Beekeeping in Ireland
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Beekeeping in Ireland has become more popular over recent years, probably because of the perception that there are extreme pressures on the populations of pollinators from a number of external factors. Despite the increase in the number of beekeepers and consequent increase in production of honey, much of the honey sold in supermarkets is imported from outside the EU, in particular from South America. While the true number of beekeepers is unknown, there are some 3,500 members of associations affiliated to the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations.
Pressures on bees
Varroa has infected most hives and there is little evidence that honeybees in Ireland are able to withstand its infestations. From agriculture there is widespread use of pesticides which allegedly cause harm to bees, along with widespread destruction of habitat, exacerbated by the 2017 weakening of the Woodland Act that restricted the times of year when farmers could burn off vegetation and cut ditches, both of which are essential for bee foraging. The other usual bee pests are present in Ireland, i.e. American foul brood, European foulbrood, and other diseases of the honey bee, although currently Ireland is free from the Small hive beetle and Tropilaelaps.
There are two national beekeeping federations in Ireland, along with a number of other associations. The Federation of Irish Beekeeper's Associations, and the Irish Beekeepers Association CLG (Cumann Beachairí na hÉireann). There are also a number of other organisations of individuals: the Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) and the Irish Buckfast Beekeepers Association (IBBA).
Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations
The Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations (FIBKA) is the largest organisation of beekeeping associations in Ireland. FIBKA was formed in 1881, when it was called the Irish Beekeepers Association (IBKA). It was wound up in 1939, and the new FIBKA was established in 1942. FIBKA is a not-for-profit federation of beekeeping Associations in Ireland with currently 61 affiliated associations which between them have over 3,500 members. Affiliated associations are entitled to send delegates to the annual Congress, submit motions for consideration, and propose candidates for election to the Executive.
According to its constitution, FIBKA's goals are:
- To support the Beekeepers of Ireland for their mutual benefit.
- To encourage and participate in research in problems of Apiculture and generally to foster efficient beekeeping, honey production and marketing.
- To co-operate with the State and Public Authorities in all matters affecting the industry.
- To provide helpful educational facilities through inter alia:
- The publication of An Beachaire (The Irish Beekeeper)
- The publication of informative leaflets
- The promoting and holding of community lectures
- Conducting examinations in the science of apiculture and the art of beekeeping.
- In general to undertake all measures to promote the welfare of beekeeping and Beekeepers in Ireland.
- To promote the conservation of the native dark bee, Apis mellifera mellifera.
FIBKA has run a Beekeeping Summer Course every year since 1961. This is held at Gormanston, Co. Meath in Gormanston College. The Summer Course provides a number of lectures and workshops, as well as holding examinations in the full range of beekeeping education, from the Preliminary exams up to Honey Judge, including Certified Federation Lectureship (CFL).
In keeping with its stated goals, FIBKA is a signatory, contributor to, and supporter of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan. To help promote Irish beekeeping, it is a member of the European Professional Beekeepers Association, the Council of National Beekeeping Associations in the United Kingdom and Ireland (CONBA), Apimondia, the UK National Honey Show, and the Tree Council of Ireland.
Irish Beekeepers' Association CLG
The Irish Beekeepers' Association CLG (IBA) was formed in 2017 in response to a perceived lack of transparency and accountability within FIBKA. Unlike FIBKA which is exclusively a federation of associations, IBA also provides direct membership for individuals. Also unlike FIBKA, the IBA supports beekeepers irrespective of the breed of honeybee kept by the beekeeper, while FIBKA have the stated objective to promote the native Irish honey bee. It provides facilities and benefits comparable to those available from FIBKA, although it is necessarily smaller in both membership and the number of available lecturers due to its very recent establishment.
Native Irish Honey Bee Society
The Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) has as its goal to promote the native Irish dark honey bee, Apis melifera melifera (Amm). They support research into this area in a number of Irish universities, with a focus on Varroa resistance and the research into the specific Irish genetic markers in Amm.
Irish Buckfast Beekeepers Association
The Irish Buckfast Beekeepers Association (IBBA), in contrast to NIHBS, promotes the keeping of Buckfast bees.
- Irish Bee Journal (IBJ) was published by the Rev J.G. Digges from 1901 to 1933, and was succeeded by An Beachaire. FIBKA archives include bound volumes of the IBJ and these are available to researchers.
- An Beachaire, subtitled The Irish Beekeeper, was first published as a successor to the Irish Bee Journal in 1947, and is now published monthly by the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations of which it is the official organ. The Irish word for bee is "beach", with "an beachaire" meaning "the beekeeper". An Beachaire is a useful tool for communicating with beekeepers nationwide.
- The IBA publishes a bimonthly newsletter
- Bee Craft magazine is offered by the IBA to members at a 10% reduced price. Although this is a UK publication, much of its content is applicable to Ireland.
- British Beekeepers' Association
- Ulster Beekeepers' Association
- Apimondia - International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations
- FIBKA history
- FIBKA constitution
- FIBKA Summer Course
- An Beachaire
- "Subscription page for our newsletter". Irish Beekeepers Association CLG Cumann Beachairí na hÉireann. Retrieved 2018-09-15.
- "Annual Subscription to BeeCraft Magazine". Irish Beekeepers Association CLG Cumann Beachairí na hÉireann. Retrieved 2018-09-15.