Bees get boost from EU ban on chemicals
WILD Irish honeybee hives have been wiped out by a parasite brought here 20 years ago. Between 2011 and 2012, Irish honey production was slashed by almost 70pc due to weather and the damaging impact of the varroa mite.
But beekeepers said struggling producers have received two major boosts – thanks to the weather last summer and a temporary EU ban on three controversial crop chemicals.
Ireland's 3,000 registered beekeepers are now hoping that record numbers of queen bees produced during last summer's heatwave will help kick-start honey production this season.
Last summer's honey production was the best for Irish beekeepers for five years.
"Fifteen years ago about 60pc of Irish bees came from wild or feral hives. But they have now been totally wiped out by this mite, varroa," Philip McCabe, the chairman of beekeepers' group Apimondia. Only beekeeper hives have escaped the devastation of the parasite.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Association expressed relief that, after years of disappointment, last summer finally helped Irish bee colonies bounce back.
Beekeepers enjoyed a good crop last year – in contrast to 2012 when Meath beekeeper Michael Gleeson said production was down by over 50pc.
"This year will tell a lot if we can get some decent weather and we see just what impact the banning of these chemicals will have," Mr Gleeson said.
The EU has imposed a three-year ban on three specific crop chemicals. Worst hit has been parts of France where entire regions have been cleared of bees.
But Mr McCabe said the weather remains critical with warm temperatures in May and June crucial for healthy hives.