East Waterford Beekeepers Association

A Hive for All Bee Related News in Waterford

Notes from FIBKA Spring Tour Lecture with Dr Kirsten Traynor 24/03/18


Dr.Kirsten Traynor of Flickerwood Apiary. Maryland, U.S.A. was invited by FIBKA to speak to beekeepers in Ireland. Dr. Traynor has a doctorate in Bee Biology and is the editor of the American Bee Journal. She has studied differences between European and American beekeeping and has published a number of books and has done many other studies. She was invited to speak in each of the provinces and had different lectures in each one. The Munster Lecture was held in The Horse and Jockey Hotel. Thurles on Saturday 24/03/18. This was a great venue, even though parking was at a premium. The lecture was held in a theatre hall which made it easy to see her and her presentation. There were approximately 80 people there, some of whom were travelling to hear all her lectures. The topics for the afternoon were ‘Halting the Unstoppable Swarm’ and ‘American Foul Brood’

Dr. Traynor was introduced by Gerry Ryan, President FIBKA. She told us she manages 40 hives organically and sells 150 Nucs and 200 Queens annually.

I can only give you a flavour of her lecture as the speed and volume of material presented was tremendous and many of us gave up writing altogether. Gerry Ryan tells me that there will not be a report on her lectures as FIBKA were not given permission to video the proceedings and much as he tried to keep notes, he also succumbed to listening and enjoying the quality of the presentation, which was superb .

Halting the Unstoppable Swarm

Kirsten says, if you want honey you must do swarm control. You will lose 50% of your colony when the bees swarm.

She says it is less about what you do but when you do it.

Good swarm management is one of the hardest things to learn. Despite a beekeeper’s best efforts, some colonies just insist on getting ready to go.

The colony is growing from March and will be at its peak in June/July and when you have 20 -30k bees in a hive they can swarm if a nectar flow is on.

What to look out for:

When they start backfilling the brood nest with nectar, they are getting ready to swarm

Lack of laying space. Give the Queen plenty of room to lay.

When you see the half open peanut type cell it’s a bit too late

When pollen in cells starts getting shiny….that is a sign they are getting ready to go

Newly drawn drone comb is sharp at the edges..another sign

When you see eggs in the peanut cup they are in swarm mode and will be difficult to stop.

Precursors to Swarming

If nectar flow is good… Swarm season comes fast

Drawing lots of new comb

Wax building that looks disorganised

Bee congestion…a real cause of swarming

Lots of drone rearing..this will be happening 6-8weeks before they swarm

If you see Queen cups with eggs or swarm cells with larvae…you may be too late.

Steps to stop Swarming

Dr. Traynor prefers not to clip the queen

Hive reversal. She overwinters on two brood boxes

Early on provide room for the queen to lay

Drone Comb Cutting..this is also useful for varroa control.

Do a shook swarm and feed. With litle brood to care for all bees are drawing foundation and engaged in honey production

When queen cells have eggs give frames to weaker colonies

Harvest often. When frames are 80-90% capped..extract and give drawn comb frames back to the bees. This also reduces the amount of equipment you need

Super early with drawn comb between frames of foundation if possible.

Dr.Traynor says, that small swarms in Summer are not worth taking

If you breed a queen from swarm cells you will have swarmy bees

The best beekeepers are good record keepers, according to Dr. Traynor.

We then had a coffee break where there was much interaction between the  beekeepers present. The buzz in the room was great

American Foul Brood.

Her principal message on AFB was that there is no shame in it, and beekeepers should not be embarrassed to say it has happened

It is only bad if you try to hide it.


It is a highly contagious disease.

If it happens it requires a community effort to respond and to test and clean up all the hives in the area because bees can fly in a radius of up to 3 miles.

Beekeepers often feel ashamed when their hives come down with AFB, mistakenly believing that they are bad beekeepers. But it is the strongest, healthiest colonies that often bring back contagious spores after robbing out sick colonies in the neighborhood and feeding it to young larvae. Your colony then becomes a sick colony and ripe for robbing, thus spreading more and more of the disease. Most hives with AFB will die if nothing is done and will have infected many more colonies in the process! Only be embarrassed if you do not recognise it.

Spores survive for more than 40 – 70 years


Regularly inspect hives and know what you are looking for.

Spore count rises 1-2 yrs before it breaks out in the hive. It will be in the honey. Honey samples can be tested in Germany. Contact Micheal Gleeson of FIBKA for advice.

The larvae ingest the spores after being fed by infected nurse bees. The cell is sealed and the spores multiply.The cocoon is not spun. The larvae ferments in the cell and caps burst. You will see caps that are thinner and sunken and some perforated. The brood pattern in heavily infected colonies has a scattered uneven pattern.

Test the cell by lifting the contents with a tweezers or a match stick. The slime is brownish in colour in the cell and comes out in a rope like fashion and snaps back.

