Why West Cork is ideal location for busy beekeepers

March 25th, 2023 10:30 PM

By Southern Star Team

West Cork beekeepers busy at work. (Photo: Clive Barton)

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AFTER a three-year pandemic-enforced absence, beekeeping organisations in West Cork will hold their annual beekeeping event on Sunday March 26th at Cox’s Hall on Sackville Street in Dunmanway.

The event, which is hosted by the Carbery Beekeepers’ Association, South West Cork Beekeepers’ Association and the West Cork Beekeepers’ Association is open to all beekeepers, those interested in taking up beekeeping and those concerned with protecting the environment.   

In what will be a packed programme, Dr Mary Coffey from the Department of Agriculture will speak about protecting bees from pests, and Tom Prendergast will speak about spring build-up of colonies and swarm control. 

Leading beekeeping suppliers, MacEoin Honey and Paul O’Sullivan Bee Supplies, will also be in attendance. Admission is €5 and there will also be a raffle for beekeeping related prizes. 

The beekeeping bodies organising the event are all affiliated with the national Irish Beekeepers’ Association (IBA) which now has over 1,500 members across the country, made up from local affiliate associations and provides courses and insurance cover for members.

Barry Hanley, secretary of the West Cork Beekeepers’ Association which covers the Sheep’s Head, Beara peninsula and Bantry area said the West Cork environment is ideal for beekeepers, due to the absence of intensive agricultural practices. 

‘With the lack of intensive farming in West Cork, and reduced spraying, in particular around the Beara peninsula, the area is pristine in terms of plants which will attract bees,’ he said. 

Anyone can become a beekeeper, he said. ‘But we recommend that anyone thinking of getting into beekeeping does undertake training, and join their local beekeeping organisation which will provide a mentoring service for newcomers and help them get established,’ he added.

He encouraged all those with an interest in beekeeping, or thinking about getting involved, to attend the Dunmanway event. 

‘At the core of the event is knowledge-sharing in an informal space, and practical advice. There will also be equipment suppliers in attendance with hives, tools, suits and other essentials for safe beekeeping.’

Barry Sullivan, chair of the West Cork Beekeepers’ Association, outlined that bees came to Ireland after the last Ice Age and the first mention of beekeeping in Ireland was in 637 AD in the Brehon Laws. The ‘Bee Judgements’ or Bechbretha were regulations about swarms, stings and so-called ‘trespass’. In the latter instances, the owner of the bees had to give some honey to the owners of adjacent lands where bees harvested. 

‘The craft of beekeeping was passed on in an informal way from generation to generation but when the congested districts board was established in 1891 ‘the Beeman of County Clare’ Turlough Butler O’Bryen was appointed to give lessons on beekeeping throughout the country, and new wooden hives came to replace the old skeps made of rushes or straw,’ he said. 

He quoted Albert Einstein who said: ‘If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years to live.’

‘Today bees have many problems including the misuse of insecticides and the so-called ‘improvement’ of grasslands with loss of bee-friendly plants. We all can, and must, help in reversing this,’ said Barry.  The event’s postcode is P47AY67 and the talks start at 2pm with doors open for sales from beekeeping suppliers from 12.30pm. 

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