For anyone interested in bees and the production of honey, then a visit to Turlough Park near Castlebar, Co Mayo, should be in the diary for the coming months.

Turlough Park is home to the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life, which hosts a novel exhibition exploring the influence of bees on Ireland’s culture and environment down the centuries.

That bees and honey were crucially important in ancient and medieval Ireland is clear from the number of placenames associated with both. Clonmel is possibly the best known and roughly translates as ‘honey meadow’.

The exhibition, which is titled ‘The Murmur of Bees’, features objects dating from the 18th century to the present day.

These include a drawing by renowned artist Harry Clarke of St Gobnait - the Irish patron saint of bees - on special loan from Corning Museum of Glass in New York.


This artwork was the template used for his stained-glass window depicting St Gobnait, in the Honan Chapel, Cork.

A fascinating collection of objects and material from the natural history collection will also be on show at the exhibition, much of which dates to the 18th century.

This includes specimens of Ireland’s 100-plus bee species, bee specimens from around the world, nests, honeycomb and related material and dioramas, providing a rare and close-up view of the unseen world of bees.

A section of 200-year-old honeycomb will be on display, along with an instruction manual for managing bees which dates from 1733. This rare publication on beekeeping in Ireland is on loan from the Royal Irish Academy.

A unique attraction for those with a minimal knowledge of bees will be a specially commissioned wooden bee nest measuring 1m x 1m.

This will provide visitors with an insight into the highly organised and structured world inhabited by bees.

Other features

Other items featuring in the exhibition include:

  • Straw skeps from the National Folklife Collection.
  • A typical wooden beehive made in the 1950s by apiarist John Gallagher from Co Fermanagh.
  • Footage of beekeepers at work in the 1960s, courtesy of RTÉ.
  • The Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) painting by artist Shevaun Doherty, on which An Post based a stamp collection on native Irish bees. It was also used to illustrate the all-Ireland pollinator plan.
  • The exhibition will be officially launched on Wednesday 7 February.