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Anja Zauers

July 23, 2020

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a beekeeper?

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a beekeeper?

Anja Zauers

July 23, 2020

Always wanted to know what the life of a Beekeeper was like? Well, look no further, my friends!  Here we learn the ins and outs of beekeeping, and what we as a society can do to play our part in saving the bees.

bees beekeeping

Hobbyist beekeepers, Billy and Colleen Gilmore spend their free time beekeeping in their family home in Maam, Co. Galway.

Growing up, both Billy and Colleen have fond memories of watching their neighbours working with bees all dressed up in their white overalls and veils. Colleen always had the dream of keeping bees and decided to do a couple of courses on it. Billy then followed her lead, embarking on beginners beekeeping course in Gorsmanston. And, as all good beekeeping-couples stories go, the pair haven’t looked back since!

Here we chat with Billy and Colleen to find out what the life of a beekeeper really entails…

Grafting queen cells

What’s a typical day of work as a beekeeper?

In the summer months, the queen bee can lay about 1,500 eggs a day. A typical day for us would involve opening each hive every seven-nine days and asking ourselves:

  1. Do the bees have enough room (so they don’t swarm)? 
  2. Are there any eggs? If so, is there a queen present and laying?
  3. Are there bees in full stages of development (eggs, larvae, nurse bees etc)?
  4. Are there any signs of disease or varroa mite?
  5. Are there enough stores of honey and pollen to keep going until the next visit (in the case of bad weather)?

What do you enjoy most about being a beekeeper? 

Mostly it’s just a joy to go and observe them on a warm sunny day, to watch them flying in and out; doing their work without complaint (author’s note: omg can you deal).

Also, to go in the evening when they are no longer flying, and putting your ear to the hive to hear them humming. It’s amazing how they continue to work away; reducing the moisture in the nectar to make honey.

What might people not be aware of when it comes to beekeeping?

There are so many different aspects to beekeeping. You can be a beekeeper and keep bees, or you can go more into the honey production side of things and start up a small business that way. You can also save the wax and make candles, furniture polish and cosmetics.

The science around bees is fascinating too and some of our universities are involved in research concerning the medical properties and uses of honey, bee venom and propolis (bee glue from resin). Beekeeping is now even being used to help with mental health issues, insofar as it is mindfulness in practice (you must be present with the bees or they will let you know in a very painful way)! 

Inspecting the hive

What can each of us do to preserve bee life and help them thrive?

Be aware of the environment when buying plants for the garden; look for native plants that are bee-friendly. Big, showy flower heads are not always good as the insects find it difficult to get to the pollen and nectar.

If you live in an apartment use window boxes, hanging baskets and plant herbs. Create a bee pond/bath so the foraging bees have access to water in hot weather. Also, please avoid using insecticides, herbicides, or chemicals in the garden! Let the hedges and wildflower grow. Wasps, hoverflies, and beetles all have a part to play in keeping the countryside healthy and they need these resources to thrive.

When buying honey, buy local honey. It may be dearer but it is far better for you as it has local pollens which will build up your immunity to hay fever. 

There you have it, buzzers! Sound like something you could see yourself doing? Why not check out The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations on how you can get started.