Introduction to BOOK LAUNCH – 18/09/1921
Micheál Mac Giolla Coda
Bail o Dhia oraibh a bheachairí agus a cháirde go léir. Ar son Cumann Bheach
Meala Dúthcasach na hEireann tá céad mile fáilte rómhaibh ar an ócáid fíor
thábhtach seo chun ár leabhair nua a sheoladh go hoifigiúil. Ta súil agam go
mbainfhidh sibh taithneamh as na himeachtaí annseo anocht agus go
mbainfhidh sibh go léir taithneamh agus tairbhe as an leabhar, aluinn, iontach
seo irith na blianta amach rómhain.
Friends and fellow beekeepers, on behalf of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society,
it is my pleasure to welcome you all on this auspicious occasion of the official
launch of this beautiful, wonderful book. The title of this book is “The Native
Irish Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera)”. It has been published by the Native
Irish Honey Bee Society a voluntary organisation that was founded in 2012 for
the protection of the native bees of Ireland, which are an ecotype of The Dark
European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera).
The Native Irish Honey Bee Society, which is commonly known as NIHBS, has
achieved an enormous amount of work in the nine years of its existence. It is
an organisation that covers the thirty-two counties of this island country of
ours. Its primary objectives are the conservation, study, improvement, and
reintroduction of our native Irish honey bees. This it continues to do against all
the odds. Our main difficulty over the years has been the importation of other
sub species of honey bees which pose an ongoing problem through their
hybridisation with our native bees. Time and time again we have approached
the governments of the Republic and Northern Ireland to impose a ban on
honey bee imports, as an added protection for our native bees, that have
adapted to the climatic and environmental conditions of this country. To date
our efforts in this regard have proved unsuccessful. We do hope however, that
the powers that be will see the necessity in the not too distant future, to adopt
measures to protect this unique national treasure that we have inherited.
Some thirty years ago my good friend and neighbouring beekeeper, Redmond
Williams and I, while working our bees together began discussing ways and
means of improving our own local bees. We were far from happy with the bees
that we had at that time, and especially as regards their temperament during
manipulation. Some colonies were placid enough and easy enough to handle
whereas other colonies in some apiaries were exceedingly aggressive. As a
matter of fact, I noticed that Redmond got into the habit of carrying an oilskin
trousers when visiting some of my apiaries, as part of his protective clothing.
He maintained that some of my bees could stitch his trousers on to his legs.
We decided that not only would we have to improve our own bees but also the
bees of other beekeepers in the Galtee/Vee Valley. So, we invited some of the
local beekeepers to join us in forming the Galtee Bee Breeding Group, always
known as GBBG. I had been a member of BIBBA – The Bee Improvement and
Bee Breeders Association for many years before that, and it was only natural
that we should adopt the philosophy and methodology of that body, that was
founded by Beowolf Cooper in 1964. Indeed, we got much help and advice
from members of that association especially our dear departed friends, Adrian
Waring, Chairman, Albert Knight, Secretary, Dave Cushman and Terry Clare.
Other departed friends who were a great help to the infant Galtee Group were
Rev. Sam Millar and Norman Walsh both of whom were founder members of
the Ulster Bee Improvement Group. We should always remember two other
members of GBBG that passed away who gave tremendous support to the
Galtee group. Claire Chavasse and Philip McCabe were both passionate about
the protection of our native bees. Claire was the first editor of The Four
Seasons, our quarterly magazine that celebrated twenty years in existence this
year, Philip was our Irish representative on the SICAMM committee for a
number of years. In the lead up to Apimondia in Dublin in 2005, in order to
obtain publicity for the event we clothed him with a mantle of over 200,000
dark Galtee bees. He served a term as President of Apimondia and was still in
that office when he passed away.
As a result of our efforts, the bees of the Galtee/Vee Valley were transformed.
The project achieved fame on the international beekeeping stage, and native
bee improvement blossomed in Ireland. The Galtee/ Vee Valley became the
first Voluntary Conservation Area for our native bees, and indeed inspired
many Irish Beekeeping Associations to follow suit. Today there are more than
twenty such Voluntary Conservation Areas in this country.
