Galtee Bee Breeder's Group



Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2009

Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM of year 2008

The 2009 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. was held in the Band Room Cahir, Co. Tipperary on Sunday 31st January 2009, with a starting time of 2.00 pm.


There was such a lengthy agenda for the GBBG AGM that we got down to business straight away. The band room in Cahir was the venue, a facility sourced for the purpose many years past by Redmond Williams and Micheál Mac Giolla Coda thanked Redmond for this in his opening address.

The hall was full to capacity with all the provinces being well represented and the full complement of officers presided, Micheál himself chairperson, Michael Maunsell secretary and Gay Noonan treasurer plus of course the many committee members.

Micheál welcomed one and all and in particular our Ulster beekeeping friends with Mervyn Eddie, president of UBKA, and Norman Walsh OBE, lecturer and honey judge amongst the contingent. He then especially welcomed the president of FIBKA Dennis Ryan and the national secretary Michael Gleeson. Apologies from many were noted and votes of sympathy cast and a moments silence observed for the late Catherine Ryan of Thurles, R.I.P. (mother of Jim) and the late Michael Moynihan of Waterford R.I.P.

Michael Maunsell gave a most comprehensive account in the minutes of last years AGM and likewise the treasurer Gay Noonan in her record of the financial year past. Both accounts were proposed and adopted. We then spoke about a letter circulated on the net to all of us from Minister Trevor Sergeant referring to grants available towards horticulture including bees. The department are disappointed it seems at the poor up-take of the grants by beekeepers. Anyone interested should know that the closing date for applications is the 19th of February 2010. One can apply as an individual or as part of a group and forms are available from Teagasc.

Then all the annual reports were delivered. Mervyn Eddie gave an update of colony losses in the North, Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda discussed the new look four seasons GBBG magazine, Jim power presented the colony appraisals, Dave Cushman sent his account of the website and informed us that unfortunately due to his failing health he would be stepping down from his post as web-site manager. And what a truly excellent expert website it is and thank you so much Dave for it and your continuing support will be truly valued.

Micheál then reported on the Bee-Garden with fulsome praise for the wonderful work of our gardener, Elizabeth o Brien, work very much appreciated by all indeed. He also thanked Redmond our video and cd impresario for compiling a wealth of data for posterity and Jim Power for looking after the collection so carefully. He concluded that all of the reports were testimony to the great work of those who compiled them. The president Dennis Ryan took the chair during the election of officers. The only changes in officerships are the posts of website manager and treasurer. The latter has now passed from one very capable pair of hands to another, those of Mike Geery and Gay was complimented for her work and efficiency in that position of treasurer down through the years. Dennis then congratulated all on their re-election to office and paid tribute to all concerned in the promotion of the beautiful dark bee both nationally and abroad and praised the GBBG travelling workshop for their work in promoting good queen rearing practices. He finished by saying that it is indeed fitting that this year’s BIBBA conference is being held in Kilcoran Lodge Hotel , Cahir, Co Tipperary on the 3rd 4th and 5th of September 2010.

Then Michael Gleeson addressed the gathering. He also extended congratulations to those of us who took part in all of the FIBKA activities during the year in an effort to promote beekeeping, events such as Bloom in the Park, the National Ploughing Championship and the London Honey Show to name but three of the long list he itemised. He showed us the new silver trophy sponsored by FIBKA that is destined for the London Honey Show as the top prize for class 13, Two Jars Dark Honey. He hoped an Irish name would be the first engraved on the trophy! He has compiled a booklist in fact of all the Irish winners at the show since 1929, over 1008 awards in that time!, with two beekeepers winning the prestigious world cup trophy twice, Redmond and Norman. He presented a copy of the booklist to Redmond, Norman, Dennis and Micheál. He then reminded us of the upcoming visit of Scottish beekeeper Willie Robson, a commercial beekeeper of approximately 2000 hives-who will talk to us on his life’s work with bees. The venues for the talks are in Navan, Tulamore, Thurles ad Mayo. He also reminded us of the beekeeping seminars in Limerick and Donegal, (details of all in the Beachaire).n He then appealed for information on colony losses around the country for Dr.Mary Coffey’s research. Mary of course is working flat out trying to find ways in which we can stay ahead of Varrososis, her research programme is so essential and government have finally recognised it as such thankfully and are most anxious that she continue, though, as yet, the Animal Health and Welfare Bill has not yet been completed.

After tea and refreshments, much chatting and conviviality, Emma Williams addressed us. Emma has also been beavering away in the background sorting out all of our bee samples and mounting their wings for morphological analyses. To date she has 645 samples mounted and analysis of 171 of them completed-a marvelous achievement considering each wing sample takes about two hours to complete! So far she told us that the purity of the strains is ranging from a low of 4 bees at 0%-9% and a high of 18 bees at 91% -100% with the rest at varying counts in between. All present truly appreciated the hard work Emma is about and complimented her on it.

Next Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda gave a very fine account to us of scale hives and the data that they give us under various climatic conditions. He demonstrated quite clearly how tough our own native Mellifera Mellifera bee is in comparison to others especially in adverse weather conditions, being able to conserve stores when required to do so and to take quick advantage of a flow, however short, when one comes along. Long range forecasters predict he said that wet places will get wetter and so we are really lucky that our native bee seems to be able to cope and have adapted well to the conditions and the excellent data he showed us proved that.

The marathon meeting then drew to a close but no one was exhausted however. All agreed there wasn’t a dull moment throughout the day, surely unusual for an AGM. Well done Micheál for such excellent chairmanship and long may you grace that position. And long may Redmond continue to capture on camera the happy group that is the Galtee Bee Breeding Group.

Mary Ryan.

Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2008

Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM of year 2008

The 2008 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. was held in the Band Room Cahir, Co. Tipperary on Sunday 26th January 2009, with a starting time of 2.00 pm. This year’s A.G.M. was to have been my second year of attendance as I was due to deliver the talk, but fate stepped in and two days before your web editor was due to leave for Ireland I ended up in hospital with no likelihood of immanent release. I was very disappointed in my lack of ability to fulfill my duty, but there is a possibility that the talk will be included in the Gormanston program.


