During September (National Honey Month) we will be profiling some of our customers and beekeepers we know. Read more about West Cork beekeeper Gearoid Mac Eoin who has worked with us over the past few years testing our prototypes.

Meet Gearoid Mac Eoin, Mac Eoin Honey Farms, Baltimore, Skibbereen, Co Cork

Gearoid Mac Eoin, Mac Eoin Honey Farms

When did you start beekeeping and how many hives do you manage?

I set up Mac Eoin Honey Farms with my father Jim, in 1977 and we had 700 beehives producing honey for the next 20 years or so. We also started to supply beekeeping equipment and gradually this became the main part of the business and the number of beehives reduced to about 200. In the last 10 years the equipment sales have got busier and I have reduced more and now I run about 60 colonies.

What type of honeys do you produce? What is their primary source? Do you sell comb honey, section honey, or liquid honey?

When we had more hives we produced mostly run honey in 1lb. and 1/2lb. jars but also sold a lot of cut comb and chunk honey. The chunk honey was very popular. It is a wedge of sealed comb honey in a jar filled up with light coloured honey. It is mostly all run honey that I sell now. About 75% of my honey is Blackberry. Usually, I get the other 25% in May, from Sycamore, Chestnut and Hawthorn or some Bell heather in August. These are darker honeys and the mixture gives the honey a nice taste and golden colour.

Where can customers buy your honey?

I sell the honey mostly from my shop in Creagh. (086)8391151

How have you found this year for forage?

The crop this year is fairly good. The spring was very cold and the bees were hungry up to the end of June but if you kept your colonies strong, the very warm weather in July was great and the bees worked the blackberry very well. The honey is very good quality but a lighter colour as it is about 99% Blackberry or clover.

What is the biggest challenge for beekeepers?

The biggest challenge for beekeepers seems to be that a lot of hives die off during the winter. A lot of the queens seem to fail in late Summer and don’t get replaced. When I started beekeeping if you had 5% losses over the winter it was a disaster. Now I am happy if it is only 25%. I see this, not only with my own bees but I hear the same story from most of my customers. These losses seem to have gotten worse since the Varroa mites came to Ireland, but it is probably a combination of the Varroa and all the other stresses that the bees are suffering from.

What is your best bit of beekeeping advice?

I don’t think you can give a “best” bit of advice. If you are a hobby beekeeper don’t have more beehives than you can manage comfortably. Beekeeping will become a stress instead of a pleasure. Have some spare equipment and a plan ready for when the bees swarm and plenty of spare supers ready for your hives (with drawn comb if possible).

A lot of beekeepers don’t realise how much honey a strong hive can bring in during a big honey flow. If a Honey flow starts and the forecast is good put on two more supers immediately. Have two more ready because in full flow the bees can fill these in a week or less.

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Read our monthly foraging blogs to learn more about our recent research into honey bee foraging for honey bees in Ireland.

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