Pollination by honeybees ‘delivered €85m in services to agriculture’

POLLINATION by honeybees has been estimated to deliver €85 million of services to Irish agriculture, especially in horticulture but also in clover, which affects dairy and meat production.

This was revealed in the Dáil by Minister of State Trevor Sargent, who reported that FIBKA, the representative body for more than 1,700 beekeepers nationally, reports no significant evidence of colony collapse disorder in Ireland. However, the disorder has been responsible for the loss of large numbers of colonies in America since late 2003. Similar large-scale losses also began to be reported in continental Europe.

“I have read research indicating if the current rates of loss in the USA is not turned around, there will be no honeybees there by 2035, which would be devastating not just for American but world agriculture,” he said

Mr Sargent said the weather in Ireland over the last three summers, and especially this summer, has been very difficult for bees. Often queen bees failed to mate properly due to the poor weather and a number of colony losses last spring have been attributed to poor mating conditions in summer 2008. Mr Sargent urged all beekeepers to register with FIBKA — the Federation of Irish Beekeeping Associations. Ireland has 2,200 beekeepers, almost all of whom are non-professional. “We estimate each beekeeper has an average of 10 hives and they produce honey for their own personal use and direct local sale in farmers’ markets.

“My department has registered some 620 beekeepers as primary producers of honey and we believe this figure includes all those operations which are obliged to register under the EU food hygiene regulations,” he said.

Mr Sargent was replying in an adjournment debate to Mary White, TD, who said colony collapse disorder has shown staggering declines in bee populations. In North America, a third of the bee population is said to be lost. In France, it is somewhere between 10% and 25%. Japan and South America have seen dramatic falls.

She said she welcomed the European Food Safety Authority decision to survey member states on bee population levels and what might be causing their decline.

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