Beekeeping in Ireland
Irish Beekeeping: Wet Beekeepers Suits and Dry Bees!

The number of beekeepers, now well over 2,000, could be in for a boost, as raising honey at the bottom of the garden appeals to self-sufficiency – also, perhaps, offering the promise of distraction and adventure. But what of all the bad news about bees? Why invest in sweet-smelling cedar hives, frames of beeswax, smoker and veil, and other arcane appliances of the craft, not to mention time spent in learning, only to surrender to summers of deluge or disease?Honeybees are notoriously under siege from a host of global ills, some still deeply mysterious. Both the US and UK report losing a third of their bees last year; in Italy it was nearly half. In France, an average of 300,000 colonies have disappeared every year since 1995. The Bee, the Sentinel of the Environment is the sober theme of this year’s world beekeeping conference, Apimondia, in Montpellier next September.Little of this gloom, however, found its way into the speech of Trevor Sargent TD when, as junior minister for Horticulture and Food, he opened last year’s annual summer course run by the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations in Gormanston, Co Meath. “The importance of bees is something I feel very strongly about,” he promised, and Ireland’s National Apiculture Programme, urged upon member nations by the EU, was going well.Indeed, our apicultural scene could be a great deal worse. The UK’s flooded summers have not, in general, been shared by Ireland, and modellers of future climate predict much bee-friendly weather, at least in the east and replica watches south. The US’s catastrophic syndrome of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which bees unaccountably abandon their hives and disappear, has not reached these islands so far.A 2007 research report for Teagasc on pretty much all the ills that bees are heir to, from CCD through numerous potential pests, viruses and lethal pesticides, confirmed that the chief menace to Ireland’s colonies remains varroa, the parasitic mite from Siberia, the size of a pin-head, that has now spread everywhere but Australia.Its arrival in Ireland in the late 1990s, weakening colonies and leaving them vulnerable to viruses, has led to considerable losses and a running battle between chemical treatments and mite resistance. The mites came with imported queen bees of European races, notably Italian, supposedly superior in performance and amiability. While such imports have long been banned, at least in the Republic, some have continued illicitly – this despite the protestations of beekeeping organisations rolex replica sale North and South.Quite apart from the risks of more and new diseases, the big concern is to protect Ireland’s exceptional asset of indigenous races of the dark European honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera. The island could be unique in its great reserve of pure native strains of the bee, once widely thought extinct and replaced by bees from France and Holland.As related by Micheál Mac Giolla Coda on the Irish Beekeepers’ Federation website (, the widespread survival of the native honeybee was not fully appreciated until some 30 years ago, when three schoolgirls won the Aer Lingus Young Scientist Competition, having “actually measured 22,000 bees’ wings”. With other, more conventional, research, this encouraged the selective breeding of queens from native strains.Mac Giolla Coda himself, advised by geneticist Dr Jacob Kahn, has been engaged in this since 1991 at his apiary at the foot of the Galtee Mountains. He has recruited dozens of beekeepers to selective breeding over much of Leinster and Munster, and secured funding under a government scheme for conservation of genetic resources.While the dandelion rolex replica uk provides the first appreciable nectar for the native Irish bee, it goes on to thrive on heather and ivy and usually provides a honey surplus even from cool and windy summers. Unlike the Italian bee, it knows when to stop rearing more young if the weather turns bad, and usually settles for no more than 35,000 bees in the colony rather than the 50,000 mentioned in bee books.Its generally amiable temper is compromised, apparently, only in hybridisation with introduced Italian or Buckfast bees. I wish we had known this in our early ventures into bee-keeping, with stocks of Italianate origin. As an innocent bystander, I was often chased down the garden, especially for playing the wrong music out of doors, and the beekeeper herself had to nurse too many allergenic stings. The real Mellifera, on the other hand, if we can trust Mac Giolla Coda, can be almost as sweet as it so.

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