It started with a simple idea raised at a UL Environmental Committee meeting back in 2013. Following on from the success of the UL Community Roof Garden we were looking for a project, which could support biodiversity on the campus along with engaging the university community and the wider Limerick and Clare communities. Bees are a major conversation starter for many environmental issues from biodiversity loss to chemical use in agriculture so they were a perfect fit for us as an environmental education project and our aim as developing the campus as an informal learning forum.
So we began our investigations on what might be feasible… lets say it took a while! Health and Safety considerations, Training, Equipment, Site preparation, Mentors, Community Engagement and most importantly Bees.
Just before Christmas 2014 we facilitated a very encouraging meeting with representatives from the Banner Beekeeping Association and the Limerick Beekeeping Association, Buildings and Estates and the Enactus student group here at UL. Following careful consideration from four possible sites we agreed on the current Apiary location, which is situated adjacent to the wild meadow on the southwest side of the UL road bridge.
Over the spring of 2015 we ran a beginners bee-keeping course (recommended for anyone intending on keeping bees) for a small group of staff and students along with beginners from the Banner Beekeepers and the Limerick Urban Beekeepers associations. Slowly we were realizing how much of a commitment was involved. The UL Green Campus Committee and the Buildings and Estates dept. contributed generously with project support to make ready the apiary site and assist us with equipment purchasing. So all in all a very collaborative endeavor.
Fast forward to July of 2015 and with the enthusiastic support of our mentors Donal McHugh, Professor John Breen and Frank Benson we were finally ready to introduce the bees to the site. Two Nucs (starter colonies) were donated by Donal Mc Hugh and a full Hive was relocated by John Breen. The latter was a mixture of his own Bees and a wild swarm of bees that had taken up residence in a site hut on the building site of the Material Surface Science Institute Phase 2 building.
So UL currently has three thriving hives with approximately 20,000 workers in each. 17 staff and students have trained up as beginner bee keepers and our three mentors continue to work with us giving hands on practical experience and advice as we get the bees ready for the winter. It has been a fascinating journey.
For those staff and students who are interested learning how to keep bees or being involved with the Apiary we would encourage you to make contact with the Apiary Coordinator. We would hope to be in a position to run another beginners course over the winter of 2016.
Our sincere thanks to all who have made the project happen… you will have to wait till next year for your first taste of UL Honey!
Adam de Eyto (UL Apiary Co Ordinator) firstname.lastname@example.org