Honey Bees – Possibly the oldest hauliers in the world – Importations pose threat to native species

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Bees have been transporting the goods for 130 million years, helping plants along the way. Possibly the oldest hauliers in the world.

Importations of honey bees into Ireland and the propagation of non-native sub-species has a negative effect on our native honey bees.The Native Irish Honey Bee is a strain of the Dark European Honey Bee which was once native to most of Europe north of the Alps.

Native Irish Black Bees, (Apis mellifera mellifera). Native Irish Honey Bees are under threat due to hybridisation with foreign strains of honey bee and are now relatively scarce in mainland Europe.

NIHBS was established in 2012 by a group of beekeepers who wish to support the various strains of Native Irish Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) throughout the country.

It is a cross border organisation & is open to all. It consists of members & representatives from all corners of the island of Ireland.

Establish areas of conservation throughout the island for the conservation of the Native Irish honey bee.

For more information on the Native Irish Honey Bee Society, log onto www.nihbs.org

STATEMENT from The Native Irish Honey Bee Society on Importing Bees into Ireland.

The Native Irish Honey Bee Society (NIHBS) is an all-Ireland organisation of about 500 members, whose sole aim is the conservation and preservation of the population of Native Irish Honey Bees – Apis mellifera mellifera.

Reports in the media continue about importing even more bees to Ireland and apart from the danger of hybridisation for native bees, we all know there are major risks of also importing pests, diseases and pathogens – therefore a threat to ALL our bees.  Everyone who loves bees, no matter what association or organisation they belong to, can appreciate the potential damage – we have seen what Varroa did, and now those who enjoy beekeeping as a hobby or who are making their living from bees may have their enjoyment/livelihood threatened – simply to increase someone else’s profits.

The Dark European Honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera (Amm) is on the brink of extinction over most of its original territory of Northern Europe. It has been hybridised due to imports of other sub species and consequent cross breeding, as well as being severely impacted by imported pests and diseases.

Pure strains still exist throughout Ireland however and scientific research has shown that such a widespread population of pure A. m. mellifera has not been reported elsewhere in Europe. It is now widely acknowledged that Ireland has a unique genetic resource which needs to be protected for the sake of its future in Ireland but also in European Amm breeding programmes.

A recent survey by the National University of Galway (NUIG) confirmed that about 90% of beekeepers in Ireland work with Amm (of 350 respondents) and there is a significant interest in using the local bee. A separate survey by the Irish Beekeepers Association (IBA) showed that 82% use Amm, 7% Buckfast, 2% other and 5% do not know. The native black bee is actually the preferred bee for large scale honey producers as it is so well adapted to our particular environment.

Many NIHBS members have been working for 30 years and more to improve, conserve and preserve our local bee – all volunteers, simply doing the right thing for the bees. Many local Beekeeping associations have created Voluntary Conservation Areas where beekeepers agree to work with Amm only – obviously imported bees have a detrimental effect here and some areas are now being severely threatened with the introgression of non-native bees.

We all know how devastating an invasion of Small Hive Beetle could be. In Ireland, we stayed free from Varroa for many years after it arrived into UK, until it was brought in here on imported bees, very soon it was everywhere and we have had to struggle with the consequences ever since.  We understand that EFB is now wide spread in some parts of UK – we are very fearful of what that could do to our stocks, especially the newly spreading Type 3 strain of EFB?  The Asian Hornet is another significant threat.  These pests/diseases/pathogens may also damage our Bumbles, Solitary and other Wild bees – our biodiversity – already 1/3rd of Irish bees are threatened with extinction.

The awful thing is that we beekeepers CAN stop these threats, if we work together and all agree to do so.  It is not too late! It really does not make sense to bring in non-native bees to this island.  It makes sense to propagate from our good stocks here and improve them.

It is unfair for any individual or Bee Trader to take the decision on themselves to import bees when they might also be importing pests, diseases or pathogens, not to mention the as yet unknown or undiscovered ones. Please do not take the risk.

We urge everyone to respect our native honey bee and not to import any bees into any part of Ireland.  We ask all Beekeeping groups in Ireland to encourage beekeepers to purchase local bees from reputable beekeepers.

While we still can, let us appreciate what we have, nurture it and save it for the future.