Galtee Bee Breeder's Group

Philip McCabe’s World Record Bee Beard Attempt 2005 (How it Was Done)

A description of the planning and behind the scenes activity as well as the ‘on the day’ execution of Philip McCabe’s world record bee beard attempt of 25th June 2005. The pictures are on a separate page.

It was not until the 11th of April 2005 that I became involved in this project, until then I had merely heard rumours, but I was approached by Micheál and his Email went something like this…

Last year I agreed that I and GBBG would provide the bees for the noble beard. I hope to select a team of experienced and reliable beekeepers from the members of GBBG, at this stage I know little about the mechanics of the bee beard process, there are many questions that spring to mind and you may be able to help find the answers. So perhaps you may accept the position of researcher as well as advisor to the project. You might also like to put a new page in your website covering the subject.

Some of the questions that were posed, became headings for various topics that needed to be looked at in more detail. I spent the next few days gathering information and reading every document about bee beards on the internet and various others were looking into other aspects. The list below has been simplified and condensed from hundreds of Emails and other documents, so it may seem a little jumbled, but that is the nature of sorting out a project like this.

How should we prepare the man?

Philip reckoned that he should be smeared with honey to attract the bees. If 500,000 bees were to be achieved, the weight would be considerable so a back bracing belt was considered. A face mask and swimming goggles were proposed as well as cotton wool in ears and navel with sticking plaster to keep them in place, boxer shorts elasticated top and bottom would stop ingress of bees. To monitor the weight he would be standing on precision calibrated scales. Should queens or virgins be used or just queen pheromone lures? Would the synthetic queen pheromone which we use in locating drone congregations help? Should we use some fine water spray or mister to calm the bees and make them cling and cluster? In the actual event swarm lures and queen bee pheromone, which were sponsored by Thorne’s, were fixed under Philip’s chin. Some other pheromone of French origin was tried, but it acted as more of deterrent than an attractant and caused the bare patches that show up in the photographs.

Should we have a trial run?

It was thought that we should have a trial run in advance of the big day using bees from two or three colonies, so as to check our method. I the end this did not happen, mainly due to poor weather and resulting slow development of colonies. As Philip is keen to have another go at the record, then this attempt may be considered as a trial run for the next time.

How about preparing the bees?

The bees obviously have to be in the right ‘frame of mind’ so that they cluster without much flying so some separation of old and young bees would be required. Some type of shook swarm with perhaps the younger bees from two or three colonies packed into polystyrene hives in advance at a distant location to be placed them in a cellar overnight and brought to the site on the morning of the event.

How many colonies would we need to take bees from?

Micheál thought that he could provide them from some of his own resources as well as from the Dún Aonghusa breeding apiary. He had at this stage earmarked between fifteen and twenty colonies from the most docile strain of the past two years and was hoping that he could produce sufficient bees from those to provide a respectable beard. Even if no records are broken, if we had the equivalent of four or five good sized swarms hanging on him it should create a sensational enough spectacle to satisfy the curiosity of the television viewers and there would be a lot of money raised for Bóthar and Bees for Development. Philip would gain the necessary publicity for Apimondia and hopefully GBBG will have proved that such a project can be achieved with our native dark bees as well as the other races which are reputed to be more docile. Provision of bees would not be helped by the late spring due to cold east winds which had prevailed for some weeks, resulting in slow build up of the colonies.

What rules would be made by the Guinness records people?

Verification of the weight, before and after gives the weight of bees and the measurements were recorded by Dr Mary Coffey of Teagasc (The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority).

Loading the bees onto his body

Several options were considered…

You could have ten hives, each containing the young bees from three colonies, arranged in a tight semicircle and with Philip standing on the scales in the centre. The bees would be shaken on to him from each hive in turn.

The final choice was a purpose made ramp or chute made of polystyrene sheets and covered with a white bed sheet. It was mounted on a ‘workmate’ bench and the end of the chute was carved out to fit exactly the curvature of Philip’s waist. The bees could be tipped into this tray like chute and they would walk up on to Philip’s body.

Removing the bees afterwards

Micheál thought…
We should treat the bees as humanely as possible.
The bees should be conserved as they can be used again to populate stocks of bees. They may be mostly young bees and would be well suited to the heather. Even for drawing foundation if they were given a feed . I think the bees could easily be peeled off with a back of a long knife or other such implement and carried away in ventilated boxes to be subsequently hived as swarms and given a queen each. One brood chamber could be left on the site to collect any bees on the ground or flying bees which might have orientated to the site.

The Scales

Were provided by Avery Berkel Ltd. Paul Fallon, the contracts and hire manager, organised the delivery and calibration/set-up of a weighing machine type: HL122, Serial Number: EQ300703, capacity: 300kg, with increment (division size): 100g. The equipment being complete with an ISO9001 National Standards Definitive Calibration Certificate.

Further information will be added to this page as it can be collated and verified from various different sources.

Many thanks to those that helped in any way towards this event, there are too many to mention individually, but you all know who you are.

Written By Dave Cushman


Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2004

Originally titled… MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIRMAN – SPRING 2005

The 2004 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. was held in the Band Room Cahir on Sunday 23rd January 2005.

