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Suggestions for January

Aoife Nic Giolla Coda An Beachaire Vol 71 No.1 January 2016

For the month of January it is still important to check on your hives the odd time particularly after a storm. Make sure the roofs are weighted down with rocks or bricks. If you haven’t carried out oxalic acid treatment in December, you may need to carry it out in January. I covered this subject in December (2016) issue. The weather has been quite mild and I would imagine that many beekeepers are leaving it until January to treat. Heft the hives for weight (with the roof and blocks off). If they are light, you should feed with some bee fondant (ambrosia and apifonda are two brands). (More about hefting in the next issue.)

As beginners, I’m sure many of you are becoming aware of the many bee pests and diseases which are out there. Some of you may be unfortunate (or fortunate – depending how you look at it ) in spotting some of them in your colonies during the summer. However we also must be vigilant against pests in winter time, the most common being the wax moth and mice.

Proper storage of empty supers is essential – The most common method of storage is to store them dry. When you have extracted your honey, place the supers of empty comb on top of your hives, over the crownboards, to allow the bees to lick out the remnants of the honey for up to a week. They remove and store away for the winter. Place a bee proof base on the floor (something metal like a queen excluder is best) and then stack the supers on top, ensuring there are no gaps. Then place a spare crownboard on top – sealing off the feedhole. Place a roof on top of this and weigh down. These can be stored in a shed of if you have a safe, sheltered corner outside where thy cannot be knocked over.

I have heard of people with a small amount of combs storing them in a deep freeze. It works but would not be very practical for most. At Galtee Honey Farm we do not store combs dry. We store them away as soon as they have been extracted. In this instance, the combs are still wet. We stack them with tow or three layers of newspaper between each super. They are kept in a very big draughty shed. We usually have over 600 supers to store every Autumn and applying this method over 40 years, we have rarely had an issue with wax moth.

When stacking supers, it is always important to make sure the stack is bee proof, so check every crack. If it is bee proof, it will also be mouse proof. Also do not store away old brood combs. Old brood bombs which are removed out of the colony should be cut out and disposed of as soon as possible. This is generally through burning. Dig a little pit somewhere dedicated to the burning of combs (the recommended depth is about 45cm). This can be covered up with earth after it is used.

There are two types of wax moth, the Greater and Lesser Wax moths. Both types of larvae eat and travel through empty, dry comb. They particularly prefer brood comb because of the old larval bee cocoons. The Lesser Wax moth is by far more common. However the Greater one has become more common in recent years and creates more havoc. These Greater Wax moth larvae not only wreck your comb, but also damage the super walls in order to pupate. They can chew grooves into wooden walls and actually bore holes into polystyrene walls.

Winter pests in the Apiary – Out in the apiary, while your inserts are placed in the open mesh floors, clean them off periodically throughout the year. You can sometimes see webbing caught between the inserts and the underside of the floor. This webbing is spun by the wax moth larvae.

Another important precaution against winter pests is to put up mouseguards against the entrance. The long metal strips cover the length of the entrance. They allow bees out but do not let mice in. The floor of a hive, with a colony generating heat above is a cosy corner for hibernation, with a good store of honey also!

Hives should always be on sturdy stands two feet off the ground. With food scarcity in winter, a hive on a low stand is far more vulnerable to predators. I once knew a beginner who overwintered her first hive on a pallet on the ground, only to come along one day to find that there were two big holes, the size of a fist, gnawed into the ceder brood box.

Be Mindful of your Beekeeping Neighbours – I know there are some preparing next year for their first or second year of beekeeping and about to source colonies, etc. One thing for beginners always to consider is to be mindful of your beekeeping neighbours. From time to time, we get reports of beginners who have sourced exotic strains of bees which are then brought into regions which have thriving native honey bee populations. This often ends up with the next generation of bees being aggressive all round. The exotic colonies’ new queen mating with local native drones often results in aggression. Ant the local colonies’ new queens mating with the exotic drones often results in aggression.

An example of this is the situation in the OPW Walled Garden in the Phoenix Park. The native honey bees there had to be removed this summer (2016) as they became mongrelised and aggressive. The new queens mated with non native drones brought in by people in the locality and placed in their gardens and allotments. It is irresponsible for beekeepers to not consider others when obtaining bees. They need to think about the consequences of their actions.


