In 2019 the Irish National Stud & Gardens created a honey bee apiary on their grounds. This is managed by Dr Brendan Kavanagh, a retired University Professor and a Zoologist by training. Since then the apiary has become established and now houses 10 hives and produces in excess of 100kg of honey annually. This honey is for sale in the visitor’s centre.
Honey is the product of an enormous amount of hard work by the bees throughout the spring and summer. When a hive is at full strength it contains up to 50,000 workers, all of whom are female and all daughters of a single queen, who controls the hive. She is constantly fed a high energy diet by the workers and can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day.
The raw material that makes honey is called ‘nectar’. This is a sugary solution containing about 60% water, which is produced by the flowers that the bees visit. They drink the nectar and return to the hive with it in their honey stomach. On arrival at the hive they are greeted by their younger sisters who are fed the honey by the foraging bees. They then bring that into the hiver and deposit it in the honey comb to dry. While we sleep, the honey bees fan the nectar to reduce the water content down to 18% or less. Then they put a wax cap on the combs to prevent any water from returning to the honey and to store it for the winter.
In the autumn, when the flowers start to die back, the beekeeper removes the excess honey leaving the rest for the bees to take them through the winter. The queen reduces her laying activity and the number of bees falls to about 5,000 individuals. In winter they huddle together to keep warm waiting for the spring to come again.
Have you tasted the Irish National Stud honey yet?
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Irish National Stud & Gardens,
Brallistown Little, Tully, Co. Kildare,
R51 KX25, Ireland