  1. Apologies and votes of sympathy.
  2. Minutes of AGM 2007.
  3. Matters Arising.
  4. Chairman’s Annual Report and review of work to date. See Separate Page.
    • Treasurer’s Report.
    • Website Report.
    • Video Librarian’s Report.
    • Breeding Apiary and Bee Garden Report.
    • Colony Appraisals Report.
  5. Election of Officers and Working Committee.
  6. Membership Fee for 2009.
  7. Cost of Breeder Queens.
  8. Programme of activities for 2009.
  9. Address by secretary of FIBKA.
  10. Tea Break.
  11. Debate on our endeavour to make the island of Ireland a conservation area for the Dark European Honeybee.
  12. Group Photograph.

2008 Report

The AGM of the GBBG took place in the band room in Cahir presided over by the chairman Micheál MacGiollacoda, Michael Maunsell (secretary), and Gay Noonan (treasurer). The usual procedures were adopted and votes of sympathy cast. The hall was packed with over 45 members in attendance. Micheál paid a fulsome tribute to Dave Cushman, our website manager, unavoidably absent on this occasion, wishing him a speedy recovery.

2008 Successes

This past year saw many successes despite the inclement weather:

  • About 60 queens were successfully mated.
  • The apiary garden got a new fence, flowers and plants.
  • The workdays were well attended and fruitful,
  • The decision was made to reimburse those who would raise queens for sale with 50% of the cost.
  • Jim Power compiled the colony appraisal records necessary for monitoring bee improvement progress and requested increased participation in the scheme.
  • Jim also compiled a comprehensive list of all the books and DVDs available to the members.
  • Samples of bees were collected and sent to Padraig Whelan for morphometric analysis. Half pound jars for collecting samples for this purpose are available having been kindly donated by Alpack. Padraig requested more samples to be sent to him. This was outlined at the meeting by Eddie O’Sullivan in Padraig’s absence.
  • Dates for the forthcoming season were set – for the work days in the apiary, Feb.22nd. and Mar.29th., for the queen rearing workshops June 21st. and for the garden walk which will be held in Cush Kinney near Cobh in Co. Cork on Sunday 17th May.

Address by secretary of FIBKA

Our national secretary Michael Gleeson gave an account of some of the years national bee related activities, including Gormanstown beekeepers week, the National Ploughing Championship, the London Honeyshow, the Beehealth seminars, the meetings with government officials regards beekeeping affairs in Ireland, executive council meetings to amend the constitution, and the registration of beekeepers. He spoke briefly about the proposed new National Bee Centre in the county of Meath. Here, the Gleeson family have very kindly and unreservedly donated half an acre site for this purpose to FIBKA – a hugely significant generous and fortuitous gift by any standard, and a wonderful opportunity now in hand for the federation. Michael then presented a complete set of DVDs of the GBBG activities to date to Dennis Ryan, President FIBKA, for the FIBKA library archives. These DVDs were the work of Redmond Williams, the National Video-DVD Librarian and Honey Show secretary, after months of painstaking compilation and editing. Redmond also made and gave scale hives to the group to be used in different parts of the country to record honey yields. For these and the DVDs Redmond received a most fulsome tribute and thank you from the group.





Finally, a panel of two members from FIBKA, two from UBKA and BIG as well as the Chairman and Secretary of GBBG engaged the group with a discussion on an All-Ireland approach to beekeeping, and in particular bee breeding and the conservation of our native island bee – Apis mellifera mellifera. Mervyn Eddie and Norman Walsh of UBKA represented the Ulster Bee Improvement group, while Dennis Ryan and Michael Maunsell represented GBBG. The collective views of both the panel and the audience was to reiterate the importance of selecting and breeding from our own native stocks and the keeping of imports of other strains at bay.

This discussion ended the day’s proceedings. Micheál thanked all those who contributed to the day and the years events and he hoped, as did his audience, that 2009 would see continued success and pleasure for the GBBG group and programme.

Mary Ryan – (PRO).


Jim Ryan availed of the opportunity to display some of the material he has in the FIBKA archive. This is a very impressive collection of items including letters going back more than a hundred years. Norman Walsh and I were presented with copies of two letters from W. Herrod in 2005 where he replied to requests to judge honey shows or give lectures to the Irish Beekeepers’ Association.

Text by Dave Cushman and Mary Ryan.


Galtee Bee Breeding Group – Annual Report – 2009 for year 2008

Galtee Bee Breeding Group — Annual Report – 2009 for year 2008.

Disappointing Year

Similar to 2007 the year 2008 was rather disappointing for the majority of Irish beekeepers. The poor weather of spring and summer was not conducive to high yields of honey and queen mating suffered severely also. However there appears to have been a wide variation of results through the country and many beekeepers especially in the southern regions were quite pleased with their honey yields. Let us hope that 2009 will follow the pattern of most of the years that ended in nine during the twentieth century. After two mediocre seasons we really would appreciate a good fine summer and no doubt our poor bees would appreciate it even more so.

GBBG Activities

The two workdays at Dun Aonghusa were quite successful not because of the numbers who attended but on account of the amount of work that was accomplished by the small but dedicated band of workers who turned out. Some members even came on both days but as usual the majority did not appear at all. Indeed it seems to be the same faithful few that turn out year in year out to do this essential maintenance work of spring cleaning the bee garden and treatment of hives, mating nuclei and buildings.

The Dun Aonghusa workshop was an outstanding success. All credit to those members who volunteered to do the various demonstrations on different aspects of queen rearing. We shared our experience and knowledge with beekeepers from Kerry, Limerick, Clare, Leitrim and Fingal. These workshops form a method of carrying the message of GBBG in the best possible way. We also had a very pleasant and educational workshop at the apiary of Gay Noonan at Well Hill near Golden. Many thanks to Gay and her husband Michael for placing the apiary at our disposal and for their hospitality including tea and cakes in their new honey house and a most enjoyable afternoon in the pleasant surroundings of their lovely garden listening to Bridie Power’s many renditions on her harmonica.