Castar na daoine ar a cheile ach ni castar na cnuic ar na sleibhte.
The people meet each other, but the hills and the mountains never meet.


This is one of the most important events of the year for GBBG. The attendance continues to grow each year. There were 45 members present this year. They deserve the highest praise for their support in the work of Bee Improvement. Members came from all parts of Munster, Leinster and Ulster, from south-west Kerry to Down and Antrim. There was a special welcome for the President of the Ulster Beekeepers’ Association. The attendance included most of the officers of FIBKA.


Amongst the handouts distributed at the AGM were copies of the Hive Record form in use by GBBG for the recording of behavioural characteristics at each colony inspection. It is essential that all members keep records of their colonies and at the end of each season submit a summary of the results to James Power on the Colony Appraisal forms, samples of which were also handed out. It is hoped that members who have consistently recorded their colonies’ behaviour and sent in the Colony Appraisals to James will be rewarded, possibly with an I.I. breeder queen.

We must thank James for his dedicated work in co-ordinating these returns over the years. His well presented book of Colony Appraisals for the year 2003 was on display at the AGM. About 300 colonies are represented in this record from 2003. Hopefully this figure will be doubled for the year 2004 when all the records have been processed. After his first year as Treasurer Jim Ryan deserves our thanks for the clear and precise manner in which he presented his annual report. Thankfully the current balance was such that there was no necessity for an increase in the annual subscription.


Thanks also to Dennis Ryan our Secretary for his full and comprehensive report on the activities of the group during 2003 and his faithful recording of the minutes of the AGM’s for many years past. He has also kept the minutes of the meetings of the working committee and he has watched the group’s membership grow from strength to strength during his term of office; Dennis has been very active in all functions pertaining to the various activities of GBBG especially the annual work days in the Dun Aonghusa breeding apiary and bee garden as well as the study group over the past three years. He will be remembered far and wide by visiting beekeepers as well as GBBG members for that special atmosphere which the enchanting music of his pipes has added to our many outdoor events. We hope that he will continue to provide this rare and wonderful addition to our outdoor activities in the future.  


We enjoy the accommodation facilities of the Band Room through the good will of the Cahir Brass Band and the good offices of Redmond who is a long standing member of the band. Redmond looked after the catering at the AGM; unfortunately our programme was so full that there was scarcely sufficient time for that very important part of the day’s proceedings namely a relaxing chat over a cup of tea and the renewal of friendships. This annual gathering of single minded bee breeders takes place in the friendliest of atmospheres. As well as reviewing the past year it affords us the opportunity to reawaken our enthusiasm to strive towards producing a better bee and better beekeeping conditions for Irish beekeepers.


Jacob Kahn delivered a presentation which comprised of a very lucid synopsis of a paper which had been published recently by Annette Bruun Jensen of the University of Copenhagen. The paper was entitled “Varying degrees of Apis mellifera ligustica introgression in protected populations of the black honeybee. Apis mellifera mellifera in northwest Europe.” This paper was based on comprehensive research over the past years on samples of Dark Bees selected from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Scotland and Ireland. The fifty Irish samples collected at random by members of GBBG throughout Munster and Leinster were found to be particularly pure with only very slight hybridisation from the Italian bee in a small number of samples. We have been promised a more detailed report on the Irish samples in the near future. Jacob, who has also carried out morphometric measurements on the Irish samples, illustrated a number of unusual types of wing venation which he is interested in studying and which may form part of a research project for our members during 2005.


Ruary Rudd explained in detail the important legal requirements which are necessary today in order to satisfy the various clauses of the current E.U. regulations where the labelling of honey for sale is concerned. We are indebted to Ruary for the amount of time and energy he has put into this aspect of our craft. He has printed out and circulated to all members a simple, precise and informative leaflet to cover these essential points in a very readable and easily understood format.


May I take this opportunity to welcome our newly elected Secretary, Michael Maunsell. To those of you, who attend the various activities of GBBG, visit Gormanston, or the Irish Honey Shows, Michael is no stranger. He has been especially active in the various functions of GBBG and has hardly ever missed a session of our Study Group. This entails a long journey, but has proved productive as he gained first place in Ireland in the Intermediate Exam last year. On behalf of all our members may I wish Michael many productive and fulfilling years as Secretary of our bee improvement group. I would like to wish all members of the group success in the coming beekeeping season.

