• SKBA A.G.M. Election Results
  • Colm O’Neill’s Talk: Identifying and Working with Best Performing Bees
  • COP28 in Dubai, the U.A.E.
  • Question from a Novice Beekeeper
  • The Club Library
  • ‘‘An Irish Nature Year’’ – some extracts 

SKBA AGM 1/12/2023 

Results of Election of Officers and Committee for SKBA for 2024:
President of SKBA: 
  • Gerard Dunne Chairperson: Kieran Healy
  • Assistant Chairperson: Pat Gartland
  • Secretary: Colette Hickey
  • Treasurer: Colm O Cuanachain
  • Assistant Treasurer: Brian Kirkpatrick
  • P.R.O. Gerry Walsh
  • Apiary Manager: Diarmuid Cullen
  • Webmaster: Wojciech Twardowski
  • Committee Member: Rhonda Colton
  • Committee Member: Bredagh Moran
  • Committee Member: Loretta Neary
  • Librarian: Pat Gartland

Tributes were paid to the outgoing officers: Louis Bolger, former Chairperson; Bredagh Moran, former Treasurer; Loretta Neary, former Treasurer. The meeting passed a motion which proposed a donation of €1000 to the Native Irish Honey Bee

October ’23 S.K.B.A. Meeting: Guest Speaker: Colm O’Neill 

Topic: Identifying and Working with your Best-Performing Bees 

Colm O’Neill, beekeeper of national renown, a leading member of the North Kildare
Beekeepers Association and a Committee member of the N.I.H.B.S., gave our members
yet another informative lecture.

Colm, at the outset, stressed that Irish beekeepers should work only with native Irish
honey bees (Amm). Secondly, beekeepers should keep notes for each colony and update
the notes at each inspection. The answers to Hoopers’ five questions should be
recorded, at the very least.
Photo: Colm demonstrating how to harvest crystallised oil-seed rape honey and ivy honey December, 2022

He advised our members to try to practise ‘predictive beekeeping’ or reading the colony – figuring out what is likely to happen in the colony in the coming week. Otherwise, he said, the beekeeper is being ‘reactionary’ and is likely to end up ‘firefighting’ e.g. coping with an unexpected swarm. 

For instance, if the beekeeper finds brood almost from front to back of the brood chamber, then he/she can expect the queen to continue laying approximately 1500 eggs daily. an increase of over 10,000 bees weekly is likely. The beekeeper can now predict congestion in the brood box – a space problem. Placing a super on the hive is now necessary. Acting immediately helps avoid stress in you beekeeping. 

Similarly, as well as being ‘predictive’ in the weekly inspection, beekeepers need to be predictive on an annual basis. Decisions about each colony should be made annually. Notes or records are vital. As Colm said: 

‘If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.’ 

Colm then explained how to identify the best and worst-performing colonies and how to cull bees or colonies (he stressed that he means culling without killing). The weaker queen is not allowed to raise daughter queens or drones. 

The beekeeper must decide what traits in bees are important to him/her: a score for each trait is recorded every time the colony is inspected. He considers ‘adaptation’ a very important trait i.e. the ability of the bees to overwinter well in the beekeeper’s particular location (altitude and latitude especially) and can survive with the minimum of intervention by way of feeding – ‘mollycoddling’ as Colm put it. ‘Disease tolerance’ is the second trait. Again, the colony should be able to cope without intervention. ‘Docility’ is the third trait which Colm values: bees that, when treated carefully and sensitively, behave accordingly themselves. When being inspected, he expects bees to be ‘steady’ and not ‘racing’ over the honeycomb but continue whatever they’re doing. ‘Brood pattern’ is his fourth consideration. ‘Pollen storage’ is the fifth consideration: he wants bees that bring in plenty of pollen and pack it close to the brood where it’s actually needed. At this point, Colm explained how, with the record rainfall in July of this year, 2023, he observed something he had never seen before in his fifty years of beekeeping: the bees contracted the brood nest, like never before, into the middle three or four frames. Because there was very little foraging happening, the small cluster of bees and queen were distant from the store of pollen on the frame at either end of the brood chamber. This happened in most of his colonies in July. The colonies that stored pollen around, under and close to the brood coped well but others struggled. Comb-building is another trait he observes: this is not about drawing comb quickly but it’s really about how quickly a colony occupies a super when it is added to the hive and how quickly a colony the bees build on newly-added frames in the brood chamber. Spring build-up is another trait which he values in his colonies i.e. the ability to quickly grow in numbers in the spring, ideally by the middle of March. Honey production of the colony is the last of eight traits that he watches. 

