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Sunday 16 December 2018

Hiving off CAP supports could help save the bees

Bees. (Stock Photo)
Bees. (Stock Photo)
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A hive of bees should be viewed as a single livestock unit for the purposes of CAP, the INHFA has proposed.

In a novel addition to its CAP position, the INHFA has argued that supporting the keeping of bees by designating each hive a livestock unit would help farmers by providing another income source, while also giving the environment a much-needed boost through increased numbers of pollinators.

The fall-off in wild bee populations across Europe is a major cause of concern for both environmentalists and farmers. Around 50pc of all European bee species are threatened with extinction.

The massive decline in numbers is blamed on loss of native forage, the use of chemical sprays and fertilisers by farmers, global warming, and pests such as the varroa mite.

The keeping of bees in man-made hives - which is termed apiculture - is included in the new CAP legislation, Bridget Murphy of the INHFA pointed out.

"Ireland has the smallest apiculture budget in the EU and no farm apiculture programme.

"Exploring the economic and environmental potential of the honeybee and implementing an apiculture programme for farmers is long overdue," Ms Murphy maintained.

"Each member state is obliged to choose certain types of interventions in the apiculture sector including technical assistance to beekeepers and applied research. The EU will fund 50pc of the expenditure of these interventions," Ms Murphy explained.

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"Pollination is crucial to plant reproduction, and most insect pollination is provided by wild bees. In Ireland we have one honeybee and 97 different wild bees - 20 bumble bees and 77 solitary bees. All are in decline," she said.

Beekeepers commonly derive income in a variety of ways - honey, pollination services, honey-making equipment, selling nucleus colonies, rearing and selling queens, and beeswax.

Managed honey bees also contribute to wild bee declines through competition for food sources and the spread of disease.

"Unlike managed species, wild bees do not make honey. They need to find food every day or starve. Nectar is needed for energy, pollen for protein and nutrients for feeding brood. To ensure honeybees don’t exacerbate the loss of wild pollinators, an Apiculture Programme needs to provide feed and healthy habitat space for both wild and managed pollinators together," Ms Murphy added.

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