Text by Micheál Mac Giolla Coda, Chairman GBBG

Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2003


Report compiled from various sources

The agenda for GBBG Annual General Meeting for the year 2003, held on Sunday 25th January 2004 in the Band Room at Cahir was as follows…

1.Chairman’s address… (on separate page)

2.Minutes of AGM 2002 (not reported here)

3.Matters Arising (not reported here)

4.Secretary’s Report… (on separate page)

5.Treasurer’s Report (not reported here) See NEW TREASURER

6.Election of Officers and Working Committee (not reported here)

7.Membership Fee (not reported here)

8.Programme of activities for 2004 See GROUP ACTIVITIES

9.Tea Break

10.Simple Queen Rearing for the Small Beekeeper See QUEEN REARING

11.Discussion on Bee Improvement and Queen Rearing (not reported in detail)

Notes about the AGM

From the Chairman

Typical audience at a GBBG AGM What a wonderful congregation we had in the Band Room for our twelfth AGM on 25th January. The full house was most encouraging for the officers and committee of GBBG. From a rough head count I estimated the attendance to be more than forty with apologies from fifteen more who were unavoidably absent. This is a good indication of the growing interest and commitment among our members to bee improvement and their sincere willingness to co-operate with each other in this relatively new beekeeping venture. We sincerely hope that this spirit of co-operation will continue within our group for many years to come. There is no room in our little group for jealousy, or secrecy, or petty squabbling. Let us take as a model the honeybee colony and work together in unity for our common good. We had many long distance travellers this year that helped to swell the ranks of the home counties of Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny and Cork. They also came in force from Kerry, Offaly, Wexford, Wicklow, Dublin, Meath, Down and Antrim.



We are extremely fortunate that Jim Ryan has taken on the post of Treasurer. Of course Jim is better known to Irish and international beekeepers as the Editor of “An Beachaire”, a position which he has held for many years. May we take this opportunity to congratulate Jim and wish him well in his new undertaking as our Treasurer.


Jim Ryan, Photo… FIBKA



  1. Sunday 15th February 10.00am.

Apiary Maintenance at Dun Aonghusa Apiary, Glengarra Wood, Burncourt, Cahir. Bring a sandwich lunch, any spare ‘Bee Plants’ and favourite tools (woodworking or garden).

Sunday 18th April 2.00pm.

Video Movies and Video Editing with Ruary Rudd. Band Room, Cahir.

Sunday 9th May 2.30pm.

Colony Evaluation and Garden Walk. Mrs Wanda Ronan, Cuskinny House, Cobh. Directions to Cuskinny House:- Take the road to Fota Estate and Wild life Park. Pass the entrance and drive over the bridge. Take a left turn and stay on the main road from there until you come to a cross of four roads. There is a brown signpost, among others, for Cobh Aquatics indicating a left turn. Follow that road for a few miles until you come to a T-junction. The gates to Cuskinny House are facing you across the junction. As parking space in the estate is limited, please take a left turn at the junction and a few yards further on the right on the seashore there is a public parking area. A collection will be made from members towards one of Mrs Ronan’s Charities.



presentation on Queen Rearing, given by Claire Chavasse, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda QUEEN REARING


The simple, yet precise, presentation on Queen Rearing, given by our newsletter editor, Claire Chavasse, set the stage for a very lively discussion on many aspects of bee improvement and gave the entire audience much food for thought in the planning of their own bee breeding programmes for the fast approaching beekeeping season.

Text by Micheál Mac Giolla Coda, Dennis Ryan and Dave Cushman

Galtee Bee Breeders AGM 2002


Membership – Aims, Objects, Rules

At our recent AGM held in the band Room, Cahir, the provisional set of rules for membership was reviewed and revised and was submitted to the AGM for ratification and adoption.

The Aims and Objectives of the Galtee Bee Breeding Group were also outlined for the benefit of new members and to remind us all of the importance of the work we are currently engaged in.


1.Members must be affiliated to Bee Improvement and Bee Breeding Association (BIBBA).

2.They must be paid up members of an affiliated Beekeeping Association.

3.They should be prepared to master the fundamentals of Bee Breeding in theory and practice.

4.Each member should be capable of assessing the value of a colony for breeding.

5.Each member should maintain a hive record book or colony history book with relevant up to date entries for all colonies.

6.Members should mark all queens and keep a record of their age.



This bee improvement group was formed at a meeting of local beekeepers at Glengarra Wood on Monday, 30th.December 1991. To simplify the working of the group a provisional set of rules and guidelines were drawn up. A working programme for the evaluation, recording, culling and selective breeding of the local bee strains was agreed on. The aims of the group included: the conservation, restoration, study, and selection of the native strains of the Dark European Bee of our own locality including the Galtee/Vee Valley and surrounding areas.


Originally confined to the Galtee/Vee Valley, our area of operation has expanded so that our breeding zone has gradually extended westward to include the valleys of the Funchion and upper Blackwater between the Nagle and Ballyhoura Mountains as far as Mallow. We also progressed eastward along the Suir valley as far as the river Anner and the valley between Slievnamon and the Commeragh Mountains.

We are slowly extending this demarcation line to the east as far as Waterford and westward to Castlemaine harbour. Many of our queens have been distributed along the general area adjacent to this line and southward to the sea as new members have continued to join our group. Members have also joined us from other parts of Munster and Leinster. We will be glad to help beekeepers in other areas of Ireland to start bee improvement groups in their own locality. This would help to ensure the conservation of other local strains of Dark Bees that may differ from the Galtee bees.


Since the Galtee Group commenced its programme of evaluation and selection in the 1992 season considerable progress has been made especially in the field of morphometric assessment and the identification of important behavioural characteristics of our local strains of the native bee. We have consolidated our relationship with BIBBA and we consider it important that our members are also affiliated to that Bee Improvement Association. We have also forged links with Black Bee Improvement Groups in many European countries.