Our members took part in workshops at Gormanston and attended the AGM of BIBBA as well as the BIBBA Conference where Dennis Ryan and Mervyn Eddie delivered lectures. Dennis also lectured at the Gormanston Conference as well as the London Honey Show. Our annual garden walk was an event to remember also even though the attendance again fell far short of expectations. Our sincere thanks to Mary Keenan for a most enjoyable afternoon in her wonderful four-acre garden.

Morphometry Survey

At the end of the second year of the survey we have succeeded in collecting and mounting a total of 168 samples. This is falling far short of our expectations as we thought at this stage we would have at least 500-600 samples mounted and processed. It means that ALL our members must make an all out effort to collect samples from as many apiaries as possible during 2009. Our thanks to all who have supplied samples to date and especially to Jacob Kahn for his help and advice and to Padraig Whelan for co-ordinating the wing-mounting.

All Ireland Conservation Area

Due to the dangers involved in importing bees and/or queens it would be most appropriate if the Departments of Agriculture in Northern Ireland and R.O.I. agreed to place a permanent ban on importing bees into the island of Ireland. Among the countries of the European Union this island is in a unique position in that we are completely surrounded by water and even more importantly that here we have the best surviving population of Dark European Honeybees in the whole of Europe. Let us hope that the powers that be will see their way to exploiting this unique asset in beekeeping.


Congratulations to Dennis on his election to President of FIBKA and to Irene on being selected as Honey Queen. Congratulations to our members who won many awards at honey shows including the Irish and British National Honey Shows. Congratulations also to those who passed the various examinations of FIBKA at provincial level and in Gormanston especially to Thomas who passed his Lecturer’s examination.

Thank You

Sincere thanks to my fellow officers, the members of the steering committee and those group members who helped in any way during 2008 to forward the aims and objectives ofGBBG.

Micheál Mac Giolla Coda – Chairman.

Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2007

Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM of year 2007

The 2007 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. held in the Band Room Cahir, Co. Tipperary on Sunday 20th January 2008, with a starting time of 2.00 pm. This years A.G.M. was a little different for your editor, because for the first time I was in attendance myself. The conduct of the meeting however, followed the standard pattern.


  1. Apologies and votes of sympathy.
  2. Minutes of AGM 2006.
  3. Matters Arising.
  4. Chairman’s Annual Report and review of work to date. See Separate Page. and Apiary Report
  5. Treasurer’s Report.
  6. Election of Officers and Working Committee.
  7. Membership Fee for coming year.
  8. Cost of Breeder Queens.
  9. Programme of activities for 2008.
  10. Morphometry report on workto date by Dr Pádraig Whelen (Delivered by Eddie O’Sullivan).
  11. Tea Break.
  12. Queen rearing by Tom Prendergast.
  13. Panel Discussion on Queen rearing with Tom, Micheál Mac, Dennis and John.
  14. Group Photograph.

Our Chairman Micheál welcomed all to the 16th AGM and extended sympathies to the families and friends of… Claire Chavasse, John Kearns, Tim Corbett, Dinny Gahan, Tania and Adam McCabe, Seamus Doran, Gerard Cullinane, Betty Showler, Eva Crane, Bernard Mobus, Eric Coleman, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sam Millar’s wife. All stood for a minute’s silence. Ar dheis De go raibh a nanamacha.

The minutes of the previous AGM were read by Michael Maunsell and adopted, Norman Walsh was congratulated on his MBE. In the absence of Gay Noonan, Dennis Ryan ran through the accounts which had been circulated prior to the meeting.

Speaking from behind the camera, Redmond Williams (Video Librarian) reported that 22 DVDs had been produced and will be available from Jim Power. Redmond stressed the value of the DVDs and sought comments and ideas for the future. Redmond wondered if the DVD collection should be made available to a wider audience through FIBKA. The meeting felt that it would be a very good idea. Michael Gleeson on behalf of FIBKA, thanked Redmond for the offer and complimented both Redmond and Ruary for their high quality work on video productions.

Colony Appraisals Report

Jim Power looked for suggestions to improve or increase the number of appraisals. Eoghan offered to put the forms in The Four Seasons. Jim explained in detail the difference between the colony evaluations and the appraisal form, going through the headings on both forms. We must assess our colonies in order to breed from the best of them. The returns so far for 2006 stands at 12 and only 6 for 2007. Dennis wondered if there should be a penalty/sanction on members who do not make returns. Micheál thanked Jim for the report and urged members to make returns, stressing that it was one of our ground rules.

Website Report

Dave said that the Website was global and changes slowly, so long-term things should be sent to him and short-term articles should be sent to the newsletter editor Eoghan. Dave went on to say said that he would put the evaluation forms on the website as downloadable items to help boost evaluation returns and would liaise with Jim Power about producing step by step instructions on the web. Dave stressed that both the Newsletter and Website needed input from people – and urged that material be passed on to the respective editors.

Membership Fees

GBBG   €15.00
BIBBA €25.00
Breeder Queen €15.00

In Future the Committee to decide BIBBA fee based on the exchange rate.

After an interlude for tea/coffee, Tom Prendergast gave a short illustrated talk on queen rearing, which was followed by a discussion on that topic. The meeting finished up with the customary group photograph.

Election of Officers and Working Committee.

  Chairman:   Micheál Mac Giolla Coda.
Secretary: Michael Maunsell.
Treasurer: Gay Noonan.
Newsletter Editor: Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda.
Remaining Committee…
Website Editor Dave Cushman.
Video Librarian: Redmond Williams and Jim Power.
Updates & New Developments Ruary Rudd.
Morphometry Jacob Kahn and Liam Rice.
Queen Rearing Micheál Mac Giolla Coda.
Instrumental Insemination Redmond Williams.
Varroa Officers: Dennis Ryan, Ruary Rudd.
Bee Flora Sally Perceval Maxwell.
Colony Evaluation Jim Power.
W/o Portfolio Ger O’Donoghue.
    —||— Joe Martin.
    —||— Tom Prendergast.

