Our Speakers

Paul O’Brien

Laura Jones

Stephen Martin

Paul O’Brien – West of Ireland Beekeeper and President of FIBKA

Living on the shores of Galway Bay, I am a latecomer to the wonderful hobby of beekeeping. In fact, I have my daughter to thank for my involvement with bees. She undertook to enrol me in a beginner’s beekeeping course – to help me to get back on my feet after my wife passed away. I have always had a great interest in nature, particularly the marine, but she felt that insects would prove just as interesting and chose bees – how right she was!

Following that initial training course and having made some good contacts and firm friendships in my local beekeeping area I purchased my first hives. Unlike many of my beekeeping friends and associates I cannot claim any ancestral links to our wonderful hobby which truly marks me out as a beginner.

In the interim, I became a founder member of Tribes Beekeepers based in Clarinbridge, County Galway and today I have over twenty healthy and productive hives in my local area. I have been fortunate to be elected to the national executive of FIBKA, initially as PRO and presently I have the honour of being President of our Association. 

I am passionate about introducing young people to bees and beekeeping. The enthusiasm and awareness displayed at our classroom and honey show presentations is always encouraging. I am also in the process of introducing an undergraduate course at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) in Apiculture.

When it comes to honey, I actively promote its unique food value, its true commercial value and the establishment of improved legislation to guarantee traceability.

Laura Jones

 Laura Jones recently completed her PhD at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, researching the foraging preferences of honeybees by using the DNA from pollen. During her PhD she used the Botanic Garden as a study site, monitoring honeybee foraging throughout the season from hives set within a diverse landscape. In addition, 441 honey samples from beekeepers across the UK were analysed giving the first UK wide floral survey of honey samples since 1952. Laura is now Science Officer at the National Botanic Garden of Wales contributing to the new Biophilic Wales project and working to investigate the biodiversity of Wales’ grasslands using DNA.

Prof. Stephen Martin (University of Salford, UK)

Stephen has studied social insects (bees, wasps, termites and ants) for most of his career. His areas of specialisation are the ‘hornet ecology’, ‘pest and diseases of honeybees’ and ‘chemical ecology of ants’. He holds a Chair in Social Entomology in the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at Salford University, Manchester. Prior to that he spent 12 years working at Sheffield University, 7 years with the National Bee Unit and 7 years in Japan conducting research into hornets.

Stephen is best known for his work on the Varroa mite and its association with viruses, especially the Deformed Wing Virus. His team of researchers at Salford, funded in part by beekeepers, are using the very latest molecular methods to read the genetic code of the DWV virus. The aim is to understand why some honey bee colonies have become naturally tolerant to Varroa and see if this information can provide beekeepers with a long-term solution to the problem.


Understand the evolution of natural Varroa-tolerance mechanisms in various beekeeping populations.

 Since the arrival of the Varroa mite from Asia, millions of honey bee colonies have died. For decades, beekeepers have continued to control Varroa populations by the use of chemicals and other invasive methods. However, throughout Africa and most of South and Central America mite-infested colonies survive without any form of mite-control. This has been linked with poor mite reproduction, although what causes this has remained unknown. Throughout, Europe the USA and Wales an increasing number of naturally evolved, mite-tolerant colonies are been discovered. The talk will discuss the various tolerant mechanisms and how honey bee populations in Brazil, Africa, USA and UK all appear to have evolved similar ways to combat the Varroa mite. 

Talk sponsored by BDI.

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