If you suspect AFB, isolate the hive, take a sample of brood comb from suspect area 6″ square and send to Mary Coffey immediately.

What to do

Don’t buy old equipment. Don’t buy in the problem.

If you see anything on your frames that doesn’t match health…investigate it. Take photographs also.

Monitor spores in honey cells by sending them for testing…see above

If you suspect AFB you must act quickly

If only a single cell is infected you may be able to save the colony by putting the bees in a new box on all clean equipment. Starve them for 3 days. Allow them out to forage. Scrape down any wax drawn and remove any brood drawn and burn. Any spores in the bee’s honey stomach will have been used up making the wax.

Other than that you must kill the colony with Sulphur Dioxide and burn all equipment that is in poor shape. Polystyrene doesn’t burn well.

If you have new equipment, clean up the hive, crown board , roof and bottom board by torching well. However it is better to boil what you can in a bath of caustic soda solution. Bleach does not kill the spores. Irradiation may not kill spores. Freezing does not kill the spores. You must remove every bit of propolis and wax as the spores will be hiding in them. You can use the wax for candle making, if you want, but it must not be used with bees again. The honey is fit for human consumption. You need to be very careful how and where you do this so as not to reinfect other equipment

Hygiene is hugely important so as not to contaminate other hives. Nip it in the bud.

AFB is a notifiable disease. Treat it or it will cost you.


“Only by working in a group can you free yourself from AFB. Working by yourself, you can’t clean up an area. One keeper sanitises and then his bees are re-infested from a neighbour. But it works when a whole area sanitises together, thus making sure apiaries can’t spread AFB”—Guido Eich..a Master Beekeeper










Notes from Bea Flavin’s Lecture on Swarming 14/03/18

We had an excellent talk from Bea and received very useful information on how to try and stop our bees from swarming and what to do if we get a swarm. It was a very interactive session with lots of questions.

I have tried to give as much information as I had made notes on and I have taken the liberty to add video links which I have found useful

Prevent Swarming

Why do bees swarm? Swarming is the bee’s natural method of reproduction so its always going to be difficult to control it. Imagine if we were to try controlling human reproduction?

When? Weather dependent. Early summer. Bees on Oil Seed Rape. Hive becomes congested. Lack of ventilation.

Signs: Strong Colony, Increase in drone brood, queen off lay, queen cells.

Prevention: Regular Inspections in April ..every 9 days if queen is marked and clipped, 7 day inspections if queen is not clipped. Look for queen cells and break them down.

Give bees plenty space. Add supers if necessary. Ensure plenty ventilation

Swap in 3-4 frames foundation yearly.

Recognise swarmy bees..they build up quickly.

Clip and mark the queen. Do this at first inspection if possible. Do around mid-day when foragers are out. Dont use smoke if possible as it will cause queen to run. Use crown of thorns…not the plastic variety. Dont press too hard. Yellow or white colours are easier to see. Keep Records

Do a Bailey Frame Exchange…see how in March Beachaire P141 and video link…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm_UBm4HEn4

Do an Artificial swarm… video link.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og00ZA_F6_Y and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD4aEls8I4E

Replace the queen in the autumn. Young queens are less likely to swarm.

Unite weak colonies.

Taking a Swarm: need a box, sheet, water spray, frame of comb, protective clothing, secateurs, loppers. Get bees into box and cover. Isolate them from your Apiary until tested and disease free. Run them into a nuc box by placing the sheet on the ground, empty bees on to it. They will run into the nuc box. Observe if there is a queen. Dont clip the queen because if its a virgin queen she she cant then go out to be mated. Be careful…there could be more than one queen. Leave only 1 queen. Fill the box with 1 frame of drawn comb and 4 frames of foundation and feed 1:1. Take a sample of bees and send to Mary Coffey for testing. Treat for varroa.



Report from Bee Health Workshop with Eleanor Attridge10/03/18

A Bee Health Workshop  was held at Teagasc Thurles on 10/03/18. There were 11 participants which included four of us from East Waterford..Mary Madigan, Hanora and Caoimhin O’Leary and myself. The course was given by Eleanor Attridge Bee Health Committee FIBKA,

We were all asked to bring a sample of 30 bees. This was the first drama..how to collect same sample and then worse still to have to freeze the little creatures, But as Eleanor said..”Better to loose 30 bees than your full hive“.

We arrived in Thurles armed with the bees. The room was set up so that we all had a microscope to work with. The theme for the day was learning to identify Acarine and Nosema in our bees. Firstly we had to learn how to use the microscope and tweezers, then pin our bees through the thorax and remove the head with a scalpal. There was then a  collar to remove to expose the trachea which is where acarine mites reside. Eleanor did think that for all of us that used Apigard in the Autumn we were unlikely to find Acarine which indeed turned out to be correct. It was a fascinating piece of work as we saw the bee in great detail and appreciated the working parts of our bees much better. Visible signs of Acarine could include crawling bees or bees with deformed wings or lots of dead bees at the entrance in Spring.

