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The life of a Northern Ireland Beekeeper

Time 2 min read · May 20, 2021

Woman in beekeepers outfit crouching beside wooden beehives, trees in background
Sinead Mulvaney with her beehives

Sinead Mulvaney describes her life as a beekeeper and explains why it’s a fascinating pastime.

Last Tuesday morning I found myself driving carefully around the County Down roads with a buzzing noise coming from the back of my car.  The noise was coming from a hive of honey bees that I was moving to my home apiary.  It’s at moments like this that I do wonder what made me become a bee keeper.

Initially, it was part of that idyll that you picture with the phrase ‘the good life’.  Growing my own fruit and vegetables with a hive or two in the corner, producing enough honey for the year ahead, was the plan. 

After becoming a beekeeper I realised that you keep bees because they are endlessly fascinating. 

I can sit for hours watching their comings and goings.  Learning about the complexities of hive life and as a beekeeper, how to maintain some level of control over that, is constantly amazing and often a struggle.

Bees in a beehive
Sinead Mulvaney’s bees

Dealing with the unexpected

In 4 years of keeping bees we’ve had to deal with unexpected swarms and a hole in my bee suit letting a hoard of angry bees into my hood and stinging my face with the resulted swelling making me look like a creature from the deep for a few days. 

On the positive side, the first taste of your own summer honey, straight from the frame is a taste never to be forgotten. 

The community of beekeepers that you meet and befriend are some of the nicest and most generous people you will ever meet.  The positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Graphic illustrating that it takes  a single worker bee her whole lifetime of 6 weeks to produce 1/12 a teaspoon of honey

The importance of bees as pollinators

As well as providing me with entertainment and hopefully honey, my bees are also important pollinators. 

During the peak of summer a single hive will contain about 35,000 bees.  It takes a single worker bee her whole lifetime of 6 weeks to produce 1/12 a teaspoon of honey but in doing so she will have visited thousands of flowers, both collecting pollen for the hive to use as food but also pollinating the flowers as she goes.

If you are interested in learning more about honeybees or becoming a beekeeper, contact your local Beekeeping Association – https://www.ubka.org/

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