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Cloughjordan Beekeepers

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Cloughjordan Beekeepers

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James Spearman (1854-c1930) and his wife Bridget had a large garden at the back of their house on Lower Main Street Cloughjordan. He was a well known beekeeper with rows of straw bee skeps along the garden walls. For master-beekeeper Simon Ó Cronin (Spearman), James was one of the last of the beekeepers to use the traditional skep system as the Congested Districts Board was encouraging keepers to use the Board’s newer hive system. 

Skeps, which are baskets placed open-end-down, have been used for about 2000 years. In its simplest form, there is a single entrance at the bottom of the skep. There is no internal structure provided for the bees and the colony must produce its own honeycomb, which is attached to the inside of the skep.

In 2023, there are about 50+ active colonies of bees in Cloughjordan, they are  a mix of commercial and non-commercial hives. The hives are managed by a small group of dedicated beekeepers who are members of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association. Cloughjordan’s bees are foragers and can travel around a 3km radius. The plants that support them include willow, (earliest producer of pollen), hawthorn, apple, dandelion, horse chestnut, clover, borage, blackberries and ivy (late producer of pollen). 

Beekeepers have to wear a special suit when they open the hive to protect themselves from possible bee stings. They use specific tools to manipulate the hive – a hive tool to free up and lift up the frames, and a brush to gently move the bees off the frame. They also use ‘smokers’ when they open the hives too, which puff smoke at the colony as this makes the bees calmer and they don’t get stressed. 

Frames that are full of honeycomb are removed for harvesting, leaving some honey in the hive as food for the bees. A centrifugal honey extractor separates the waxy comb from the honey and then the honey is filtered and bottled. The wax can be used in cosmetics or candles or it can be recycled for use in the hive.   

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