Prior to 1990 the main selection criteria for breeding were levels of honey production and freedom from disease. While maintaining emphasis on these very important economic qualities, more and more consideration has been given to the improvement of behavioural aspects such as temperament and swarming tendency. It became apparent that these last two characteristics were the most important in making beekeeping more attractive to beginners especially the new hobbyist.


It is much easier to manipulate docile bees and it takes far less time to examine a docile colony than an aggressive one. The once widely held belief that vicious bees are better honey producers is erroneous and outdated. Beekeepers who maintain aggressive bees have a negative effect on the promotional work done by F.I.B.K.A. One has to only look at the number of beginners who give up after a year or two as a result of a bad experience with aggressive bees.


There is little need to mention the obvious loss in honey yields that occurs each year as a result of over-swarminess in bees. Next to the characteristic of aggressiveness which is manifested through varying degrees of stinginess and following, the swarming propensity of bees is the other major factor that gives bees and beekeeping a bad name among the members of the general public. It is important to identify and eradicate at the earliest possible opportunity those colonies that are prone to excessive swarming. Members of our group are constantly monitoring cell raising and swarming activity and have identified at least one true supersedure strain.


The greatest single advancement in our bee improvement programme was made in 1994 at Gormanston when Redmond learned the technique of instrumental insemination from Jos Hillen of Belgium and Barry Greenwood (R.I.P). The expensive equipment and instruments were purchased and in the intervening years Redmond Williams has perfected the I.I. technique. I.I. queens are distributed to members of the group who are prepared to evaluate their bees’ behaviour and keep the necessary records that are required for our selection and culling programmes.


The II equipment mentioned in the text photographed in 1994, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda



In his opening address the Chairman said that the Committee were especially pleased to welcome the new members who were present. He said that he hoped that through their membership of GBBG they would learn to look at their bees in a new light. Through their practice of bee improvement they would find an added pleasure in the craft of beekeeping.



Micheál Mac Giolla Coda.


Dennis Ryan.


Redmond Williams.

Newsletter Editor:

Claire Chavasse.

Varroa Officers:

Dennis Ryan, Ruary Rudd.

Website Manager:

Jacob Kahn.


Jacob Kahn, Liam Rice, Eddie O’Sullivan.

Colony Appraisals


James Power.

Video Librarian:

Redmond Williams.


Sally Percival-Maxwell, Ger O’ Donoghue, Joe Martin, Bea Flavin-Dunphy,


A comprehensive programme of activities was drawn up for the coming year.


An in-depth discussion was chaired by John Donoghue on the revised FIBKA policy on Varroa and the proposed policy on Foul Brood. Both policies were adopted by GBBG and it was recommended that members should practice them to the best of their ability.

Regular classes are staged by GBBG, in order to educate members in how to recognise brood diseases in their own stocks.

Galtee Bee Breeders Group AGM 2001


What could well be described as the first swarm of 2002 descended on the Band Room, Cahir on 27th. January 2002 for the 10th. A.G.M. of Galtee Bee Breeding Group. The Chairman in his opening remarks traced the development of GBBG from its inaugural meeting in December 1991 when the first four founding members came together, to its present strength of more than forty committed members.

The attendance of 29 at the A.G.M. OF 2001 and apologies received from six other members who could not be present was indicative of the enthusiastic support and pride in the work of the group. The camaraderie and good fellowship which blossomed during the break for a cup of tea was evidence of the friendship and mutual respect which has developed among members of this group over the years. As one member was heard to remark there was a buzz of enthusiasm as of a honeybee colony awakening in Spring after a Winter of inactivity.

The Chairman welcomed especially the officers of F.I.B.K.A. including the President, David Lee, the Secretary, Michael Gleeson, and the Life Vice-President, Michael Woulfe. He welcomed the members from near and far and particular those who had travelled long distances from counties Meath, Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Offaly, Kerry and Cork. He described the work of the group over the past ten years and the resultant improvement in members’ bees, which is becoming quite apparent from the annual returns of colony appraisals. He emphasised the benefit to the group of the funding received from the Department of Agriculture under the Scheme for the Conservation of Genetic Resources. Without such funding the ambitious work programmes of GBBG could not be accomplished. He thanked all the members who had taken on special responsibilities and who had played such active roles in the group’s many projects.

The Secretary, Dennis Ryan read a comprehensive report on the many and varied activities of the group during the past year. The Treasurer, Redmond Williams gave a clear cut account on income and expenditure for the year 2001.

Jacob Kahn gave a short talk, explaining the working of the wing analyser for morphometric measurement of bees wings, which had been developed for the group by a final year student at C.I.T.

Jacob is prepared to assist any GBBG member in the use of the computer version of the wing analyser to measure their wing samples.

Jacob should be contacted for the necessary information and directions on it’s use.


