Fermanagh beekeepers host Ulster annual meeting

Published: 1 Nov 2012 13:000 comments

All the heavy work of beekeeping should be over for the year as traditionally we consider the beekeeping year to begin in mid- August to the beginning of September.

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This is when the honey is removed from the colonies, they are examined to ensure that the queen is present and laying, treated for Varroa, that they are free of disease and in sufficient numbers to survive until the queen comes into full lay again and that we have given them adequate stores to last through to the spring.

We have been informed that Varroa mites which are resistant to Apistan and Bayvarol have been found in Northern Ireland, so an alternative treatment must be used from now onwards.

The beekeeper can have a rest from colony examinations except for making sure that the hives remain weather proof, hefting the hives occasionally during the winter months to ensure that the bees have sufficient food and that the mouse guards are in place. Hefting the hives is something which is learnt by experience. Heft the hive by putting one hand under the floor board at the back and get used to the feel of the well stocked hive at this time of year. Later hefting will give an indication of how much the bees have eaten. Mouse guards are necessary if the entrance is large. I have over-wintered my bees on open mesh floors, without the insert, for over 10 years now and have not found it detrimental to the health of the bees. Indeed, I believe that the increased ventilation is beneficial in that there is no build up of moisture and carbon dioxide, both the result of respiration of the bees.

During the sunny spells in recent days, bees have been collecting pollen and nectar from any flowers still in bloom. Colours of the pollen would indicate dahlia and ivy as being the major sources, with a smattering of heathers and even some late Himalayan balsam included. On warmer nights recently, I have heard the hum of the bees ripening the nectar which they had collected during the day. As the temperature falls below 10°C, the bees cluster in a tighter and tighter ball in the hive so that no ripening can take place.

Fermanagh Beekeepers' Association were fortunate to have Mary Ryan and her husband Gerry as guests at their September meeting. Mary spoke on how they managed their bees when the swarming season arrived and how they used it for their queen rearing. She emphasised the need to be sure that a queen cell did really contain a queen larva, so using open queen cells is very important. Gerry added many points as the value of rearing one's own queens and eliminating the need for importing strains not suitable to our climate was stressed.

On October 5th 2012, Fermanagh Beekeepers acted as hosts for the AGM of the Ulster Beekeepers' Association. By kind permission of the Board of Governors, the Assembly Hall of Collegiate Grammar School was the venue. The meeting commenced with a welcome from John Witchell on behalf of UBKA, Elizabeth Armstrong on behalf of the School and Andrew Elliott on behalf of Fermanagh BKA.

The AGM followed the customary form with apologies, minutes of the 2011 AGM and matters arising and correspondence. Reports from the President, Chairman and Secretary were circulated, while the Treasurer explained his report. All were adopted by the meeting. The election of Officers was conducted by Ethel Irvine.

The principal offices were elected as follows: President: David Wright, Killichy; Chairman: John Witchell, Killinchy; Secretary: Brian Richardson, Fermanagh and Treasurer: Gail Orr, Dromore.

After the election of Officers, John Witchell resumed the Chair and welcomed two Associations, Derry City and Clogher Valley, to the UBKA.

After the AGM, the Beekeeper of the Year Award was presented Rev. Sam Millar for his services to education and other aspects of his work for the UBKA

The meal which followed was provided by the Schools Meals Service and was very highly complimented by all who partook. Coffee, complete with shortbread decorated with a bee motif, was served in the Assembly Hall. The atmosphere was relaxed and the spacious surroundings, both in the attractively decorated dining room and the Assembly Hall, allowed for net-working between the Associations present.

Fermanagh Beekeepers wish to thank very sincerely Elizabeth Armstrong and Irene Dunn for all their help with the venue, Russell Allen (School Meals Service) for co-ordinating the arrangements for the meal and Letitia Conway and her Staff for the meal itself and their unfailing courtesy as they served it.

On the following Saturday morning, some UBKA members who had stayed the night in Enniskillen, paid a visit to the FBKA Apiary and extraction facilities at the Enniskillen Campus of Cafre, where they talked to members about the management involved in both the apiary and the honey extraction facilities. The trees which had been planted in Spring are doing well and should provide both a wind-break and pollen and nectar next year. The sun shone, all the bees in the apiary were flying and foraging and the apiary looked at its best for the visit. Many thanks to all those who have worked so hard to get everything looking so well, including the fuchsias in the planters.

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