The withdrawal of the UK from the EU has caused untold difficulties, but Fianna Fáil Senator for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy raised an “unusual situation” regarding “Brexit and bees” in the Seanad recently.
Senator Murphy said that he was contacted recently by the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations “in relation to an English man who is trying to import 15 million bees from Italy to England”.
“He is trying to bring them through Northern Ireland because of Brexit,” the senator explained.
“The correspondence stated that if the bees go into Britain, the authorities there will burn them. Therefore, it is now being stated clearly that he will try to put the bees up for sale in Northern Ireland.
“There has been a serious disease in the bee population in that part of Italy [Puglia]. The Italian government has spent seven years trying to get rid of a species of beetle that absolutely destroys the bee population.”
‘To protect our bees is very important’
The senator said that sometimes, when there is discussion about bees in Ireland, “people laugh as if it is not an important issue”.
“The reality, however, is that one third of the world’s food production depends on bees. Every third spoonful of food depends on pollination, which is a key word,” senator Murphy continued.
“To protect our bees is very important. I know the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is aware of this situation, as is Minister [Simon] Coveney.
“It is a British issue because they come into Northern Ireland. We need to stop those bees being released in Northern Ireland because the fear is that they will infect our bee population and cause enormous damage.”
Over 14,000 people have signed a petition to the UK Parliament to stop the importation of the bees.
“The UK government should ensure that people cannot circumvent restrictions on the movement of bees from the EU to Great Britain by moving them via Northern Ireland. Unrestricted movement could allow small hive beetle to arrive and devastate British beekeeping,” the organisers of the petition said.
“If small hive beetle was to be imported into Britain, the risks would be very great.
“The beetle can multiply to huge numbers quickly; eating brood, honey, pollen, destroying combs causing fermentation of the honey.
“If uncontrolled, they ultimately destroy the colony. The economic impact on UK beekeeping and the pollination service could be devastating.”