Description of wing morphometry using computer software to scan the win


Redmond brought along twelve videos on bee improvement, which he had spent recent weeks editing from material which he has recorded during demonstrations and trips abroad over the past two years. Recording and editing are very time consuming procedures, but now since he has got a new camcorder and editing equipment as a result of recent funding, he has promised to produce many more videos both for GBBG and FIBKA also. James Power displayed a very neat collection of members’ colony appraisals in tabular form. He is very anxious to get in the colony appraisals from other members. He is also working on the development of a “Stud Book” for the information of group members. Ruary Rudd showed an example of a Varroa handbook, which he had produced, from material downloaded from the New Zealand beekeepers’ website. This could prove a most beneficial source of information for our members who are likewise coming to grips with Varroa for the first time. Anybody who is interested should e-mail Ruary for particulars.

The A.G.M. concluded with a high level discussion on Varroa. The important message, which emerged for members, is to keep it simple. Follow the suggested steps contained in the GBBG policy document for detection and treatment. Bayvarol is the only chemical treatment approved for this country . It is safe, cheap, and very effective, giving a 98% kill of mites. In the early years a second treatment may be necessary in Spring to combat reinfestation from untreated colonies. Members should monitor their colonies on a regular basis to ascertain the level of infestation. Mite levels can be kept down during the Summer season by the use of open mesh floors and regular destruction of drone comb inserts used for mite trapping. Advantage will be taken of our Summer demonstrations to familiarise members with these simple manipulations.


(Text by Micheál Mac Giolla Coda, Chairman GBBG)

Galtee Bee Breeders Group AGM 2000

The 2000 AGM of GBBG was held on Sunday 28th. January 2001 in the Band Room, Cahir… Starting at 2.30 p.m.

Present were:-

Eileen Gahan, Michael G Gleeson, Jim Ryan, Joe Martin, Thomas Reid, Liam Brett, Jacob Kahn, Michael Woulfe, Liam Rice, P J Curran, Ger O’Donoghue, Claire Chavasse, Vincent Walsh, David O’Meara, Johnnie Carrigan, Gwen Roe, Tom Barrett, John Donoghue, David Lee, Eddie O’Sullivan, John Cunningham, James Power, Jim Power, Micheál Mac Giolla Coda, Redmond Williams, Dennis Ryan.

Apologies were received from:-

Barry Lynch, Mary O’Riordan, Gerard Williams, Bea Flavin-Dunphy, Ben Colchester, Tadgh O’Mahony, John Summerville, Georgie Penruddock, Sally Percival-Maxwell.

All stood for one minute’s silence as a mark of respect to Eric Milner and Georgie’s mother who died recently.

Ar dheis De go raibh a n-anam.

Item 1. Chairman’s Address

Micheál welcomed all present, especially, David Lee and Michael G. Gleeson… President and Secretary respectively of FIBKA.

He said the group’s activities during the year 2000 were very successful and well supported. The group now has representatives from at least ten or twelve BKA’s in the country. The visit to Carrigmore, an apiary in the Galtee/Vee Valley demonstrated the groups method of colony evaluation and recording which he said is a simple and practical system of assessment and forms the basis for our selection programmes. The same theme was followed up at the apiary of Michael Woulfe in Middleton, Co. Cork.

The third event, which had an attendance of forty people, was our visit to the extensive gardens of the Mount Congreve Estate in Co. Waterford.


view of Congrieve estate, Photo… Irish Tourism


view of Congrieve estate, Photo… Irish Tourism


view of Congrieve estate, Photo… Irish Tourism


view of Congrieve estate, Photo… Irish Tourism


Horse Chestnut on the Mount Congrieve estate, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda


Walkers on the Mount Congrieve estate, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda

GBBG members on the Mount Congrieve estate, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda


All three events proved to be both educational and social occasions for our group members.

The most important event of the year was the establishment of our new breeding apiary – known as Dun Aonghusa – at Glengarra Wood. Micheál reviewed the work that had been carried out there by Redmond and himself during the year and said that further development can now take place in 2001. Funding has been received through the Department of Agriculture under the Scheme for the Conservation of Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture. This funding has enabled us to purchase much needed equipment including Instrumental Insemination apparatus, a garden shed, liquid nitrogen flask, computer, printer, and scanner. The primary object he said is to provide breeder queens for the group members.

Micheál then thanked all members who helped to achieve success during the year, Tom Barrett for setting up the discussion group on the internet, Jacob and Eddie for establishing the project on bee morphometry in the Cork Institute of Technology – a final year student is carrying out the work. He thanked Jacob for maintaining the website and Claire who is editor of our new Newsletter. He concluded his address by congratulating Claire on receiving the National Certificate in Apiculture and Redmond, Dennis, and Gerard on their National Diploma in Apiculture, Tom Barrett who passed his Federation Lecturer’s exam and all those who won prizes at the numerous honey shows which were held during the past year.

The minutes of the 1999 AGM were read and adopted.

Item 3. Matters arising


Item 4. Correspondence


Item 5.Treasurer’s Report

Redmond provided a handout detailing all receipts and expenditure for the year.

Item 6. Election of officers and working committee

Chairman: Micheál Mac Giolla Coda.

Secretary: Dennis Ryan.

Treasurer: Redmond Williams.

Working Committee. This committee was provisionally set up during the year was ratified by the AGM.

Website manager: Jacob.

