Bee Research Project
Cork Institute of Technology have stepped up to the plate to help out the Irish beekeepers.
Winter losses in the Ireland area are reported as being higher than ever in certain parts with certain parts of Cork and Kerry as being in the region of 50-70%. The mild winter of 2014/15 and the bad summer in 2015 are mainly the cause.
The mild winter of 2014/15 meant bees were out foraging for pollen on Christmas day when they should have been in a tight cluster overwintering. The mild temperature led to a small bit of overwintered brood rearing which is a breeding ground for the varroa mite which is a vector for virus’s among the honeybee population.
Early spring build up from the fine weather last April and then the washout during the summer where there was 30% more rainfall in July/ August and soil temperature were 2-3 C degrees below normal meant that the main crop which is normally a blackberry and clover mix did not produce. The blackberry was washed out and the clover did not produce nectar as the soil temperatures were too low.
The rain effected the queens mating and lack of pollen and high varroa loads meant that the queens that mated early in the year mated with sterile drones , and while the brood pattern looked ok the queens went drone laying as a result of this later on in the season.
Unlike taking a cow to a bull where you have a good idea what the quality of the breed will be if the cow reproduces, the queen in her first twenty one days of life heads off to a drone congregation area and mates on the wing with about twenty different drones. The idea being that the more drones she mates with the healthier the colony will be and the better genetic diversity will show up in the brood pattern.
However because the queens mated badly in May and June the bees decided they were not acceptable and tried to supersede them in the Autumn. The lack of pollen in August/September meant that there was a lack of good quality drones and most of those queens failed to mate and the colonies are now doomed. The genetic diversity that is crutial for the queens to mate was not there thence the failing queens with bad brood pattern in the spring. The effect of very high varroa loads for most of last year is clearly evident in a lot of stocks, leading to failing stocks as well.
The rain and lack of pollen from August until mid-October meant there were very little drones available for the newly emerged queens to mate with and those they did mate with were too closely related to themselves, which means the brood pattern the queens are now producing is unviable and spotty. On top of that the high levels of varroa meant the drones the queens mated with were sterile as a result of the deformed wing virus associated with varroa mite, a virus that a large population of our honey bee stocks now carry.
Cork Institute of Technology have stepped up to the plate and agreed to set up a research project to run in the newly built CREATE building to sample the Irish stocks , identify the different sex alleles , so that in the future Irish beekeepers can select for sex alleles to improve the genetic viability of their honeybee stocks. The aim is to eventually have a nationwide data base covering all of Ireland so that if a beekeeper needs to introduce new genetics into their stocks then they can select from the database to improve the overall bee-health in their bees. The project covers the Ireland of Ireland and it is hoped to sample bees from all 32 counties, to see what genetic resources are available. This would help the beekeepers who swop queens to use science to select different sex alleles in the hope that the queens would meet up with drones with different sex alleles to improve the overall genetic viability and the overall bee health of the Irish stocks. The pollination value to the Irish Economy is in the millions but ignored or taken for granted by a lot of areas. Research has shown that crops like oilseed rape, benefit by an increase of up to 27% in the setting of the seed pod if a strong stock of bees can be put on the crop at the time of yielding. Not to mention our fruit and veg crops, soft fruits and our apples, whose window for pollination is only in the first five days of flowering. Once completed this project will be beneficial to all beekeepers making selecting queens to head up drone colonies a science and can only improve the genetic diversity with bee breeding groups that can only lead to healthier bees.
We need to raise funding to get this programme running for September 2016. Facility has been set up with finance department at the Cork Institute of Technology and for any individual donating over Eu250.00 towards the research fund and filling in CHY3 Cert then the tax relief of 31% can also be claimed by the research fund. We are also looking for corporate bodies to come on board to help with the funding. If a company makes a donation of Eu1000 then the cost to the company is (1000- 125=875) tax relief on the corporate rate of tax. Further details can be got from the bee-health officer Eleanor Attridge by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you wish to donate, then you can click on the image below and you will be taken to a secure site where you can make your donation. Thank you
We would like to thank the following individuals and companies that have come onboard to help out with this project in the form of either donations or sponsorship
Bórd Bia Irelands Food producers
Coolmore bees Carrigaline Coolmore bees , nuc and queen producers
The Garden shop Portarlington Laois www.thegardenshop.ie
Midleton Distillery Jameson Experience
West Cork Beekeeping Association www.westcorkbeekeepersassociation.com
Dumamaise Beekeeping Association www.dunamaisebeekeepers.com
Irish Bee Supplies Funshog Ardee Co.Louth www.irishbeesupplies.com
A number of individuals some who asked not to be publically named. They have been issued receipts / acknowledgments.
All idonate receipts are issued at the time of payment
We are still looking for some sponsors to come onboard as we are still a good bit off our target of Eu20k