Probably the largest gathering of beekeepers ever to congregate in Ireland with the common purpose of improving their bees, assembled at the Band Room, Cahir, for the A.G.M. of the Galtee Bee Breeding Group, on Sunday, 1st. February, 1998. The attendance comprised twenty four beekeepers from ten Associations in the counties of Tipperary, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Offaly, and Meath, and included the Vice-President and Secretary of F.I.B.K.A. as well as four past-Presidents and the Editor of “The Irish Beekeeper” An Beachaire. Apologies were received from ten other members who were unable to attend due to other engagements on the day. The result of this influx of new blood will have a revitalising affect on the group which now has more than thirty paid up members.



The Chairman, in welcoming the delegates, especially the new members, said that the numbers of the latter seemed to far exceed the older members. However even though they may be new to this bee improvement group, they certainly were not new to beekeeping as looking around the room it looked tike a “Who’s Who in Beekeeping” in those counties which were represented. He said it was most gratifying to see that the work of this bee improvement group which was first formed on 30th December 1991 by four beekeepers from the Galtee/Vee Valley was at last being recognised.

This year the existing group had decided to expand its membership and also its bee improvement zone. The members felt it was now time to share the success of its endeavours and the experience it had gained from research over the past six years with other beekeepers who were interested in improving their bees. Invitations had been sent out to selected beekeepers within the designated improvement zone who had indicated in one way or another that they were interested in improving their own bees at least. Most were already members of B.I.B.B.A. and this was in line with the group’s policy that its members should affiliate on an annual basis to that umbrella organisation as well as being paid up members of their own local Association of F.I.B.K.A.


Apart from these there were no hard and fast rules attached to membership of the group but there were certain guidelines and suggestions which members would be well advised to follow so as to help them in their efforts at producing a better breed of bee. Members are advised to develop the technique of evaluating and recording certain characteristics of bee behaviour at each colony inspection. There is no time lost in this procedure as the evaluation takes place automatically during manipulation. The actual paperwork takes less than one minute to complete.


The Secretary Dennis Ryan demonstrated by means of overhead projector the system of colony evaluation and recording which has been developed and practised by Group members in recent years. He explained his own method of calculating points and rating his colonies based on records of evaluation of each colony during the season and how he arrived at a final grading of his colonies for selection of breeding material and culling of undesirable queens in the coming season. Each member was provided with a sample hive record form which gave a detailed explanation of the procedure on the reverse side of the sheet.




A number of members were given responsibility for a variety of functions which are basic to the working of the group for the coming year. Micheál Mac Giolla Coda and Dennis Ryan were re-elected Chairman and Secretary respectively and Redmond Williams agreed to act as Treasurer and also to maintain a register of members. Dr. Jacob Kahn said he would continue to co-ordinate the work of morphometry and evaluate the results of morphometric measurements which may be carried out by group members.

A membership fee of £5 was agreed on to cover the cost of postage and photocopying and this should be paid to Redmond as well as £10 Sterling, to cover membership of B.I.B.B.A. from 1st. Jan. 1998 if this had not already been paid direct to B.I.B.B.A. It is hoped to circulate two Newsletters this year and hopefully each paid up member will receive two specially selected queens of the Dark Galtee strain.


So as to emphasise the importance of maintaining docile bees a video on Queen Rearing from a German Scientific Institute was shown. This depicted the exceeding docility of the Carniolan bees of Germany. This was followed by a video made by Redmond Williams on the occasion of the B.I.B.B.A. Conference’s visit to some apiaries in the Galtee/Vee Valley. This showed what can be achieved as regards docility in the Dark European Bee even in a short time. No protective clothing was worn by the operators in either of these videos and very little smoke was used.


There is no reason for maintaining aggressive bees today and these undesirable bees can be eliminated in a very short time just by culling the queens and replacing them with ones from a more docile strain. It is amazing that some beekeepers still proclaim that the more aggressive the bees the better they are for honey production. Even if this were so, it is not a valid reason for maintaining aggressive bees. Each beekeeper has a moral obligation to maintain docile bees only. We owe it to ourselves, to our families and friends, to our neighbours and their family members, to the members of the community where we manipulate our bees. Just imagine the consequences if somebody who is very allergic got stung by one of our aggressive bees.


A programme of events involving group activity for the spring and early summer consists of:-

  1. A Microscopy and Morphometry Workshop at the Band Room, Pearse St. Cahir, on Sunday 29th. March, commencing at 11.30 a.m.
  2. An Apiary Meeting on Sunday, 26th. April, on evaluation of behaviour, simple recording and testing for Varroa. Assemble at Kilcoran Filling Station, four miles south of Cahir on main Cork/Dublin road at 2.00 p.m.
  3. A Hedgerow Walk on Sunday 24th, May. Assemble at the Firgrove Hotel on Limerick road Mitchelstown at 2.30 p.m. All interested beekeepers are welcome to attend any or all of these events. In the case of No.3 if weather permits we may finish with a cup of tea and a chat so bring a cup and a sandwich and tea, will be provided.


Any beekeeper who is interested in bee improvement and especially those within the designated area in which the group members are active are welcome to apply for membership of the Galtee Bee Breeding Group. This area may be roughly defined by drawing a line from Cork to Mallow, to Thurles, to Carlow, to Waterford. Interested beekeepers in Co. Offaly or Co. Meath or adjacent counties can also be put in touch with existing members with a view to forming new bee improvement groups in those areas.

Micheál Mac Giolla Coda


Transcribed from an article written for Bee Improvement, No. 1… Spring 1998