Bee Flora and Bee Garden: Sally.

Video Librarian: Redmond.

Update on new developments: Tom Barrett.

Newsletter Editor: Claire.

Colony Appraisals: James.

Morphometry: Bea, Liam, Jacob and Eddie.

Queen Rearing: Micheál.

Instrumental Insemination: Redmond.

Varroa Officer: Dennis.


Item 7. Fees

The level of members fees to remain unchanged for the coming year.

Item 8. Breeder queens

The charge to members for breeder queens to remain the same as last year.

Item 9. Update on Varroa

Michael Gleeson talking to a group, Image recovered from an ‘An Beachaire’ cover picture Michael Gleeson informed the meeting that Varroa has now been confirmed in twelve of the thirty-two counties and he pinpointed exact locations of outbreaks on a detailed map. All present were reminded that Varroa is a notifiable disease. A sample should be sent to Kinsealy for confirmation and local Associations then informed.

Item 10. GBBG policy on Varroa

A workable policy of diagnosis and treatment was drawn up. This will be published in our newsletter, The Four Seasons, so that all members can put it into practice.

This final discussion on Varroa concluded the meeting, which ended at 6.15 p.m.


Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM 1999

The 1999 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. was held on Sunday 30/1/2000 in the Band Room Cahir at 3:00 p.m.

Present were:

Bea Flavin Dunphy,   Eileen Gahan,   Michael G. Gleeson,   Jim Ryan,   Liam Brett,   Joe Martin,   Jacob Kahn,   Michael Woulfe,   Liam Rice,   Georgie Penruddock,   Claire Chavasse,   P.J. Curran,   Vincent Walsh,   Gwen Roe,   David 0′ Meara,   Tom Barrett,   John Donoghue,   Eddie 0′ Sullivan,   James Power,   Tadhg 0′ Mahony,   Michael Mac Giolla Coda,   Redmond Williams,   Dennis Ryan.

Apologies were received from…

Ben Harden,   John Summerville,   Ger 0′ Donoghue   and John Cunningham.

All stood for one minute silence as a mark of respect for Thomas Lonergan R.I.P. and William Rice R.I.P. – both of whom died recently. Ar dheis De go raibh a n-anam.


Item 1 Chairman’s Address:

In his opening address our chairman Micheál welcomed all members especially the President and Secretary of F.I.B.K.A. He thanked the office holders for work done during the year and also he thanked those who took part in the Varroa Seminar [future link]. “It is fitting”, he said, “that this initiative has now been taken up by F.I.B.K.A in organising similar seminars throughout the country to educate beekeepers about Varroa”. He thanked Georgie for a wonderful guided tour of Lismore Castle and Gardens in May. He congratulated those members who were successful in F.I.B.K.A. examinations at Gormanston namely Tom, Finola, David and Bridie and also to Redmond who passed his Senior Honey Judges Examination of B.B.K.A. at the London Honey Show. He also congratulated members who were successful in exhibiting at all the Honey Shows especially at the London Honey Show. Michael then referred to the research work currently being carried out by B.I.B.B.A. in testing colonies for hygienic behaviour in removal of dead brood and monitoring damaged adult Varroa mites. He said B.I.B.B.A. has committed forty thousand pounds over five years to research projects to do with selective breeding for Varroa tolerance and D.N.A. testing for purity of mating. Research in the Derwent Valley Apiary last year proved that queens were 95% successful in mating with the drones provided. In conclusion Micheál referred to the establishment of a Queen Mating Apiary set up during the year with the help of grant aid from the Dept. of Agriculture. This development, he said, “should greatly improve the availability of breeder queens to members during the years ahead”. He welcomed contributions to our Newsletter which he said will be sent out shortly.

Item 2: The minutes of the 1998 A.G.M. (not reported here)


Item 3: Matters arising.

A request should be made to the Dept. of Agriculture to continue the ban on the importation of bees because of the effect such imports would have on our existing indigenous population of Apis m. m. colonies and also because of the fear of importing Kashmir Bee Virus.

Item 4: Treasurer’s Report. (not reported here)


Item 5: Group Activities 1999. (not reported here)


Item 6: New Queen Mating Apiary.

A sub-committee formed in July drew up a submission to the Dept. of Agriculture with an application for grant aid to fund our project which is titled “The Conservation and Improvement of Local Strains of Dark European Honey Bee (Apis m.m.)”. The funds received were used last Autumn to purchase equipment for the establishment of a Queen Mating Apiary at Glengarra Wood, Burncourt. The breeder queens produced in this apiary will be distributed to members on an annual basis and so help to improve their own stock as well as playing a role in improving the bees of other members of their local beekeeping association. The secretary then concluded by outlining a Summary Report which has been forwarded to the Dept. of Agriculture detailing the progress made to date.

Item 7: Election of Officers.

The following members were re-elected


Micheál Mac Giolla Coda.


Dennis Ryan


Redmond Williams


Item 8: Membership Fees

(1)   Membership of G.B.B.G. £10. It was agreed to increase the fee to £10 pounds in order to cover extra costs. Fees are to be paid before 31st March 2000. B.I.B.B.A’s annual affiliation fee is now £15 sterling. The importance of membership of the local B.K.A. as well as B.I.B.B.A in order to qualify for G.B.B.G. membership was stressed.