Group Activities Proposed for 2008.

  • Work Day…   February 17th 10.00 a.m.
  • Work Day…   March 30th 10.00 a.m.
  • Queen Rearing Workshop…   May 25th 2.00 p.m.
  • Family Day… June  Eddie O’Sullivan to organise, either Mountrath or Cobh
    Final date and Details will follow in the Four Seasons, and here.


I can comment that very few AGMs get the strength of support as GBBG does, attendance is a very high percentage of the membership and a credit to the degree of dedication all members show towards the well being of their Native bee.

Not actually mentioned at the meeting, but something that slipped my mind at the time… During the next 12 months the website would be undergoing various upgrades in coding to allow better presentation when printed.

Text by Dave Cushman and Michael Maunsell.

Galtee Bee Breeding Group — Annual Report – 2008 for year 2007

Galtee Bee Breeding Group — Annual Report – 2008 for year 2007.

Claire Chavasse

This past year saw GBBG experience its saddest event since its foundation with the death of one of our most valued members. Claire Chavasse had served as Editor of our newsletter, “The Four Seasons” since its inception. She has left her stamp on its layout and format and it will serve to keep her memory alive for many years to come. Many thanks to Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda who succeeded her as Editor for managing to produce the usual four issues during the past year. It is fitting that the current issue was dedicated to Claire and includes tributes from many of her friends and colleagues in beekeeping. Tributes were also paid to Claire in bee journals including An Beachaire, Bee Improvement, and Bee Craft.

The Weather

The weather pattern during the year 2007 was not conducive to a heavy honey yield and conditions for queen rearing were far from ideal at times. However our dark native bees seem to have given a good account of themselves and retained any honey they stored in the early part of the year. Though queen mating was difficult during the mid summer good results were obtained during the autumn. Late flows from ling and bell heather, Himalayan balsam and ivy ensured that colonies have gone into winter in good condition.

Dun Aonghusa Work Days

Two work days were held in the breeding apiary on February 25th. and April 15th. Even though the numbers who turned out were small a lot of work was accomplished. Many thanks to the faithful few who regularly attend to assist with some of those very essential tasks.


Many of our members attended the Ulster Beekeepers’ Association’s Spring Convention at Greenmount College on March 23rd. and 24th.. We continue to have excellent relationship with our counterparts in Northern Ireland especially the Ulster Bee Improvement Group and we avail of every opportunity to share with each other our accumulated knowledge.

Morphometry Workshop

On 1st. April a morphometry workshop led by Jacob Kahn and Liam Rice was held in the Band Room. A report by Pat Lenihan has appeared in The Four Seasons.

BBKA Conventions at Stoneleigh and Cheshire

A number of GBBG members attended the BBKA Convention at Stoneleigh on 20th. and 21st April. The Chairman had the honour of giving presentations on both days on breeding native bees. He also accepted an invitation to give a talk on this subject to the Cheshire Beekeepers’ Association’s Annual Convention in September.

BIBBA Annual General Meeting

Some GBBG members attended the AGM of BIBBA at Stoneleigh on 22nd. April. A lecture entitled  Varroa Tolerance/Resistance in Apis mellifera  was delivered by Dr Stephen Martin. The BIBBA Morphometry project was launched by Dr. Mervyn Eddie. Having served a three year term as President the Chairman of GBBG was again elected to that office. Other members of GBBG who were elected to the Central Committee of BIBBA included Mervyn Eddie, Dennis Ryan, and Alan Jones. A full report has been published in BIM by Sandra Unwin as well as an article by Mervyn on the Discovery Project.


On May 27th we held a workshop for members of GBBG. The main purpose of these workshops is to train our members so that they can demonstrate the various skills involved in bee improvement and queen rearing to the members of Beekeeping Associations around the country. A comprehensive report on our spring workshop was compiled by Claire Chavasse who was present on the day and was published in the Autumn issue of Bee Improvement Magazine. Gerry and Mary Ryan have also written a report on this event in The Four Seasons.

Visit from N. Tipperary and Co. Kerry BKAs

On 10th. June we were hosts to beekeepers from N. Tipperary and Co. Kerry Associations. Our members demonstrated various techniques involved in breeding. This event was fully reported by Tom Prendergast in The Four Seasons and by Ruary Rudd in An Beachaire.

Garden Walk

On Sunday 17th. June our annual garden walk was organised and led by Jim Ryan when by kind invitation of the owner Mrs Moss we visited Kilfane Glen in Co Kilkenny. A report on this most enjoyable family outing by Jim Power appears in The Four Seasons.


As usual many of our members played various roles in organising and running the Gormanston Summer Course. Congratulations to all concerned on the continued success of this unique beekeeping event. GBBG in conjunction with other BIBBA members are pleased to disperse their expertise and acquired skills through the various outdoor demonstrations and morphometry and I.I. workshops as well as lectures. Congratulations to those members who won prizes in the Irish National Honey Show and those who worked so hard to make it such a success especially Redmond in his role as Honey Show Secretary. The five-year plan for a country-wide morphometry survey was launched at the opening ceremony. Full reports by Eddie O’Sullivan appear in The Four Seasons and in BIM by Terry Clare, Sandra Unwin, and John Hendrie.

Visit of Estonian Beekeepers

We also played host to a party of Estonian beekeepers who were very impressed with our native Irish bees especially their docility as nobody wore a veil even though several hives and Apideas were opened. A report has been sent by Gerry and Mary Ryan to The Four Seasons.


One of our Drone Congregation Areas was visited by Dr Robert Paxton of Queens University, Belfast and Rodolfo Jaffe, a PhD student working with Prof. Robin Morritz of Halle University in Germany to collect samples of drones as well as samples of bees from Dun Aonghusa in connection with their research into viral diseases and genetic variation under the BEESHOP programme. At their invitation I had the privilege of attending the annual BEESHOP Symposium in Uppsala, Sweden in September.

