Beekeeping on a Bike

As part of our series of occasional articles on ways that members and friends of Dublin Cycling Campaign and Cyclist.ie use their bicycles, in this piece we interview Beekeeper Ed Sweetman on how he uses his own bike to help with his beekeeping in Dublin city. 

Ed, can you tell us a bit first of all about the beekeeping you are doing – how did you get into it and how has it developed since then?  
I did a bee-keeping course back in 2015 and have really just taken it from there. Early on, I collected a swarm of bees from the HQ of An Garda Síochána in the Phoenix Park which ended up on the roof of the Revenue Commissioners in the city centre – and it has been going from strength to strength since. I now look after four hives on the roof of Drury Street buildings, four in a back garden in the Cabra area, and I have another two on the roof of the new Central Bank in the docklands. I’m really at maximum capacity now, particularly given the multiple locations of the hives. 

Beekeepers are busy during the summer months, but I get a chance to attend some lectures run by the County Dublin Beekeepers Association over the winter. And yes, I was delighted to get a mention and some recognition by the association for the honey I harvested recently!

And what happens to the honey you harvest? 
Well, a mixture of selling jars of it to some local cafés and giving them to family and friends as presents.

So why would you be needing to move the hives, and where do the bicycles come into the picture (as against other modes of transport)? And do you know anyone else using bicycles to move hives? 
In a nutshell, I move the bee hive boxes around the place – ultimately so as to be able to harvest the honey crop. It’s not the main brood body (where the queen lives) that is moved; rather, it’s moving the ‘supers’ around the place. 

I don’t know of others moving boxes using bikes and bike trailers. Some would use cars or vans – or else, they would have all their hives in the one location so don’t need to be moving them about. There may well be others around the country using a bicycle and a trailer to move hives – it works extremely well! 

Can you tell us a bit about the bicycle and the trailer you use?
Yes, it’s what you might call a traditional hybrid bike – nice and tall and upright. You are up above most of the rest of the traffic and can see everything. The trailer I bought second hand from a bike shop. Previously it was used as a trailer for a dog, so I just changed the cover and the bee hive boxes fit very nicely. It’s a lot easier than getting the bus with them which I have tried before. The boxes are awkward enough to carry. Bringing them about by bike and on the two wheeled trailer is simply very easy and energy efficient. 

Do you hear the bees buzzing as you are cycling along?!
No! They are silent!

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about getting into bee-keeping in a city environment – or any other reflections you want to share?
Well, it’s worth mentioning that urban bees are often producing more honey than rural bees. In the rural environment, there is a lot of pesticide use and it can often be a food desert there for bees.

Overall, the beekeeping is very satisfying – I won’t be giving it up! Having said that, ten hives spread across three locations is pretty full-on, and certainly over the summer months. But it’s nice and quiet in the winter, where you might just check them once a month.

Eddie Junior helping out!

Anything else you’d like to add? 
The bike trailer is the business – it enables me to do my job better and easier than I would otherwise be able to do it. I might look at getting a slightly lighter bike at some point – it can be a bit awkward lifting the bike around bike-unfriendly access points when going into some parks and that. 

A sincere thanks Ed for taking the time to talk to us!
You’re very welcome!

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