Results of Dublin Honey Show 2019

ClassDescriptionFirst prizeSecond prizeThird prize
124 jars of light, medium or dark honey.No AwardNo AwardNo Award
212 jars of light, medium or dark honey.  As offered for sale.Malachy MatthewsPeter WalshJohn Summerville
32 jars light honey.Eveyln O'ReillyRaymond FitzpatrickSean Doyle
42 jars medium honey.  Heather excluded.Peter WalshRaymond FitzpatrickJohn Summerville
52 jars dark honey.  Heather excluded.Malachy MatthewsHubert MartinJohn Summerville
62 jars heather honey.Orla DevaneTom StuartNo Award
72 jars granulated or creamed honey.Malachy MatthewsOrla DevaneMartin Nolan
82 Floral honey sections.  Ling free.Tony LynchThomas O'BrienDara Kilmartin
92 jars chunk honey.No AwardNo AwardNo Award
102 containers of cut comb.No AwardNo AwardJohn Summerville
111 frame suitable for extraction.Peter WalshChris MerriganOrla Devane
121 cake of beeswax.Sinead MortellOrla DevanePeter Walsh
135 blocks beeswax matching.Rena McDonaldOrla DevanePauline Flannery
143 beeswax candles all made by moulding.Kathleen ShoebridgeSeamus MurphyMalachy Matthews
15Beeswax polish in tin or jar.Orla DevaneNo AwardNo Award
16Honey cake.Ann O'SuilleabhanJohn SpeirsConor Hogan
176 honey biscuits.Ciara HoganFrances LavelleKen Norton
18Dry mead.John SummervilleMalachy MatthewsNo Award
19Sweet mead.John SummervilleNo AwardNo Award
20Metheglin / Melomel.John SummervilleNo AwardMalachy Matthews
21Honey BeerNo AwardNo AwardNo Award
22Photograph.  Black and white or colour.Pat WoganHelen DoranCarmel Doran
23Display class.  Collection of bee products consisting of jars of different honey sections, cut comb, mead, beeswax, etc.Bernie O'ReillyNo AwardNo Award
24Any item related to bees or beekeeping and ineligible for entry in another class.Shay MurphyElizabeth ByrneNo Award
252 Jars of Light, Medium or Dark HoneyRose BreslinDave McManusLiam McGarry
262 Jars of Light, Medium or Dark HoneyArun LobidhasFrances LavellePaul O'Brien
271 Jar of Light Medium or Dark HoneySebastian GroultJonathan GroultRichie Timmins
281 Covered Jar of Light Medium or Dark HoneyVincent GroultSebastian GroultNo Award
292 Jars of Light Medium or Dark HoneyKevin CullenDave McManusM. Brennan
301 Jar of Light Medium or Dark HoneyJenny SteinCiara HoganMairead Doherty
311 Covered Jar of Light Medium or Dark HoneySt. Michael's CollegeElizabeth ByrneEleanor Nolan

Getting Ready for Winter

Aoife Nic Giolla Coda An Beachaire Vol.71 No. 9 September 2016

September is here and our summer is over. While it was not a very good summer, some colonies have had a surplus honey crop. Supers should be removed at this stage and stored away. While you may be leaving on a super of honey for the bees over winter, it is not a good idea to leave all the supers on over winter. This is a large area for the bees to try and temperature regulate and a smaller space is easier for them.

Getting ready for winter

The sooner you can remove your honey crop, the better. I always harvest it in the beginning of August. This allows for plenty of time for the use of the Apiguard treatment while the temperature is closer the the 15 degrees Celsius. IT is also better to reduce varroa populations as soon as possible, so that the developing larvae are not being burdened with a high mite load, which results in a shortening of their life. Ir is essential to have varroa free, long-lived, healthy bees this time of year going into the winter.

Queen excluders should be removed over the winter. The colony may wish to move up into the super above the excluder during the winter for extra warmth. However, if the excluder is on the queen gets trapped and isolated below, ultimately leading to the death of the colony.

Make sure all hives are bee tight at this time of year. Reduce entrance size to prevent robbing and allow guard bees to protect the hive more effectively.

Late Supersedure and Uniting Colonies

You may have a colony which has raised late supersedure cells. Unlike swarm cells, proper supersedure cells are generally a bit later in the summer. There are usually between 1 and 3 of them in the colony, generally around the same age. The queen can often be still alive and laying in the colony. It is a sigh that the queen may be failing and that the colony wish to replace her, even though she could be OK and survive in another colony.

If it is early/mid August that you come across this situation, the new queen emerging could still have a decent chance at mating. However this is all relative to the amount of drones still available in the locality, which is generally dictated by the weather and the amount of stores coming into the hive.

