The joy of beekeeping

Outdoor Living

HIVE OF INDUSTRY Westport beekeepers examining a hive. Pic: Padraic Baynes

New course set to start in Mayo this month

Alex Blackwell

I have only just gotten into beekeeping, and I am enjoying it tremendously. There’s so much to learn, and such sweet rewards.
Bees have a fascinating societal structure. Often likened to and behaving much like a single organism, a colony of bees living in a hive may consist of tens of thousands of individuals. Almost all are female workers who progress through a series of jobs during the course of their lives.
The bees you see outside the hive are usually foragers, bringing nectar and pollen collected from flowers back to the hive, where the nectar is converted to honey by other sister-bees. The hive usually has one egg-laying queen, who will lay a few male eggs in the springtime. The male bees, called drones, do no work. The workers feed the males until they are ready to fly off in search of a virgin queen.
Then, of course, there is the honey. This is produced by the bees to see them through the long winter. The bees have to work pretty hard to produce honey. A forager bee can carry about 0.04g of nectar. The nectar is only about 40 percent sugar, and honey is about 80 percent sugar, so the bee actually only carries the equivalent of about 0.02g of honey on each trip. Therefore, 22,700 foraging trips are required to fill a one-pound jar with honey, or 500 trips to produce a 10g spoonful.
Besides the joy of keeping bees and watching them sally forth, pollinate flowers and return with their tiny load of nectar, one of the primary reasons to keep bees is to have a supply of top-quality local honey. This is of course far tastier than most commercial honey. It is also said to have many health benefits. Needless to say, it is also very satisfying to produce your own honey.

Beekeeping course
If you are already interested in becoming a beekeeper, or if you would just like to know more about bees and beekeeping, Westport Beekeeper’s Association will be conducting a beginner’s course for members, from March 20 to 26, starting at 8pm in te evening.
The course will be a combination of online classes and hands-on training. Practical experience will be conducted in April/May and will be weather dependant.
The course fee is €50 (plus membership). Questions and answers will be conducted using WhatsApp.
For more information on this and/or to join the Westport Beekeepers, please visit or email