GBBG Morphometry Survey

The survey is progressing within the pilot area, but much better response from members is needed to obtain samples from members of their own BKAs for this important survey to succeed. This year we have been fortunate to have engaged the services of students in UCC who have previously carried out morphometry projects to do the time consuming and tedious work of wing mounting prior to analysing the results from the samples submitted. Our thanks are due to Dr Pádraig Whelan of U.C.C. who has undertaken to co-ordinate this work and to Dr Jacob Kahn for his expert advice and encouragement.

Conservation of Genetic Resources

This year we received some funding under the scheme for the Conservation of Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture. The bulk of this funding is being used to finance GBBG’s morphometry project. A submission has been made to Department of Agriculture for funding to help finance the morphometry project during the year 2008.


Heartiest congratulations to all our members who won prizes at the many Irish Honey Shows as well as the British National Honey Show in London. Congratulations also to those members who were successful in the examinations held by FIBKA. We wish them continued success in their studies and in their beekeeping careers.

Thank You

A special thank you to my fellow officers: Secretary, Michael Maunsell; Treasurer, Gay Noonan and Editor; Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda, and to those members who were so generous in helping me during the year. A very special thank you also to Redmond for his help in I.I. Even though he is a very busy man he devoted four days to this most important bee breeding operation at Dun Aonghusa. Please forgive me if I have omitted to thank somebody who has done a particular service for the group.

Micheál Mac Giolla Coda – Chairman.


Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2006

Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM of year 2006


The meeting was held in the band room, Cahir at 2pm on Sunday February 11th 2007.

No photograph can be found of those present, so I list the members recorded as present in the minutes…

Micheál Mac Giolla Coda, Michael Maunsell, Gay Noonan, Erika Fitzpatrick, John Bartley, James Diskin, Laura Stanley, Kitie Mulyew, Jacob Khan, James Tobin, Tom Prendergast, Finola Walsh, Michael Gleeson, Graham Hall, Mary Coffey, Tom Carr, Allan Jones, Norman Walsh, Mervyn Eddie, Dennis Ryan, Redmond Williams, Ger Williams, Gerry Ryan, P.J. Taylor, Pat Howley, David Lee, Donal O’Riordan, Liam Rice, Jim Clerkin, P.J. Curran, Claire Chavasse, Ruary Rudd, Eamon McGee, Eddie O’Sullivan, John Corbett, Des Williams, Jim Power, Eileen Gahan, Philip McCabe, Michael Byrne, Jim Ryan, Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda, Darius Bartlett, Pádraig Whelan.

Apologies were received from…

Ben Harden, Sally Percival Maxwell, John Donohue, Tom Starr, Liam McGarry,

Chairman’s Opening Address

Micheál welcomed everybody and commented on the high attendance even though there were sporting attractions on the same day, he also delivered a vote of sympathy for those that had lost loved ones during the year.


The minutes of the previous AGM were read and adopted without comment or discussion.

Annual Report and Review of the year

Micheál Mac then went on to describe the year’s work and then give a summary of the previous fifteen year period that GBBG had now operated for, stress was placed on getting colony assessment returns back for analysis. Micheál then went on to outline the priorities for the next five years.

  1. Continue work on evaluation and breeding.
  2. Special attention to be paid to longevity, supersedure and productivity, with scale hives being used to produce data.
  3. We will study bee strains for resistance to varroa and AFB. We will detect and encourage levels of grooming and hygienic behaviour in relation to these diseases.
  4. A morphometric survey of bees in the whole of Ireland will be undertaken
  5. GBBG will co-operate with BIBBA, FIBKA, Dept. of Agriculture, Teagasc, University College Cork and other establishments

Micheál stressed the need for all members to commit to the work for the future benefit of Irish beekeeping.

Accounts and Finance

Gay Noonan then gave a short dissertation on the state of the finances.

Presentation to Claire Chavasse

Claire was presented with a pair of Cornus kousa chinensis shrubs for her garden, in recognition of the work she had put in as editor of Four Seasons and all the other work that she had undertaken on behalf of GBBG.

Breeding for Resistance

The afternoon was rounded off by Dennis Ryan talking about Hygienic and grooming behaviours.

Text by Dave Cushman


Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2005

The 2005 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. held in the Band Room Cahir, Co. Tipperary on Sunday 22nd January 2006, with a starting time of 2.00 pm.


  1. Chairman’s Address. See Separate Page.
  2. Minutes of AGM 2004.
  3. Matters Arising.
  4. Secretary’s Report. See Separate Page.
  5. Treasurer’s Report.
  6. Election of Officers and Working Committee.
  7. Membership Fee for coming year.
  8. Programme of activities for 2006.
  9. Honorary Membership.
  10. Tea Break.
  11. Panel debate on “Current problems in Queen mating”.
  12. AOB

Election of Officers and Working Committee.

We have a new treasurer… Congratulations to Gay Noonan who was elected Treasurer of GBBG for the coming year. She has replaced Jim Ryan, who held the post for the past two years. We were delighted to learn of Jim’s recovery from his recent illness and we wish him continued good health and enjoyable beekeeping in the years ahead. Prior to vacating his office as Treasurer Jim collected affiliation fees for 2006 from the fifty-four members present. Any member who wishes to renew their membership should do so before the end of March. This year there will be no reminders and we must regard the 31 st. March as the cut off point for renewal of membership.

Group Activities for 2006.

APIARY MAINTENANCE: Sunday 2nd April 10 am, at Dun Aonghusa Apiary, Glengarra Wood, Burncourt, Cahir. Everyone is very welcome, bring some sandwiches, spare ‘Bee Plants’ and favourite tools.

QUEEN REARING AND COLONY EVALUATION: Sunday 14th May 2pm, Glengarra Wood, Burncourt, Cahir.

FAMILY OUTING TO BIRR CASTLE: Sunday 11th June. This visit has to be arranged, details will appear in the Summer edition of The Four Seasons.


Members may be interested to know that Dr Susan Cobey from Ohio State University, USA, who is an expert on Instrumentally Inseminating Queens will be lecturing at the Convention. Dr Cobey will also be giving two lectures at the BIBBA AGM on Sunday 23rd April commencing at lO.30am.
The titles of her lectures will be:

  1. Rearing quality Queens and Drones.
  2. Performance of Instrumentally Inseminated Queens versus Naturally Mated Queens.

