the show schedule;
  • the wax may be polished or unpolished;
  • adulteration or bleaching will be heavily down-graded;
  • if the Exhibitor uses wooden show cases that the aroma of the wax may be affected by the aroma of the wooden show case and to downgrade as necessary.
  • the top of the wax will have an even flat surface, achieved by cooling at the correct temperature;
  • the wax will be perfectly clean and that there shall be no foreign bodies and to downgrade or disqualify as necessary.

The Candidates shall be aware that:

  • the candles will be made of pure beeswax and be prepared, moulded, poured, dipped or rolled in accordance with the show schedule;
  • the judge will light one candle to check the candle's burning, indicating the correct sizing of the wick.
  • there shall be no smoke when the candle is burning.
  • the importance of wick size and the effect that a wrong size wick may have.


The Candidate shall be aware that:

  • this is the class in any honey show that is the least defined and that he/she will check very carefully the details in the show schedule;
  • he/she will check all items for cleanliness, purity, aroma and flavour, and the mead, beeswax, honey and comb honey as detailed in the sections on these items.
  • there are particular methods of judging that may have to be employed in this class, such as a points system.


Observation Hives
The Candidate shall be aware that:

  • the welfare of the bees is of paramount importance and if any distress is visible through overcrowding in observation hives this will result in disqualification.
  • they will be judged for educational purposes;
  • all items in the hive shall be labelled with up-to-date labels placed on the outside of the glass or Perspex of the hive;
  • the Queen will be marked;
  • water shall be available and not honey or sugar syrup for the bees;
  • there must be adequate ventilation built into the observation hive construction
  • the bees shall be allowed to fly if this is permissible;
  • the presence of any notifiable disease will disqualify the exhibit.
  • there are alternative methods of judging the observation hive.


Honey Cakes and Honey Sweetmeats
The Candidate shall be aware that:

  • the cake and sweetmeats will be in accordance with the show schedule;
  • the cake will not have sunk in the middle, and that if fruit is used in the recipe that it shall not have fallen to the bottom;
  • the cake will be cut in half with a suitable knife to check texture;
  • the cake and sweetmeats shall be tasted for honey flavour and the aroma noted.


Slides and Photographs

The Candidate shall be aware that the following points need to be considered when judging classes of slides and photographs:-

  • sharpness of focus of the subject of the photograph
  • composition of the photograph
  • subject of the photograph
  • originality
  • contrast
  • a caption or narrative if applicable
  • sizes of print and mount to be as defined in the Schedule.



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Notice to all FIBKA Members

Insurance is in place for all FIBKA members as normal until 31 December 2017.

All FIBKA members have to renew their membership from 1st January 2018 as normal, in order to avail of FIBKA benefits including Insurance, An Beachaire, Gormanston, Education and all other membership benefits.

Membership benefits commence only when a members details are returned to the FIBKA Membership Secretary, by their Association Secretary/Treasurer.

We have been made aware that some Associations are not renewing their affiliation to FIBKA consequently all benefits for the members of those Associations end on the 31st December 2017, and Members in these Associations who wish to continue with FIBKA please contact the FIBKA Membership Secretary Joanna McGlaughlin at for details of Associations near to you that are affiliated to FIBKA."

Executive Council meeting 16th December

An Executive Council meeting was held in Tullamore on Saturday the 16th of December to discuss among other items the current situation in FIBKA.

Here is a short description of what happened at that meeting

What does FIBKA offer its members?

Here is a comprehensive list of what FIBKA offers its members

Letter from FIBKA Executive to all Member Associations

The letter can be read here in its entirety by clicking here. There will also be a downloadable PDF file that you can share with other members of your Association

Looking for honey labels and FIBKA lids?

For anyone looking to get the FIBKA jar lids or tamper proof labels for your honey, we have put together the following guidelines in how to apply for them. The document can be downloaded here

Hedge cutting

If you wish to report hedge cutting out of season
Contact the people below
National Parks & Wildlife Service
7 Ely Place
Dublin 2
For General Queries:
Tel: +353-1-888 3242
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Disease Sampling Form

Teagasc offers a Honeybee disease diagnostic service to beekeepers, more information available here