(2)   Membership of G.B.B.G. and B.I.B.B.A. = £30.(Irish)


Item 9: Price of Breeder Queens.

It was agreed to charge members £5 for the first breeder queen ordered and thereafter £10 each. It is hoped to have queens available by the end of June. Orders for breeder queens must be placed by 31st March 2000.

Item 10: Programme of Activities for 2000. (open to members, their families and friends)

(1)   Tree planting ceremony at Cahir Castle on Sat. 25th March at 11 a.m. in conjunction with visit of the Bee Farmers Association.

(2)   Open Hive Demonstration on Sunday 7th May 2000 at 2 p.m at Carrigmore Apiary.

(3)   Open Hive Demonstration on Sunday 28th May 2000 at 2 p.m at Michael Woulfe’s apiary.

(4)   Garden Walk on Sunday 18th June at 2 p.m. Venue Mount Congreve Gardens, Kilmeadon. Co. Waterford.


Item 11: Open Forum on “Varroa” chaired by John Donoghue F.I.B.K.A. President.

Open Forum on Varroa chaired by John Donoghue, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda Michael G. Gleeson gave an update on the spread of Varroa – there were ten cases reported in Carlow and two in Kilkenny he said. He stressed the importance of encouraging leave alone bee-keepers to go to the lectures and seminars which are organised throughout the country. We need to educate the beekeeper on Varroa since the mite cannot be eradicated.

A general discussion then took place on many aspects of the disease namely:-

(1)   The best way to provide for losses is by forming nuclei in late Summer.

(2)   The best time to treat is after the crop is removed in August during the break in brood rearing – this will ensure good supply of healthy winter bees in Autumn.

(3)   There is a need for research into Varroa to be carried out in Ireland under Irish conditions similar to research work currently ongoing in other countries.

(4)   Individual Associations should bulk buy Bayvarol for their members In order to keep cost of treatment low and so encourage its use.

(5)   We need to set up Bait hives to catch Swarms and so prevent reinfection of our treated colonies.

(6)   Swarm control in our own colonies will be vitally important.

(7)   We need to test for Varroa tolerance and breed from the more hygienic bees

Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM 1998

The 1998 A.G.M. of the G.B.B.G. was held in the Band Room Cahir.


Another year has come and gone, and many beekeepers will say “good riddance”. It was a wet year, it was a bad year for honey production, and probably for beekeeping and beekeepers in general. Was not this the year of the Varroa !!!.

Looking back on the year, these are the negative thoughts which first come to the surface of my mind. Very bad thinking for a beekeeper whose greatest attribute must be his/her undying optimism even in the face of adversity. Very bad thinking especially for the bee breeder or bee improver, the prerequisite of whom must definitely be the ability to think positively.


So what was so good about 1998 ?. Well, when I retired from my other job after forty years of hard graft, I swore that I would never work again on Sunday, that I would have a long period of complete relaxation at Christmas time, and that I would take a holiday for the whole month of July. Well that was before I decided to do some bee breeding and queen rearing !. I got no holiday this year and I got no holiday any year since I retired from my other job seven years ago. Perhaps one of these days I will retire from my present job and then I will have a good long holiday. Poor me – here I go again. But sure I’m not grumbling, just thinking !.

So where are those positive thoughts ?. For a start I have seen worse years. What about 1980, when I had 100 hives and I got 2001bs of honey from the lot. Yes, a miserly 2.0 1bs per hive on average. That was the year that finished the traditional hay making, as it all rotted in the fields. And we had more bad honey years in the mid eighties, in fact four of them in a row from ’85 to ’88, each one worse than this year.

But what about ’89 that beautiful year when we got the equivalent of two crops of honey. My average was 931bs per hive in ’89 taking into account all hives, good, bad and indifferent, and not counting heather honey which also yielded heavily that year, but I was so busy trying to cope with the volume of floral honey that I left most of the heather on the hives, so that they scarcely needed any feeding, and on top of that there was a tremendous flow from the ivy. I remember one apiary in particular which gave an average of 1601bs per hive, with the best hive yielding 2401bs.

Now that was just one year ending in nine. But all the years which ended in nine during the present century were excellent honey years. So why should 1999 be any different. Well, if it is not good, I will have to swallow my hive tool. And that is Positive thinking !!!

Happy New Year from the Chairman.


Item 2: The minutes of the 1997 A.G.M. (not reported here)


Item 3: Matters arising. (not reported here)


Item 4: Treasurer’s Report. (not reported here)


Item 5:Report on Group Activities 1998.



By Dennis Ryan.

This was held in the Band Hall Cahir on Sunday 29th March. As at other workshops in the past a great interest was shown by the large attendance of beekeepers from all the neighbouring Associations in counties Cork, Waterford and Kilkenny, as well as North Tipperary, Offaly and Meath.

