Dromore beekeepers held a successful queen rearing and grafting demonstration on 1st June.
The Dromore Association apiary works with native bee stock.
William Blakeley and David Dumican, two of the NIHBS representatives for Ulster, are members of Dromore and NIHBS has a considerable number of members in Down and Antrim.
This was really the year to demonstrate queen rearing since it follows the worst year in beekeeping terms for a long, long time. Colony losses have been very heavy so beekeepers will want to replace lost colonies and to assist fellow beekeepers who are also in difficulty.
The process is simple but many beekeepers rely on swarm cells for increase; this perpetuates the swarming instinct. The method demonstrated in the Dromore apiary makes maximum use of an outstanding breeder queen, indeed hundreds of queens can be reared from the one queen. To have these queens mated they are each placed in a mini-nucleus, usually an “Apidea” which is charged with only a cup-full of nurse bees. When the queen is mated and laying she is transferred to a nucleus made up of 3-6 standard frames and grown into a colony capable of overwintering. The earlier this can be done in the season the better as the new colony will have longer to develop before winter.
This is why Dromore Beekeepers’ Association held its demonstration on 1st June 2013 instead of in July as in previous years. Those conducting the demonstration were Willie Blakely, the apiary manager, Vanessa Drew, who has been tutoring the Intermediate class in Dromore and David Dumican who is fairly new himself to both beekeeping and queen rearing.
The part of queen rearing which scares beekeepers off is grafting; this is the transfer of day old worker larvae from a brood frame into plastic cell cups. This can be learned in classrooms or from reading books on the subject but few beekeepers try it until they see it done and try it themselves under supervision. On Saturday everyone present got “hands on” experience so it is hoped there will be more queens around Dromore this year.
The event was held in the Tullyhenan apiary on an afternoon of rather inclement weather but, by using the bee hut and a gazebo, they avoided the heavy showers and managed to intersperse the talks and demonstrations as weather permitted.