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










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.


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.


Earlier this month we had our EWBKA Beginners’ Course. We held it in the GIY HQ in Ardkeen this year and it made an ideal venue on many levels. Heather and her team were perfect hostesses and hosts and put a lot of work into advertising the event and organising bookings, food etc. (the food was excellent, produced in the HQ’s own kitchen) Mike Hughes really appreciated this as it was Mik, himself, who would have done all this, singlehandedly, over the previous years. Míle buíochas do gach duine san ionad FTF (Fás Tú Féin!!) We had eleven on the course and, hopefully, we’ll have eleven new keepers of bees in the Waterford area.
One section of the course dealt with choosing a site for your apiary and as our Secretary, Pat Crowley, delivered this talk my mind wandered to the quality of the site for my own hives. For the last few years the Biodiversity Centre in Carriganore have bee-n kind enough to allow a few of us set up an apiary adjacent to their centre. Just like the good folk at GIY HQ, Thomas and his colleagues appreciate our buzzing friends and enjoy having them on site. It excels in one of the main criteria that defines the perfect site for an apiary – accessibility. You can drive right up to within a few metres of the hives. This is great, in April, when you’re bringing up the empty supers. But its brilliant, in August, if you need to carry full supers back to the car. Unfortunately, since we sited the hives there I’ve never had any great crop form any of my hives.
(At this stage Mike Hughes will break into song and dance about the “six super supers” that he got there a few years ago. But its a well known fact that Mike talks to his bees and I’m reliably informed by my spies in the Biodiversity Centre that phrases like “Now my darlings, its ok to rob from Kavanagh’s hives” and “God save our Queen!” were heard on many occasions during that year’s Honey Flow. Bitter? I’m not bitter! I’m way past bitter!!)
As I was saying, while the apiary had excellent accessibility there hasn’t bee-n any great crop of honey. So I thought about Pat’s number one criteria when choosing a site – the availability of nectar and pollen. Immediately adjacent to the site in Carriganore are the following
The River Suir
The Waterford By-Pass
Well Mown GAA Pitches (Thanks Eamonn!)
Equally well mown grass verges (Thanks again, Eamonn!!)
Lots of Car Parks
So, I had an idea to use Google Maps satellite view to look at my hives from on high and see what was available to my bees. As the bees will travel up to 1.5 miles when foraging I superimposed three circles marking 0.5 miles, 1 mile and 1.5 miles and here’s the result.
radius picture
As you can clearly see the central circle is almost fully yellow so this isn’t a great site for foraging. However it is a brilliant site for access. So, as a result of the above I’m intending to move some of my hives to a different location. I’ll probably keep one there and also use the site to hold newly caught swarms.
Anyway, now with the recent burst of sun the dandelions are up and running and so is this year’s season. I’ll have my first examination of the hives within the next few days

Beeblog 20th February 2017

Resist! Resist!
The season is almost upon us and we’re all itching to lift that crown board to see what way things are……but we must resist this most evil of temptations!! We can learn all we need to know by simply observing the comings and goings of our hives. We, at the EWBKA, had an excellent talk last week from Irene Power and this was the theme of her talk, Observations Outside the Hive. If there’s pollen going in there’s brood in the hive. I always compare the hive traffic to somebody carrying their shopping from the car to the house. If you see packs of disposable nappies being carried in you can bee fairly sure that there’s a baby indoors! And its the same with pollen and brood. Bees won’t collect pollen unless there’s brood to feed. Now that the catkins are hanging on the willows bees are buzzy carrying the precious pollen to the hungry brood.

Does anyone outside of beekeeping know what “hefting” is? I can remember my father explaining the art of hefting to me and how “You’d know by the veight of it” (to be read with a Dingle accent!). I still remember hefting for the first time. All I knew was that it was quare heavy (to be read with a Wexford accent!). Although, in fairness, having hefted a few hives it was obvious when you had a light one. For those of you who have had a heftless existence to date, hefting is done as follows. Gently, remove the roof from the hive (this is because the weight of roofs of hives vary greatly and, thus, a heavy roof will cause a light hive to feel heavy). Then go to the back of the hive and put your hand under the back of the hive and lift the back of the hive, keeping the front of the hive on the stand. Then you just “feel” the weight of the hive. If the hive feels light then the source of weight is not present i.e. the hive needs food!! Fondant is the best food to give the bees in the spring. Just put about a pound of fondant in a plastic bag, flatten the bejaysus out of it and then cut a window in the bag and place it over the hole in the crown board. Check after a week and repeat if necessary. As this winter has been so mild the bees will have been more active than normal. A mild winter might appear to be good for bees but active bees are hungry and stores can be used up quite quickly. The next four weeks will determine if the bees make it through the winter as the struggle with various diseases and mites but it is a shameful thing if your bees die of hunger. So if in doubt get the fondant out!