Colm showed the audience the card he uses as the basis for his record-keeping and assessment. On the front he fills in his answers to Hooper’s five questions. On the back, he records diseases and treatments, if any. Honey weight and feed such as pollen substitute, syrup and fondant. With a card blown up on the screen, he proceeded to take us through it in detail, including his codes for the origin of the queen, her lineage and the generation which she represented and the steps he takes to avoid close breeding. 

The Club is very grateful to Colm for sharing his deep knowledge of beekeeping and his time, once more, with the SKBA. It is intended to complete the notes on Colm’s talk in a future edition of the SKBA Newsletter. 

COP28, Dubai, United Arab Emirates 

Artwork by Paul Scott for The Irish Times, Sat. Nov. 25th, 2023

Do you remember recent COP conferences? The annual Conference Of the Parties, organised by the United Nations?

2021: COP 26 held in Glasgow

2022: COP 27 held in Egypt

2023: COP 28* currently happening in Dubai in the U.A.E. * 

* COP28 will be followed by the separate CBD COP16 in mid-December, 2023 - Conference on Biodiversity.
Choosing Dubai, in the U.A.E., seems a strange place to hold a conference that has to
tackle the problem of burning fuels and causing global warming but the oil producers
have to be central to the solution.
Over the past decade or more, faith in the COP conferences has been diminishing and this
year the pessimism and cynicism about these conferences is greater than ever. The
Chairperson of COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, is the President of the UAE’s state-owned oil and
gas company, one of the biggest in the world, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. He
also chairs the board of UAE’s renewables company and that has to be significant.
However, it is not surprising that many environmentalists are angry and despairing about
this COP28 conference.

The conference is only in progress a few days as this article is being written. A Loss and
Damage Fund has been agreed on the very first day of COP28. This is to help
compensate Third World/ Developing countries that have recently suffered floods and
droughts which are linked to climate change. The money on the table is paltry but it’s an
initial attempt to address the devastation in Sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Germany has pledged $100 million and the UAE has pledged $100 million. Ireland
pledged €25 million over 3 years. Considering these amounts of money and the
populations affected by climate change, the moneys promised are very small.
Professional soccer clubs often pay up to €100 million for a single player. Similarly, LIV
Golf, the Saudi-financed professional golf circuit, has contracted numerous players for
sums in excess of $100 million dollars each - John Rahm getting $500 million. Ireland has
addressed relatively small crises in this country with sums that run into 100’s of millions of

Our own Minister for Energy and Communications, Eamon Ryan, played a significant role
in getting the Loss and Damage Fund off the ground. He maintains that this is, at least, a
starting point in engaging wealthy countries in assisting poor countries. The Third World or
Developing World is suffering from environmental problems which have been and continue
to be caused by the consumption of energy in wealthy countries.

Part of King Charles address to COP28 on December 1st, 2023: 

‘…..unless we rapidly repair and restore nature’s unique economy, based on harmony and
balance, which is our ultimate sustainer, our own economy and survivability will be in peril.
Records are now being broken so often that we are, perhaps, becoming immune to what
they are really telling us. When we see the news that, this last summer (we had) the
warmest global temperatures on record, we need to pause to process what this actually
How dangerous are we actually prepared to make our world? Dealing with this is a
job for us all. Change will come by working together and make it easier to embrace
decisions that will sustain our world rather than carry on as though there are no limits or
there are no consequences to our actions.’

Our own Mary Robinson, as representative of the Elders, a group of former leaders set
up by Nelson Mandela, effectively challenged Sultan Al Jaber a second time when she
posted on X (or Twitter): “A successful Cop28 is not about a single individual or nation but
the collective will and concerted efforts of all countries in these negotiations. The science
compels: phase out fossil fuels rapidly, accelerate renewable energy adoption, and
radically scale up finance.” The Sultan was not pleased with her statements. Check ‘‘The Guardian’’ newspaper, online, for his response.
Mary Robinson - ‘‘The Guardian’’ newspaper
Will COP28 ask the 200 countries in attendance to reduce their fossil fuel production and

Will the Irish public, both in our business and in our personal lives, reduce our
consumption of fossil fuels?

