By Conan Mcdonnell
I’m very excited about my new adventures in beekeeping. New beginnings are always exciting and a little scary. It all started eight years ago when my wife asked, “Why don’t we keep bees and have our own honey?” I did a short course and joined my local beekeepers association in Limerick. There I met a beekeeper who kindly offered to take me under his wing (pun intended) and set me up with my first hive of beautiful, dark, Irish honey bees.
Skipping ahead a few years, my interest had become a mild obsession. After being made redundant, I enrolled in college to start a chemistry degree. It was there that I met Mike, also a beekeeper and by default an obsessive one too. In my final year, my task was to analyse Irish honey and the first time I pondered about honey from ivy plants. Ivy flowers are a valuable food source to many insects in autumn.
I was amazed upon discovering ivy’s healing properties and its long history in both folklore and current medicine. Natural compounds called Saponins are linked to the plant’s medicinal effects; helping to clear mucus and improve breathing in the lungs. I wondered if I could look for these Saponins in honey produced from ivy flowers, and in October 2013 I found them! Mike was equally excited and I knew we’d make a strong team. What happens next is anyone’s guess!