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Wild bee hives hit by killer parasite

HIVES for wild bees have been decimated by a bug introduced to Ireland accidentally.

The varroa parasite, nicknamed 'destructor' because of its impact on bee colonies, attaches itself to a bee's body and then feeds on its blood.

Between 2011 and 2012, Irish honey production was slashed by almost 70pc due to the combination of bad weather and the damaging impact of the varroa mite.

If it is left untreated it can wipe out a hive in a matter of weeks, according to the international federation of beekeepers, Apimondia.

The parasite was first introduced 20 years ago. But now, struggling honey producers have received a major boost in the form of a temporary EU ban on three controversial crop chemicals.

And Ireland's 3,000 beekeepers are hoping that record numbers of queen bees produced last summer will help kick-start honey production this season.

"Irish beekeepers really didn't have a decent honey crop for a number of years," Apimondia chairman Philip McCabe said.

"But this year will hopefully tell a lot if we can get some decent weather and we see just what impact the ban will have."