Beekeepers buzz off to Tipperary

DROMORE Beekeepers’ Association made history over the weekend of June 16-17 by having its first overnight trip when it chose to attend the annual queen rearing workshop of the Galtee Bee Breeders’ Group in Tipperary.

This visit was its final event in a most busy and enjoyable weekend.

A bus load of beekeepers from Dromore Beekeepers’ Association plus a few guests from neighbouring associations, left Dromore at 8am on Saturday morning and, after picking up members between there and Newry, drove directly to the home of Mary and Gerry Ryan at Dundrum, North Tipperary.

There they inspected the educational facilities for school groups, the well equipped honey house with a new bottling plant and a tour of one of their apiaries conducted by Gerry.

In particular some time was spent examining the dozens of Apideas arranged for queen mating. Meantime Mary prepared a Barbeque, which was very much enjoyed by everyone.

The next event was a conducted tour of The Rock of Cashel. The weather had deteriorated so the party could relax knowing that they could not have examined bees anyway! That evening there was a dinner party in the historic Cahir House Hotel where the party was spending the night.

Following the meal there was a lively sing-song and, apart from the Dromore talent, both Micheal Mac Giollla Coda and his daughter Aoife sang beautifully.

Sunday morning saw the party move to Clonmel to visit one of Dennis Ryan’s apiaries; Dennis runs 110 colonies in 12 apiaries, makes his own equipment and rears his replacement queens in each apiary. Through selection he has greatly increased his honey yields.

He then took us to the South Tipperary Beekeepers’ Association Apiary in a Bulmers’ apple orchard. Here the association produces nuclei for beginners.

Back at his house in Mylerstown the honey house was the big attraction but records, incubators and veterinary medicines were also discussed. Carmel Ryan entertained the entire party to morning coffee and scones before it left for the main event of the trip, the Galtee Bee breeding workshop.

After a quick lunch in Cahir the party arrived at the home of Micheal Mac Giolla Coda; the beekeepers knew they were in the right place when they saw another bus, this one from Connemara, and dozens of cars. Music sounded as Dennis Ryan piped in all the visitors.

After an introduction from the Galtee Bee Breeders’ Group chairman, Jim Ryan, and a welcome from Michael Mac, the host the visitors were divided into six groups which circulated the different demonstrations, some of which were duplicated. Among these demonstrations were Colony evaluation, use of Apideas, Grafting and, for the first time the assessment of grooming behaviour.

Bees groom themselves to remove Varroa mites from their bodies and, in doing so bite off legs from the mites. Some colonies do this much better than others. To measure their success in damaging mites, 30 mites are lifted from the hive insert of each colony with a fine artist’s brush and mounted on their backs on a white surface smeared with Vaseline.

These 30 mites are then examined under a x40 microscope and the damaged legs counted. If 60% are damaged, the colony could deal with the Varroa problem without chemical treatment.

This selection for mite resistance is the new five year project for the Galtee group so demonstrating the technique is most important. No beekeeping gathering would be complete without tea and this too was provided and appreciated.

At this time the rain came on but the weather had been excellent throughout the demonstrations. The Dromore Party stopped for dinner at the Green Isle Hotel near Dublin and returned to Dromore ahead of schedule at 10pm.

Most of the bees in Northern Ireland are mongrels, of indifferent temperament due to the irresponsible importation of exotic strains. The Dromore group really appreciated a whole weekend amongst docile black productive and thrifty bees. This and the generous hospitality of the Tipperary beekeepers made this a most enjoyable and memorable weekend.