The infectious enthusiasm of beekeepers for their craft has rubbed off on me. One of my jobs in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (and Forestry indeed) was to be ‘Minister for Beekeeping’. Reading around the subject, I was amazed to learn that a third of the human diet depends on bee pollination and honeybees are the best adapted to this vital task. However in the USA alone in 2007, about 800,000 bee colonies died out and in the 2008 another 1,000,000 colonies died. That means one in three American hives were lifeless at the start of 2008. In France the deathrate is more than 60%. In Britain, a Government Minister warned that honeybees could be extinct within a decade.  At their rate of decline the USA will have no honeybees by 2035. For more information, you can read ‘A World Without Bees’ by Benjamin and Mc Callum which I bought in Hodges and Figgis, Dame St, Dublin 2, or check out

The cause of this decline varies depending on the research. It blames disease, poor standards among rogue beekeepers, certain agrichemicals, lack of biodiversity, chaotic weather patterns or a combination of these and other factors. We know already that in the Chinese province of Sichuan, widespread use of pesticides in the 1980’s is believed to have killed off all the bees there. As a result, human workers have to patiently attempt to pollinate the crops when in flower and the results are a poor second rate service compared  to what the bees used to do for free. If the USA was to lose its bee population, the cost of providing any reasonable level of human labour to pollinate crops would cost in the region of $90 billion per annum. Watch the cost of food rocket worldwide if that scenario was to unfold as the USA is huge food and animal feed exporter to Ireland and many other countries including China.

It is not surprising therfore that I jumped at any requests for help or invitations to attend events organized by the Federation of Irish Beekeepers or F.I.B.K.A.. For more information see One such invitation came from Mr. Jim Donohue, Secretary of the Midland Beekeepers Association to become a beekeeper myself. This all came about when I was opening a Self-Sufficiency Fair at Belvedere House near Mullingar. I ended up donning the white bee proof overalls and helping Jim to capture a swarm of several thousand bees, I kid you not!

Recognising I was in the company of an expert and a great teacher, I enrolled to attend the next beekeeping course he was organizing. The sessions are monthly on a Sunday on Norman Kenny’s organic farm near Broadford. In one way it is a great way to relax on the odd Sunday. In another way it is a very practical way to learn how to help boost the yield of farmers and gardeners in Fingal, once I get my own couple of hives. When large numbers of hives were introduced to the almond groves in California, the yield jumped sixfold since the 1980’s. Now 80% of the world’s almonds are produced in California.

In case you are a neighbour of mine reading this,  fear not. The hives will not be in my own small kitchen garden. Instead I am fortunate enough to know a friendly orchard owner who is delighted to host the two hives I will look after. However, bees are not keen to sting anyone as once they sting they die. So the motto is respect the bees and they will respect you. In return a hive will enthusiastically pollinate any flower the bees encounter within a 5 km radius – and produce a few pounds of honey into the bargain.

The last beekeeper to make a name for himself  in the north Fingal area was St Mologa after whom the Lambeecher estate in Balbriggan was named. Lambeecher comes from (Welsh) ‘church’ and (Irish) ‘beekeeper’. It is about time we had our own honey once more.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by brian sparks on March 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Just retired,enjoying the garden with my daughter.So much to do.

    Brian Sparks


  2. Posted by brian sparks on March 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Enjoying the garden with my daughter.
    Keep up the good work.


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