A Grand Stretch in the Evenings?
The month of February is when nature’s alarm clock starts ringing. On the 1st of February there are 9 hours of sunlight here in Ireland with the midday sun’s rays hitting us at 20.7 degrees. By the end of February the amount of sunlight has reached 10 hours and 45 minutes and the angle of the midday sun reaching 29.8 degrees. We, as humans with clocks, all talk about the “Stretch in the Evening” but this is not the case for bees. As far as the bees are concerned the day ends at the exact same time every day of the year, at sunset! For bees the change is in the length of the middle of the day, the hottest part of the day, and this is what sets the alarms ringing all over nature. Buds burst open, frogs spawn, insects come out of hibernation and beekeepers think about lifting crown boards! (Resist, Resist!) Also, as the sun is at a more direct angle the intensity of the heat is more……intense! (Just as a matter of interest on Midsummer’s Day, 21st of June, there are 16 hours and 47 minutes of sunshine in Ireland and the midday sun beams down at 61.2 degrees while on 21st of December there are a mere 7 hours and 42 minutes of sunshine hitting us at an acute 14.4 degrees)

So, until the next time ….Bee Well!!

The Beeblog

Greetings and welcome to the East Waterford Beekeepers’ Association blog.  My name is Micheál Kavanagh and I’ve been keeping bees since 2003. Here I hope to keep a diary of what we should (and shouldn’t) be doing during the Beekeeping Year as well as generally sounding off on all bee related stuff. Please feel free to offer your own opinions on what appears here. As we all know, if you want 5 different opinions on beekeeping procedures just ask 2 Beekeepers!! This blog (at least I think that’s what this is) will contain my opinions on bee stuff (If you don’t like my opinions… I have other ones!). By readers discussing, dissecting and disagreeing with these opinions, well, it will help us all learn.

We’ve all ended up as keepers of bees and our reasons and journeys to where we are today are many and varied. If you’re interested in hearing about how I became a beekeeper click  How I Bee-gan!


To me, the beekeeping year ends at the end of September. The harvest is in. Bees are fed. Varroa has been treated. Mouseguards are in place. We can do no more for our wee bee friends except drop in now and again to see that the hives are upright and roofs are in place.

Mike Hughes, our association Chairperson, likes to give his hives a Christmas present of baker’s fondant just because he cares! This is probably a good habit as, if stores are getting low, the fondant can get the hive through the latter stages of February/March.

Unlike most insects, our bees do not hibernate. Instead they form a cluster in the centre of the hive and, when the temperature drops, they vibrate to generate heat (humans shiver for the same reason). This vibrating, while generating heat, also uses up energy and so the bees are constantly dipping into their stores to maintain their energy levels. Surprisingly, in a mild winter bees tend to use up their stores much more quickly. This is because on a mild day, instead of remaining in the hive in the cluster (which actually uses up very little energy), the bees will leave the hive on a “cleansing flight” (it is as it suggests!). As there are no sources of nourishment available outside the hive the bees come home with a fierce hunger on them and have a feed. So considering the mild weather of late , this may become an issue later in the year.

At our AGM one of our members, Eddie Fitzgerald, brought in this!


On closer inspection, hopefully, you’ll notice something in the bottle

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Yes, its full of honeycomb.

Best leave it to Eddie to explain….

“The following is brief account of how honey comb came to be in this porter bottle as I can recall it some fifty years later.
While examining a disused C.D.B. hive back in the mid 1960’s with a beekeeping friend (who had been given this hive by a neighbour of his) we discovered that a number of porter bottles had been placed in the cavity over the brood frames.   It appears that sometime later a swarm of bees took up residence in the hive and filled the space over the frames with brace comb and also built comb inside the bottles.  They must have died out sometime later as no bees or honey were present when we examined the hive.”
We thank Eddie for the information and for bringing the bottle and its amazing contents to the meeting.