Honorary Life Membership

Out of the blue I received an Email from Micheál Mac Giolla Coda…

Dear Dave,

It gives me great pleasure to inform you that at the Annual General Meeting of Galtee Bee Breeding Group on Sunday 22nd January 2006 by unanimous decision you were conferred with Honorary Life Membership of GBBG. This is in recognition of your constant help and outstanding service to GBBG and your significant contribution to the conservation, study and improvement of native Irish strains of Dark European Honeybee.

Kindest Regards,

Micheál Mac Giolla Coda, (Chairman).

I am both honoured and flattered, I hope I will be able to live up to it. DAC

Queen Mating Problems

A most interesting discussion took place at our AGM on current “Problems in Queen Mating”. No doubt there will be a report on this debate elsewhere and we will hear much more on the subject in the not too distant future. Even though we may not have reached any definite conclusions it became apparent as a result of this discussion that there is a great need for monitoring our colonies more carefully. We were made aware of the need to observe our queens more closely and to study their performance in different colonies and under different conditions. We were reminded of the ever increasing importance of the drones we rear in our hives and their qualities in view of the huge loss of drones due to the demise of wild colonies since the advent of Varroa. There is a growing necessity to assess the behaviour of our bees and to get to know them better and study their reactions to diseases, and environmental and climatic conditions.


Magazine Article About The World Record Bee Beard Attempt

A magazine article about the world record bee beard attempt of Philip McCabe that took place in Ireland on 25th June 2005, using bees provided by the Galtee Bee Breeding Group. This article was published in An Beachaire, Apimondia edition.

Brat na mBeach Dubha – The Cloak of Black Bees

High Objectives

When Philip McCabe, President of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations first mentioned to me that he would like to have a go at beating the world record for a beard of bees I was intrigued by the idea. When he asked me if I would provide the bees I readily agreed. What an achievement it would be for the native Irish Black Bee and how it would confound the critics who considered all strains of our native bee to be aggressive. Philip’s motives were certainly worthwhile. He hoped to raise a good deal of money for two charitable organisations that supply bees, equipment and training for beekeepers in Third World countries, namely Bees for Development and Bothar, the Irish based organisation that provides livestock including bees to families in Africa mainly. As President of Apimondia 2005, Philip also wished to obtain publicity for that event which would take place in Ireland for the first time ever. What a publicity stunt and hopefully the money will continue to pour into the coffers of the charities involved.

Docile Bees

Philip has such a persuasive nature combined with an infectious enthusiasm that I was swept off my feet by the idea. However when I began to consider the real implications involved in this undertaking I began to reconsider my position. I had to realise that the current world record had been established in California with Italian bees which are renowned both for their docility and prolificacy. In general the Dark European Bee is regarded as over-aggressive by comparison with other European races. Members of BIBBA who have been working with this bee for some time know that this is far from true as the temperament of the Dark Bee ranges from very aggressive to very docile and very often it is the hybridisation with other races which has resulted in extreme bad temper. When beekeepers eliminate hybrids, make an effort to study and record the behaviour of their colonies and then select and cull accordingly they find that in a very short time the temperament of their colonies has improved beyond all expectations. Members of GBBG who have practiced this simple system have gone a long way towards achieving this over the past decade or so.

What an Order!

I knew I could produce docile bees for Philip’s beard but when he mentioned 500,000 bees I realised that it was much more than an ordinary beard. He said that that amount of bees would weigh well in excess of 100 lbs or 50 Kg. How many hives would I need? The typical figure that is often mentioned for peak hive populations in Ireland is 60,000 to 80,000. I think about half this figure would be more accurate although I do not know if anybody actually counted the number of bees in a hive in this country. Say if the peak population had reached 35,000, and the hives had not swarmed, it would take every bee in about 15 hives to make up the half million required. So if one took half the bees from each hive, which would be the most likely scenario that might still result in the survival of the colony, it would need about thirty hives that had not yet swarmed. What an order in a year like this! As it transpired we had to take at least half and sometimes more than half the population from twenty-five hives.

Selecting the Bees

Many of these hives were quite weak after the winter and some were actually over wintered as nuclei. Due to the poor spring weather conditions resulting in slow development of all colonies the selected stocks got stimulative feeding right up to mid June. Most of the selected colonies were descended from one breeder queen, DR22/03 which was a direct descendant of BK6/90 which was the ancestor of one of my original docile breeding lines. In the autumn of 2004 I had selected or requeened more than twenty colonies with daughters or grand daughters of DR22/03. Unfortunately my winter survival assessment revealed that only eleven of these queens had survived. It was therefore necessary to select close to twenty more docile colonies in order to provide sufficient quite and sedate bees for the “beard”.

Colony Assessments

Through April, May and June, as well as the normal colony evaluations I did extra assessments on the selected colonies. This consisted of manipulating the colonies without gloves. Finger stingers had to be excluded from the final selection and other colonies had to be selected in their place to make up the number required for the final selection. The week before the event I went through all these colonies twice and “to make assurance doubly sure” I called in two skilled assessors for their opinion. On the Wednesday prior to the event Liam Rice spent a full day with me, and Michael Maunsell came on the Thursday. We worked methodically through the colonies with bare hands to make the final selection. Again it became necessary to reject some colonies that showed even a slight inclination to sting the fingers or ones that displayed signs of nervousness.