Those interested in Microscopy had a variety of different strength microscopes at their disposal, the main emphasis being placed on dissection of the bee and disease diagnosis. Beekeepers were shown how to set up, dissect, and identify all the parts of the bees body. Two sets of slides with body parts, ready mounted were also available for viewing. The disease section demonstrated the diagnosis of Acarine as done in the field and in the laboratory, while the spores of Nosema and Foul Brood were also on view.


Various types of microscope available for use in GBBG workshops <Picture>


Centre stage however was the Varroa mite and its comparison with Braula. There were many informative leaflets and wall charts on display giving up to date information and first hand advice to beekeepers on this very topical subject. Particular emphasis was placed on the need to maintain constant vigilance in the search for the mite by sending floorboard debris and inserts to Richard Dunne at Kinsealy Research Centre.

Most members brought along samples of thirty bees from their hives for morphometric analysis. This procedure is important in the selection of colonies for breeding purposes. Our primary aim is to propagate the Dark Bee and eradicate mongrel strains. Measurements were taken of wing venation using slide projectors, as well as width of tomenta and length of overhairs. The results of cubital index and discoidal shift were then plotted on a scattergram which identified the purity or otherwise of a colony of bees. Leaflets were available on all aspects of this work and members went away with the confidence to be able to carry out this procedure for themselves. Much credit is due to Micheál and Redmond for the success of the workshop, and our sincere thanks are also due to the Cahir Brass Band for the use of their premises on this and many other occasions.

Preparing honey bee wings for mounting in order to carry out morphometric tests




On Sunday, 26th. April the group members turned out in force for the Open Hive Demonstration at the STBA apiary in Garryclogher near Cahir. The main purpose of this meeting was to try and standardise for all members our methods of colony evaluation and recording. As each colony was evaluated all members present were asked to record on a hive record sheet the ratings they would give for each of the five behaviour characteristics being assessed. Then a comparison and discussion took place, following which an agreed assessment rating figure was recorded. A good deal of similarity of ratings was noted, but there were also some slight variations between individual ratings. It is only by means of such practical demonstrations that all members will be enabled to standardise their methods of using this evaluation procedure.


Colony evaluation and recording, Photo… Micheál Mac Giolla Coda




Members were urged to use field notebooks for recording the evaluation data at each inspection for comparison purposes at the end of the year. This final Colony Appraisal provides a list of the total ratings of all the beekeeper’s colonies from the highest score to the lowest. This is the tool by which the beekeeper selects his breeder colonies for the following year. Colonies selected for breeding purposes should have as a minimum a total rating of at least fifteen points on the five behaviour characteristics, evaluated during the previous season. As well as this, special emphasis is given to docility, and brood pattern, which are at present regarded as the two most essential attributes in our breeding programme. Both these characteristics should therefore have at least an average rating of three in order that a colony be selected as a breeding stock for the following year. Each member was provided with a sample hive record form which gave a detailed explanation of the evaluation procedure on the reverse side of the sheet.



Also demonstrated was a method of assessing Varroa tolerance. This tolerance can be found in bees by evaluating their hygienic behaviour, which helps the bees to combat not only Varroa but also other diseases of the brood, including AFB. One of the ways which this hygienic behaviour is manifested in a colony, is through the ability and alacrity of the bees in uncapping and removing infected brood. The damage caused by Varroa mites can be simulated by using a fine pin to puncture through the cappings. The length of time it then takes the bees to uncap and remove the damaged larvae is then monitored by checking at twenty four hour intervals. About 100 cells per colony are treated in this manner. It is hoped that members will continue to use this method on their own colonies. Members were also encouraged to monitor the length of time during which colonies are without brood in the autumn. The duration of this broodless period can also confer various degrees of Varroa tolerance. This was a demonstration well worth attending and hopefully the group will hold a similar one in the spring of 1999 to help us to move a step further towards synchronising and perfecting our methods of colony evaluation and recording. We are most fortunate that Redmond recorded the entire demonstration and the video is now available to members.



On Sunday, 24th. May, members, their families and friends assembled for an afternoon stroll in the townland of Kilglass near Mitchelstown, With Michael as our excellent guide we walked for about a mile along a narrow bye road, both sides of which were lined with examples of all our broad leaved trees. Masses of whitethorn abounded on all sides, Micheál identified all the pollen and nectar producing trees, shrubs and flowers along the way making special mention of those of particular interest to the bees. With forage in abundance this was a bee’s paradise and sure enough, half-way down the road we were led into one of Micheál’s out apiaries.


The plants which produce nectar and pollen constitute the very foundation of apiculture and a knowledge of them adds much to the pleasure of beekeeping. When we returned to the starting point. We settled down to a picnic which concluded a most enjoyable outing. Once more Redmond was on the spot with his video camera, so that sitting in our armchairs before a cosy winter fire we may be in a position to relive again some time spent in the company of good friends on a most enjoyable summer’s afternoon.



Item 7: Election of Officers.


The following members were re-elected


Micheál Mac Giolla Coda.


Dennis Ryan


Redmond Williams


Item 8: Membership Fees

These were discussed, and the decision was to carry the existing fees forward for the current season.

Report assembled from various sources, by Dave Cushman.

Galtee Bee Breeding Group AGM 1997



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



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