A supersedure cell in September has a much slimmer chance of success. You could take the chance that the new queen will mate but it is at a high risk of losing your colony over winter. In this situation, it would be wiser to get rid of the supersedure cells (and queen if she is still present). Then unite the colony with a queenright one. This can be easily done by lifting one brood box onto another and placing a sheet of newspaper in between. Prick a few holes into the newspaper. Both colonies will chew away slowly at the paper, allowing the odour of both colonies to mingle and combine.

Uniting can also be carried out if you have a colony which is too small t survive the winter on its own. Many small colonies, say on 3 or 4 frames, will not be able to maintain the correct temperature in order to survive the winter months.


September is the time to carry out Autumn feeding if necessary. The colony requires 35-40 lbs of stores to carry them through the winter, so if your colony is not at this weight in September you need to feed. The most common feeds for Autumn are 2:1 sugar syrup. This consists of a ratio of 2kg white sugar to 1 litre water. Add some warm water to the sugar to melt it. It can be topped up with cold water to the correct ratio. Keep stirring until dissolved.

Another common feed is invert sugar syrup. Ambrosia syrup would be an example. It does not ferment. It is fructose and glucose so the bees do not need to use energy to invert it before storing. It is also very thick, which means less ripening off of moisture for the bees before storing.

The best way to feed this time of year in with a top feeder like an ashforth or miller feeder – there are many different types on the market. It is put directly over the brood nest where the bees access it easily. Ensure that it is well covered over with the roof placed on it properly to prevent robbing from other bees. It is a good idea to reduce down the entrance also to defend more easily against robbing. Never spill the syrup if you do ensure that it is washed away quickly.

Dead Drones

You might find lost of dead bees on the ground in front of the entrance of the hive in September (or maybe August). If you look more closely you may see that they are drones being killed off by the colony. This is a natural occurrence this tie of the year, when the colony is feeling the autumn chill and start preparing for winter.

Results of the 75th Dublin Honey Show

Class1 st2 nd3 rdVery Highly Commended
1G. Clancy-J. SummervilleM. Nolan
2J. Summerville---
3J. SummervilleR. FitzpatrickG. ClancyE. Fuller
4J. SummervilleD. & T. O’BrienE. ByrneB. O’Reilly
5J. SummervilleH. Martin
6K. PreschM. Gleeson--
7M. NolanR. FitspatrickG. Clancy-
8T. LynchR. BreslinJ. SummervilleJ. Fuller
10J. SummervilleJ. Keogh--
11P. WalshG. ClancyJ. HillO. Devane
12O. DevaneM. MathewsB. O’Reilly-
13O. DevaneS. MurphyB. O’ReillyA. Hamilton
14S. MurphyB. O’ReillyJ. LeonardJ. Cowan
15A. HamiltonO. Devane-B. O’Reilly
16O. ReillyH. MartinA. Cullen-
17A. O’SuilleabhainO. ReillyH. MartinK. Norton
18J. SummervilleD. McCartneyA. HamiltonM. Mathews
19J. SummervilleD. McCartney--
20D. McCartneyJ. Summerville--
21D. McCartney---
22T. O’BrienAlbert HamiltonS. MortellS. O’Hara
23B. O’Reilly---
24L. McCleanJ. SummervilleR. KleeB. O’Reilly
25C. MerriganO. Devane-D. Christodoulides
26M. WallS. O’DwyerM. O’NeillP. O’Brien
27M. KellyV. GroultJ. Thorp-
28S. GroultR. TimminsD. MorrisV. Groult
29S. MortellJ. GroultP. WasylecS. Groult
30S. GroultK. ShoebridgeJ. GroultSt. Michael’s College

Get ready for the 2019 Co. Dublin Honey Show!

It’s that time of year again when we beekeepers prepare our entries for the Dublin Honey Show.  It’s the highlight of the beekeeping year, and we Dublin beekeepers welcome visitors from everywhere to participate in our show.

This year we are staging our 76th honey show on Saturday 2nd November, from 10:00am till 4pm at Christ Church, Rathgar.  There you will find:

  • The best Dublin honey for sale
  • A competition for the best honey / mead / candles / photographs etc. If you are a beekeeper, come and enter your produce – and try win a prize!  If not, come and marvel at the beautiful exhibits.
  • A craft fair
  • Face painting
  • Teas, coffees, sandwiches and delicious cake

If you are keen on buying honey, do come early because we always sell out.

If you are entering the competition, you will need the schedule of classes and the rules.  You can download them here and here.  You can enter online using the form at, or download an entry form here.

Finally, if you are a member of the Co. Dublin beekeepers’ association and can spare a few hours to help out on the day, we’d love to have you.  If you can help out, click here to email John.

John Keogh, Honey Show Secretary