Wednesday 28 September 2016

Honey shortage leaves our bees on their knees

Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30

BUZZING: A colony of honey bees can contain up to 60,000 bees at its peak, with one queen bee per hive
BUZZING: A colony of honey bees can contain up to 60,000 bees at its peak, with one queen bee per hive

They've been busy as, well, bees, but the wet, cold summer threatens to cause a honey famine.

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It means supplies of artisan Irish honey will run out by Christmas, experts say. The wettest July in more than five years wreaked havoc on honey production in the hive, according to Gerry Ryan, vice-president of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers. Pure Irish honey is going to be very scarce," he told the Sunday Independent. "A lot of beekeepers will be out of honey by Christmas." While supplies of imported honey shouldn't be affected, it's the artisan hobbyist producer, who comprise 95pc of the federation's 3,300 members, who will be short on supply, he said. "A lot of places around the country have almost zero honey," he added. A typical hive housing about 60,000 honeybees normally produces about 80lbs of honey.

But beekeepers, now in the midst of harvesting, are finding their hives have produced just 20 to 30lbs. The wet weather meant bees weren't able to forage for nectar as they normally do, he said. "You also need fine weather for them to sustain themselves and put away a bit extra for the winter." Beekeepers are having to augment the diet of honey bees by feeding them a sugar syrup so they'll survive the winter. "It hasn't been a good year," he said. "But beekeeping is like farming and is totally dependant on the weather." Market stalls, fairs and speciality shops which normally stock artisan honey will be the hardest hit, he added.

  • Bees collect 66lbs of pollen per year, per hive.
  • Honey bees can fly at speeds of up to 24kph - which is relatively slow in the insect world.
  • A single honey bee worker produces about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • A honey bee colony can contain up to 60,000 bees at its peak.
  • The queen honey bee - one per hive - lays up to 1,500 eggs per day, and may lay up to a million in her lifetime.
  • An industrious worker bee may visit 2,000 flowers per day.

Sunday Independent

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