Bee-keeping as an industry has colossal potential for growth in Ireland but is not taken seriously by the State. Consequently Ireland is missing out on an opportunity to develop as a country known around the world for high quality beekeeping husbandry and premium honey production, that would simultaneously generate a new employment stream, according to bee-keeper Ronan McGreevy who operates a 100-strong bee-hive business along the Wild Atlantic Way in Westport, Co Mayo. McGreevy is now calling on the Irish Government and particularly Bord Bia to stop treating bee-keeping as a hobby to be enjoyed by a certain few and instead to come on board to promote it as the high-growth potential industry it could be as part of Ireland's agricultural offering.
“Bee-keeping should be attached to Bord Bia in order to offer a top quality supply of Irish honey that surpasses the best-selling Manuka honey, so that Irish honey becomes the global premium honey”, states Ronan McGreevy from his beehive operation in Kilmeena, Westport, Co Mayo.
“It is a full potential industry that is just not being tapped. It is neglected by the Department of Agriculture because it is not looked on as being a taxable hobby - but just as a hobbyist pastime. It is time for this to change.”
McGreevy's transformation into a bee-keeping advocate came about over a decade ago after he joined a local club and then bit the bullet by getting his own hive. Why?
“People often do a bucket list to note something they would like to try out in their lifetime and for me, strangely, it was bee-keeping. I don't know why. I remember a guy in Westport, Tom Fabby, I knew he had bees from his father before him and after enquiring whether there was a local club, I discovered they were just setting one up in Westport and so I decided to get involved. That was 2007.
“What I wanted was to learn about bees, to know the craft of beekeeping, not with a commercial end in mind, more as a pastime. I was curious and inquisitive to see what it was all about.”
The following Spring McGreevy took the leap and bought his first beehive after doing a beginners' course in the Westport club.
“The beginners' course is run through the club by the Irish Federation of bee-keepers over a weekend in April every year and it is for all levels of interest. You get to physically touch live bees and discover who are the points of contact in your local club.
“It's a very hands-on course, outlining the husbandry of bees. Bee-keeping is all about physically working the bees and working with nature. We are not seeking a modern twist on an ancient craft, it is simply all about speaking to people and sharing expertise. Quite honestly, I found the course itself fairly daunting – seeing and handling live insects in a box and going on to get stung every time I approached the hive for the first few days, even with the protective suit on.”