A Cry for Help

Quite a lot of preparatory work that I had not anticipated began to pile up as the day drew near so it was necessary to call in more members to help. As always they were ready, willing and able. On Friday morning I realised we needed many more frames fitted with foundation. Redmond Williams with the help of his two daughters Emma and Linda had fitted over seventy frames with foundation by lunchtime. Then Dennis Ryan arrived and he and Redmond assembled and primed fifty Apidea mini nuclei ready to be stocked with bees from the Bee Beard. Eoghan, Cormac, Micheál B. and Aoife arrived shortly after 6 o’clock and we began to take the bees from their hives and shake them off the combs into polystyrene brood chambers fitted with varroa screens for floors and containing frames of foundation and frame feeders. Three teams were involved in this final selection of bees and even at this late stage it was decided to reject the bees from two colonies even though the evening was turning cold and normally one would forgive bees for a little indiscretion at that late hour. We filled six brood chambers and mixed the bees from three to five hives in each box. There was scarcely any fighting that we noticed and very few bees were dead on the floors next morning.

The “Bee Chute”

When Philip arrived with his daughter Ciara and Eimear Burton from Ovation we were in the process of assembling the final piece of equipment. We had been puzzled as to how we were to get the bees to climb on to Philip’s body and it was Redmond, who is gifted with a good head as well as a good pair of hands, who came up with the idea of a chute made of polystyrene sheets and covered with a white bed sheet. It was to be mounted on a workmate bench and the end of the chute was carved out to fit exactly the curvature of Philip’s waist. All the equipment was taken to the field near Burncourt where the event was to take place next morning. This included wooden pallets for the scales on which Philip would stand and other pallets to take the six boxes of bees which were kept closed in overnight and each given a gallon of syrup as well as the frame feeder.

The Field

This field had been selected as it contained an old disused quarry which had been partly filled in and grassed over so that it was relatively level. This field was placed at our disposal through the gracious generosity of a Burncourt farmer, Eddie Conway who also allowed Jim and James Power to avail of the power supply from his milking parlour and opened up one of his paddocks to provide parking space for the many vehicles involved. One semicircle of the quarry face still remains, on top of which grows a dense fringe of trees and bushes providing shelter from the prevailing south west wind. However this “best laid plan” did not work out so well, as on the morning of the event a cold wind from the north east was funnelled straight into the quarry which caused us to wonder how the bees would react to the low temperature and cool breezy conditions. The Burncourt Community Council kindly placed the facilities of the Community Centre at our disposal and many availed of the opportunity to call in for refreshments before departing for home.

The Team

One could almost feel Philip shiver as he stripped down to his underpants. Some swarm lures and queen bee pheromone which were sponsored by Thorne’s were fixed under his chin. The haunting music of the bagpipes served to heighten the excitement of the onlookers as Dennis ushered Philip through the field and on to the scales. The chute was placed in position and two skeps were used by Jim Power to carry the bees from the hives to the chute. Jim, Claire Chavasse, P.J. Curran, and Michael Maunsell were involved in the delicate operation of taking the bees from the hives, transferring them to the skeps and thence to the chute. Bea Flavin used the goose wing to great advantage to marshal the bees so that they did not cover Philip’s face entirely. Eoghan and Micheál B. helped to marshal the bees from the chute on to Philip’s body with the judicious use of a little smoke and the occasional spray of fine mist. Dennis and Cormac were in charge of security. Dr Mary Coffey of Teagasc was in charge of the special weighing scales which was sponsored for the occasion by Avery. The whole operation was carried out under the expert supervision and watchful eye of Redmond who also managed to find time to make a video of the event as also did Ruary Rudd who travelled up from Kerry for the purpose. We are most thankful to them both for compiling these records of the occasion for posterity.

Mission Accomplished

1.    John Summerville and John Donoghue set up the Apimondia stand. Philip himself represented FIBKA as President. Joe Martin, Chairman, represented South Tipperary BKA as well as Secretary Dennis Ryan. The neighbouring Association of Co. Waterford was represented by Chairman, Tony Murray. Alice Fitzgerald, Secretary of Co. Waterford BKA and Bea Flavin, Secretary of South Kilkenny BKA were also present. It was a great privilege for me to be present as Chairman of GBBG and President of BIBBA and to be so deeply involved with the dedicated team of highly skilled bee masters from GBBG who were responsible for the huge success of this delicate operation. Some reports highlighted the fact that the attempt to break the world record had failed. We, Dark Bee enthusiasts look at this event from a different aspect and I must take this opportunity to congratulate Philip on his courage and the outstanding success of his mission which was regarded by many Irish beekeepers as a “Mission Impossible”. Not only did he gain huge publicity for Apimondia 2005 and raised much money for the beekeeping charities but he set up a record for the Dark European Bee that was never previously envisaged. In contrast to popular opinion that all Dark Bees are aggressive the success of this event has proved that the native Dark Bee can be as docile as any other European race of bees.

Pictorial Records

I must not forget to say a word of thanks to Dave Cushman who carried out a great deal of research and gave us much valuable advice which we subsequently were very glad to avail of. The results of this research has been recorded elsewhere.

2.    As well as the huge battery of cameras from the media a number of members of GBBG were invited to record the operation on camera for the archives of the breeding group. These included Gay, Aoife, James, Bridie, Bea, P.J., John Summerville, Cathal and Helen. Let the pictures speak for themselves and as the saying goes “The rest is history”.

Micheál C. Mac Giolla Coda.

Originated… 19 July 2005, Text Added… 21 September 2005,

Four Seasons Article About The World Record Bee Beard Attempt

An article that appeared in the GBBG newsletter ‘The Four Seasons’ written by Michael Maunsell about the world record bee beard attempt of Philip McCabe that took place in Ireland on 25th June 2005, owing to production limitations the pictures that accompanied the original article could not be published. This page includes the original text as well as the author’s accompanying photographs.


My initial reaction to Philip’s announcement, on the RTE programme Mooney Goes Wild, was one of amazement and disbelief. Philip has done Irish beekeeping a power of good on this programme and has strenuously worked to allay the public’s fears and raise the profile of beekeepers and beekeeping in Ireland.

However on hearing of the Beard of Bees I thought this is a bridge too far. Anybody who has been to the FIBKA annual week long course in Gormanston would also be very apprehensive since Philip has supplied the bees for demonstration and examination at this course for a number of years. These bees could at best be described as ‘sharpish’.

