Two poor beekeeping years ending with the longest winter most beekeepers can remember and the subsequent heavy losses of honeybee colonies is not a happy background for any large beekeeping event.
Despite all this, there was a huge crowd at this Galtee Workshop and the poor weather didn’t send them home early. The hard shoulder on the road outside was crammed with cars parked in both directions from the gate. Passers-by would be forgiven for thinking they were passing a well attended funeral! Perhaps some of the faint-hearted will not replace their colonies which perished in the last twelve months but they were not the beekeepers who were present at Dun Aonghusa on Sunday 16th June.
“When things get tough, the tough get going” This might explain the enthusiastic interest in all that was going on. Some of the best beekeepers in Ireland were there, some enthusiastic beginners were there and what united them was their desire to be better beekeepers, to have better bees, have them survive and have full supers of honey.
There is a renewed interest in Native Irish Bees and the recent formation of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society bears testimony to this. The NIHBS had a stand at the workshop for the first time, manned by Aoife Nic Giolla Coda and Pat Deasy.
There was a lot of interest from those attending and consequently membership was increased significantly.
At all the usual work stations which beekeepers visited in groups they learned how to improve their bees and how to propagate them.
Colony evaluation is the basis of selection for superior queens and, once selected, they are propagated by grafting, nurturing in cell raising colonies, mating in Apideas and introducing to nuclei or small colonies.
Every step along this way was demonstrated and, in addition, Instrumental Insemination was demonstrated.
This can be used to ensure planned mating but the technique is not for everyone. However, by the interest it created one would have thought otherwise.
On a lovely summer’s day bees tend to be docile but the ones at Dun Aonghusa showed remarkable tolerance to being disturbed in the cold and rain.
This gave them the opportunity to show their best qualities, under adverse conditions, to the visitors. Since they are also thrifty they suit the unpredictable Irish climate. There was a large contingent of beekeepers from the Fermanagh and Dromore Associations and these Northerners have an even worse climate for their bees.
Experienced beekeepers learn little new at lectures and workshops but the advantage of such events is to remind them to practice what they already know and to re-enthuse them. The enthusiasm at the Galtee event was infectious so in that it was a huge success.