The afternoon was given to looking for Nosema. Nosema is where there is a spore  in the bee gut and you may see yellow/brown streaking on the outside of the hive or on the frames inside. If not monitored and dealt with it could kill your colony. Testing involved mixing 1 ml of water per bee and squashing the mix. One drop of the liquid was placed on a glass slide and magnified x 400. Nosema spores look like little rice grains. We also were shown different pollen types in this mix. Some people did have Nosema and the recommendation was to perform a Shook Swarm or do a Bailey Frame Change ( both methods are in March Beachaire). One person on the course had brought samples from 4 of his bee hives and it turned out that he had Nosema in one hive but not in the other three even though the hives were side by side in his Apiary. Anyone with access to a microscope could easily do this at home.

The importance of having bees tested was stressed. Its a free service but still only 10% of beekeepers are doing it. It is easy…enough…to collect 30 bees(they must be older bees..not nurse bees) in a match box, freeze them and send samples to Dr Mary Coffey, Teagasc, Oak Park Carlow….the form necessary to send with the bees is on FIBKA website…. use the following link https://irishbeekeeping.ie/education/application-forms/. You will have to sign in. This is a totally confidential service.

Eleanor is a very interesting and entertaining lecturer and while we learned a lot we also had fun.

I will try to add some pictures to the gallery..I say try as using the website is very much an experiment also.


Preliminary Beekeeping Exam

Preliminary Beekeeping Examination.
This year huge interest has been shown towards completing the Preliminary Beekeeping Examination. It will be possible to have this done locally if we have ten or more members interested. From the feedback we are getting it looks as if this figure will be easily achieved. It will be a first for this Association that we know of and it shows the interest our members have in the many aspects of our wonderful craft.
The benefits of the exam:
We will qualify to buy bees from other associations.
We will be presented with a certificate with possibly a special event to mark the occasion.
It will enable us to go on to the next level of studies.
Our understanding of honeybees will have improved.

Exam will be held on 26th May at 9.30am
Written part: 20 easy questions in 30 minutes.
5 minute practical at hive opening.
Cost €20.

Past papers may be viewed on the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations website under ‘Education – Syllabus’.
Nobody will fail provided a small bit of preparation is done.
Fortunately we have the expertise of one of our new members to guide us.
John Cunningham has kindly offered to prepare us. Just one session we’re told will suffice.
We have booked Wednesday 16th May at 7pm for this with the Roanmore Centre being the venue.

We will be signing up interested parties next Wednesday. Applications need to be submitted before the end of this month so we don’t have much time in this regard.

2018 Beginners Beekeeping Course

Our Beginners Beekeepers Course is now open for booking.

Date: Saturday 14th April.
Time: 10am-4pm.
Venue: Holy Cross Pub,
Butlerstown, Waterford.

Fee: €65.

Food for the day will be provided as part of the course.

Each participant will be supplied with the book ‘Bees at Bottom of the Garden’ which is recognised as a very good reference book for the beginner.

Contact Pat Crowley on 0868166653 or by email: waterfordbees@gmail.com to book your place.


As in April Irish bees become active again after the quiet winter months. Our Beginners’ Course facilitates a hands-on approach right from the start. The course comprises of a day’s workshop, covering the practical and theoretical aspects of the craft. Visits to working apiaries are organised during the beekeeping year.

The course will cover subjects like:

Beekeeping – What it entails

Workings of a bee colony

Bee equipment

Controlling bees and working towards honey

Keeping bees healthy and solving problems

Nectar and pollen sources

Harvesting the honey

Including a visit to an Apiary to get a feel for our new friends.

If you are interested in attending our Beginners’ Course please send your contact details to waterfordbees@gmail.com and we’ll forward you all the relevant information.



2018 Lectures

In all events below (bar the beginners course) the venue is the Roanmore GAA Centre, Cleaboy, Waterford and start time is 7pm.
As much as possible the lectures will be held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month.

January 10th.
‘Talking beekeeping’ with John Cunningham.

February 14th.
‘Spring Management’ with Jim Power.

March 14th.
‘Swarm control’ by Bea Flavin.

April 11th.
‘Native Irish black bee versus the rest’

by Dr. Tomas Murray of the National Biodiversity Data Centre.


A.G.M. Adjourned to Wed. 29th Nov.

We held our AGM on 15th November. It was felt that members should be given time to reflect on the subject of affiliation to FIBKA or IBA. The AGM was adjourned to Wednesday 29th when it is hoped business will be concluded. Again it’s a 7pm start at the Roanmore GAA Centre. There will be a cuppa there for those who arrive early for the chat.

2017 AGM – 15th November




Our AGM is scheduled for Wednesday the 15th of November 2017 at the Roanmore GAA Centre at 7 pm. New members are welcome.

How to find us…….agm