Joe Shea is the beekeeper at Mourne Grange, a Camphill Community in the Mourne Mountains of County Down.
A few days ago, I followed around while he checked the hives.
Joe Shea writes:
Last winter: makes you shiver just thinking about it. In March, the cold was brutal. 60-80 percent of the bee stocks were lost on the island of Ireland. That was a disaster, and you had to wonder. We lost half of our colonies. The springs warmth had to wait for the moon in Aries, and then by the sweet grace of all goodness, heat and sunshine settled in. The bees were straight into the clover and apple blossom big time. Swarming started. I gathered 6 swarms to build the apiary back up to 12 colonies. Most amazingly, the sun and warmth just kept on and on, the warmest summer since ’76. So later, in August, about 150 lb. weight of honey got harvested from the 6 mature hives. That’s roughly a third of their stores; the rest they keep to see them through the winter, hopefully…
This gift of the bees will get shared out at the four main festival or seasonal periods: Michaelmas, Christmas, Easter, St John’s. They say a spoon of honey is good for you. Some dark winter day, try it with your eyes closed, and have little journey through the clover fields and apple blossoms. You might like it anyway. Hope so.
Well, here we are in October, and now it’s all a mad rush to get the ivy in before the clocks go back. The ivy is the bees last forage crop of the year, and pretty essential to their survival. If you have a minute, stop by the ivy blossoms and have a look at the bees’ last nimble flower dance of the year. I believe they appreciate it.
You can tell them Joe sent you.