Philip’s aim was threefold. Firstly to advertise the great achievement of hosting Apimondia 2005 in Dublin. Apimondia is the worldwide congress of beekeepers to be held at the RDS from 21st to 26th of August. Secondly Philip hoped to raise much needed funds for two well known charities, Bees for Development that supplies bees, equipment and training for beekeepers in Third World countries, and Bothar, the Irish based organisation that provides livestock including bees to families mainly in Africa. Thirdly and finally Philip did hope to really have a go at that world record set by Mark Biancaniello in California with 350,000 Italian bees that are renowned for their docility.

However the Dark European Bee is regarded as aggressive by comparison with other European races and has an ability to detect single thickness of material covering a human body and proceed to staple this material to the body when riled up.

Philip approached Micheál MacGiolla Coda of GBBG with the idea and Micheál’s response was “fine fine we’ll see what we can do”. Interpretation of this is “great fantastic we will do everything that is humanly possible and you do not have to worry about a thing”.

Micheál set about the task with phenomenal enthusiasm and spent months researching and building up stocks of bees suitable for the mammoth task ahead. The task was compounded by the fact that a lot of our bees did not over-winter well last year and were lost or were weakened considerably (this has been the subject of some very fine theories). The colonies were fed to stimulate egg laying from an early stage and were also tested and selected for docility.

Since this was the first such venture in Ireland a lot of on the spot learning and improvisation had to be done. As the day approached the work seemed to increase in magnitude and Micheál was constantly drawn away to answer the phone to callers both national and international. Help arrived in the form of Micheál’s own family and some members of GBBG. Final selection of the bees was done and they were transferred to the Burncourt field on the Friday evening.

A suitable location had to be selected for the event. Safety procedures had to put in place, contingency plans were also put in place. Questions arose re the press people, photographers, public access, etc., all with safety uppermost. Mr. Eddie Conway of Burncourt provided the field for the attempt. This location was chosen as it contained in one corner a natural amphitheatre in the form of a disused quarry that had been partially filled in level to a depth of a metre to two metres under the field and was surrounded on two sides by very high banks. The farmer very kindly allowed parking in the field adjacent to the quarry.

The day June 25th. finally arrived and all of the preparations and plans would be put to the test. The morning was much cooler than previous days and was dull and overcast for a long time but of more concern was the wind. The high banks on two sides of the quarry would provide great shelter from a southerly wind but when we needed it most the wind blew from a northerly direction and it seemed to be directed right into the quarry and was quite blustery. In short the weather was far from ideal and not what was hoped for. A sizeable crowd of people began to gather, these were a mixture of beekeepers, photographers, journalists and satellite crews. Philip Mc Cabe, Burncourt and GBBG were to be the centre of worldwide attention for the morning and some time to come.

Philip arrived at the venue and seemed to be totally relaxed, with a word for everybody as is usual for him. Philip togged out and was prepped for the event by Micheál and helpers.


The amount of mental preparation undergone by Philip must have been phenomenal. Some of us can tolerate bees walking on our hands and our forearms and maybe the very odd one that may land and go walkabout on our face just as long as there is no evil intent in mind. It is a totally different proposition to tolerate bees in huge numbers on parts of the body that are not normally exposed to the elements except maybe for an odd fine day or two of the holidays.

Philip had to condition himself not to react to any discomfort that he may feel and especially not to react to any sting that he might inadvertently receive. He also had to be in reasonably good physical shape to stand still on the scales for the required time. Remember that for two hours he had to remain relatively still, no hopping from one leg to another or folding and unfolding of arms, scratching or any of the other many movements that are made consciously and involuntary over such a period of time.

Philip was very well prepared and had time to sign autographs before the event. As with all major GBBG events Dennis played the bagpipes to lead Philip onto the podium that was on a special weighing scales for the record attempt. Philip was so relaxed that he performed a Rocky Routine on route.

Mary Coffee was in charge of the scales, the morning brightened a little and Micheál took the first skep of bees to the specially prepared chute that would tunnel the bees onto Philip’s body. The bees were very slow to move onto his body. The wind played a major role in dissipating the queen pheromone and any bees that took to flight were slow to alight and cluster tightly.

At about the two-hour mark Philip’s legs were really feeling the strain and he had to call a halt to the proceedings. At this stage he had we reckon about 200,000 bees on his body. This is 199,999 more than most people will tolerate. The bees covered his body except for his navel and parts of his well-tanned thighs; his preparation, as I said earlier, was meticulous.


The next part of the operation was to remove the bees from his body. The original plan was to shave them off gently using plastic rulers, but Philip came up with a different plan and decided to jump off the podium onto the ground in front of him thus dislodging the bees in one go. I must say that for a man that remained so still for the previous two hours that the engine roared into action and he showed great acceleration for the jump.


Next came the recovery stage of the operation. A lot of the bees were collected and scooped and measured into Apidea boxes used for queen rearing. Some brood boxes were left on the ground at the location and the flying bees entered these and were bringing in nectar on the following day when checked, thus showing little or no ill effects of the previous handlings. Our primary aim was that no humans would get injured or stung, but as beekeepers our primary goal is always the wellbeing of our bees.

When the event was over people adjourned to the local Community Centre courtesy of the Burncourt Community Council for refreshments before departing for home. The whole event was tremendous success. Philip is to be lauded for his courage in undertaking the attempt at the record. He succeeded in two of his aims set out originally and he certainly set an Irish record. He got tremendous worldwide coverage, it went live to Fox, Channel9 and Sky and raised awareness in Ireland and abroad.


The event was also a tremendous success for Micheál MacGiolla Coda and his GBBG and his native dark bees. It shows that with selective breeding that our bees could be a pleasure to work with. Micheál encourages record keeping at each manipulation and breed only from the best and cull the worst.

Thanks is due to Philip for his foresight and fortitude.
Thanks to the landowner, Eddie Conway and to the Burncourt Community Council.
Thanks to the members of GBBG who were involved in any way.
Finally thanks to Micheál and the entire MacGiolla Coda family for their tremendous efforts to ensure that everything went as smoothly as it did and that everybody was well cared for, again thank you.

Michael Maunsell

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