Potential threat from Italian bees to native Irish bees raised by Derry & Strabane Councillors

Derry and Strabane Council are to write to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to express disappointment at their response to the issue of the importation of bees from Italy into Northern Ireland. 

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 6:43 pm

Council had previously written to DEARA to request information on measures that they are currently developing or enforcement action that has been taken to address the risk posed by the importation of Italian bees into the north.

Derry and District Beekeepers had expressed their concern in relation toreports a company from abroad plan to import Italian bees into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, as a result of Brexit.

This potential practice could lead to the non-native Italian bees mating with the native bee population which could subsequently result in a sub-species of aggressive bees and impact the genetic pool, it has been claimed. The importation of Italian bees into Northern Ireland could inadvertently import the Small Hive Beetle, which poses a threat to UK and EU bees, it has also been claimed.

The native little Irish honey bee.

Council had previously declared the district a Conservation Area for the Native Irish Black Bee in February 2020.

The DEARA response letter said: “Northern Ireland must continue to comply with EU legislation under the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol, with control measures when moving bees between countries within the EU and into Northern Ireland. This can only take place if the bees have an Animal Health Certificate, which has been signed off by an official authorised in the country of origin (in this case from Italy), with specific attestations for Small Hive Beetle. DAERA must be notified in advance using the EU TRACES system and in writing, to ensure that these high-risk consignments are inspected when they arrive into Northern Ireland.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy said she was ‘not assured by the response that has come from the Department’.  “I am quite disappointed. I think the Department is washing their hands of any responsibility, certainly, they are burying their heads in the sand with regards to this issue,” she claimed. “I have shared the response with the Derry and District Beekeepers and I have to say they are really disappointed and really concerned about it. They have asked about the inspections. How are they being carried out? Are they being carried out on every package that comes through because if they aren’t it is absolutely meaningless? If there is an issue who will be held to account, who will be responsible?

“When we look at it on a wider issue would the Department take such a laissez-faire approach to other native species such as the red squirrel if there was a threat to them? I think there are concerns there that the Department isn’t taking this issue seriously at all and we as a Council do have a pollinator plan, we do have our biodiversity strategy, we need to be taking this issue really seriously We need to be very vigorous in standing up for our native bees.” 

Sinn Féin Colr. Christopher Jackson proposed the motion calling for Council to write back to the Department ‘to express our concern and real disappointment around this issue.’

The motion, which was seconded by PBP Councillor  Maeve O’Neill, carried unanimously.