Greenhouse gas emissions rose to an all-time high in 2022 (U.N. Emissions Gap Report).

Have you or I reduced our consumption of fossil fuels? Have you or I cut our emissions in
the past year?

Are beekeepers exempt from taking action? Playing a role? Or do we proceed as
normal? Surely beekeepers can give leadership here?

Can the SKBA make any commitment regarding fossil fuels? Can we make a pledge? Can
we at least offer our members a voluntary pledge?

Your opinion would be appreciated by the Newsletter
Editor. Can you suggest some voluntary pledges we
could offer to the members of SKBA?

11-12-23 On what was supposed to be the eve of the final day of COP28, the President of
COP28, Sultan Al Jaber, presented a draft statement for the conference to accept. This
draft didn’t contain any mention of ‘phasing down’ the production of fossil fuel but Instead
“called upon (the 200 countries) to take action that could include” reductions in fossil
fuels, a conditionality that is far too vague for many countries.

13-12-23 An agreed text calls on nations ‘to transition away from fossil fuels’ is
signed off by almost 200 countries. The term ‘phasing out’ (of fossil fuels) is not used.
There are no specific or concrete measures mentioned. Politicians are pleased that fossil
fuels are, at last, mentioned in the agreement after 28 summits. Dr Hannah Daly, member
the Climate Change Advisory Council of Ireland, says that the agreement marks the
‘beginning of the end for fossil fuels’.

Dr. Cara Augustenborg, Assistant Professor of Landscape Studies at U.C.D., does not see
this agreement as ‘historic’ but as ‘the bare minimum’ text, ‘given how desperate the
situation is in terms of achieving 1.5ºC warming limit’. She distrusts the reference to
carbon-capture and storage, saying there’s nothing proven there.

This Newsletter will return to COP28 and the Biodiversity Summit in 2024.

A Club Member submits a beekeeping question 

‘I’m interested in getting a range of views on autumn and winter feeding of colonies, including timing, duration, food type, effectiveness in the past and in the current winter of ’23/’24. Also, are there problems associated with bees bringing in pollen and nectar from ivy or is it all good news?’’ The Newsletter would welcome an answer from an experienced beekeeper. 

The SKBA Library 

Pat Gartland, our Assistant Chairperson, has offered to facilitate members who would like to borrow books from our library. Wojciech Twardowski and Pat intend to update our website’s library section with more information. Pat will display the books on club nights, before the meeting gets underway. The Club has a good stock of books on beekeeping, honey and related crafts in the library. While the stock of books may be small in number, they have been chosen by experienced beekeepers. Included in the library, for instance, are copies of Ted Hooper’s ‘Guide to Bees and Honey’, one of the most valued reference books on beekeeping. 

‘‘An Irish Nature Year’’ – some extracts 

In her November 12th diary entry, Jane Powers writes:

‘Ivy is in bloom, pumping out its sweet, musky and slightly iffy fragrance. The flowers are organised into pale-green bobbles bristling with stamens, each topped with a nub of pollen. The inflorescences look like models of atomic structures: pleasingly regular, with highly ordered components. Ivy may be the most important’

Also in her November pages, Jane Powers defines the common garden hedge as: ‘a series of trees kept in perpetual, stunted youth: they are denied by the clippers their right to flower and set seed’. As a result, the leaves of beech, hornbeam and some oaks shrivel but do not drop off until next spring (botanists call this marcesence). This phenomenon is comparable with the large-scale hedge-cutting that takes place across our landscape. The opportunity to maintain healthy ecosystems, with pollinators on and under our garden hedges, is lost when we regularly clip our deciduous hedges in our gardens.’

The moral of the story: Let our hedges and hedgerows bloom and blossom for all of God’s creatures. 

Thin Hedge - a painting by Mary Healy

Martyn Turner, political cartoonist and caricaturist, captures the essence of the problem
with COP28 in ‘‘The Irish Times’’ on 7-12-2023