I like to think that that little bee improvement group of ours, that was formed
in 1991, provided the inspiration for the formation of this powerful country-
wide movement that is The Native Irish Honey Bee Society. This book “The
Native Irish Honey Bee” marks a significant milestone in the success story of
this great society. We are all extremely proud of this book which recounts the
work of NIHBS and GBBG during the past thirty years. Covered in detail also is
the history of beekeeping in Ireland from ancient times to the present day.
Many beekeeper members have drawn on their own experiences to inform us
of the various aspects of bee improvement that are being practiced in Ireland
at present. It concludes with a message of hope for the future. We have come
to realize that this great work of conservation and improvement has only
begun, and there is no limit to what can be achieved, through the continued
work of this organisation in the years ahead.
In NIHBS we are so fortunate to have among our members some highly
regarded representatives of the scientific community. They have contributed
some outstanding articles based on their research and study of the genetics,
anatomy and physiology of our native honey bees. This book will provide a
source of reference for students who are preparing for the scientific and
practical examinations in beekeeping.
It is said that one should never take the book by the cover, but I think that we
all agree that the design of the cover is most attractive. It features pencil
drawings of our native wild flowers that bear pollen and nectar for our bees, as
well as a selection of beautiful photographs of our native bees. This book
contains articles and photos from more than twenty contributors. They are all
voluntary workers of outstanding ability and dedication. They have been
working tirelessly for NIHBS since it was first established nine years ago.
There is one person however, who stands out and deserves our full gratitude,
and that is the editor, Jane Sellers. Jane took on the daunting task of laying out
and editing our book, and it has taken two years of hard work to put it all
together. Perhaps the most difficult part of her job was having to beg and
conjole contributors to submit their articles in time. Through her attention to
detail in designing and laying out the book, she has moulded it into a
wonderful blend of the practical and scientific aspects of beekeeping with our
native honey bees. This book will serve as a text book for students and
practical beekeepers alike. As Jane says herself, one does not have to read it
from cover to cover in one go, but can dip in and dip out as one chooses.
Now, we are truly honoured in NIHBS that the foreword to this book has been
written by one of the most famous beekeepers in the world, none other than
Professor Thomas D Seeley of Cornell University, who has written many
beekeeping books himself. His writings are mainly as a result of his lifetime
research into the free-living bees of the forests of New York State. Tom Seeley
is no stranger to Irish beekeepers and is very interested in our native Irish
bees, which we are hoping will be able to return to the wild once more, to live
freely on their own without any help whatsoever from beekeepers. We are
doubly honoured to have Tom Seeley with us in person tonight to give us a
lecture on this most interesting subject of bees that live in the wild. We have
numerous instances already of members of NIHBS, who have succeeded in
keeping bees for many years without treatment of any kind.
It is perhaps a coincidence that the launch of our book almost coincides with
culture night which was held yesterday. It has been very encouraging to
recently learn that our Irish Minister for Culture has declared that beekeeping
is part of our Irish culture. Of course, beekeepers were always aware that this
was the case, as the ancient craft of beekeeping has been handed down from
generation to generation, from father and mother to sons and daughters. It is
nice to know however, that it has been officially brought to the notice of the
This book, which is being launched here tonight, is an outstanding tribute to
our native dark honey bee. It contains all the facts that prove that the native
Irish honey bee is alive and well, with numerous populations in every part of
the island of Ireland. This is the bee that up to the late twentieth century was
reputed to be extinct, similar to the native bees of Britain that Bro. Adam said
did not exist any more, since they were completely wiped out by the Isle of
Wight Disease. So tonight, we celebrate the return of our native bee. Sí aiseirí
an bheach meala dúthcasach. It is the resurrection of the native Irish honey
bee. Like the legendary Phoenix, our native honey bee has risen from the
ashes. Long may she live in this green island of ours.
And so now, on behalf of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society, it is my great
privilege to declare that this book “The Native Irish Honey Bee (Apis mellifera
mellifera) has been launched.
And now for what we have all been looking forward to, it is my very pleasant
duty to hand over to Tom Seely who will speak to us, all the ways from the
United States of America, on his very important work in connection with the
wild bees that live in the forest.