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Bee Keeping and Honey Production

Ireland has a long history of producing quality honey and was a major exporter of comb honey up to the mid 20th century. Dónall Flanagan, Nursery Stock/Ornamentals Specialised Advisor has more information.


Bee Keeping and Honey Production Caption Image 1Ireland has a long history of producing quality honey and was a major exporter of comb honey up to the mid 20th century. Bees have also been a significant support for pollinating orchards and berry fruit.

While honey is the primary output of bee keeping, there is also a commercial market for producing bee colonies and mated queen bees. The beekeeper’s year has very clear seasonal tasks and labour demands for the production of honey.

Honey can only be made by strong bee colonies and therefore, bee health and husbandry is a priority. Weekly inspections are required for hives during spring and early summer. The work must be carried out during daylight hours and in fair weather. Inspection work is skilled and requires making on-the-spot assessments of colonies.

As the season progresses you may begin to harvest honey. The majority of honey harvesting happens in August and September, when it can be extracted and stored in bulk containers for bottling at a later stage. Autumn management of the hives prepares bees for winter when inspections are not required.

Most aspects of bee keeping require a degree of physical strength. It should be noted that some people are allergic to bee stings or can develop sensitisation to bee stings. Apiary sites (places where bees are kept) are an important aspect to increase productivity. A minimum of two apiary sites are advised to help deal with pest and disease issues that can occur. The sites must meet the needs of the bees, have plentiful foraging through the season and be within easy travel and access.

Crop types such as oilseed rape and peas are high yielding in nectar, but bees need careful management at times of crop spraying. Forage of clover, hawthorn and bramble, as well as heather, are some of the most important nectar-yielding wild plants. There may be many locally important sources of nectar and a diverse range of plants and habitats will be most beneficial.

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