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Council backing campaign to prevent import of honeybees to Britain via Northern Ireland

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Italian job: Beekeeper Patrick Murfet among his hives outside Canterbury

Italian job: Beekeeper Patrick Murfet among his hives outside Canterbury

PA

Italian job: Beekeeper Patrick Murfet among his hives outside Canterbury

Apiarists stung by the news 15 million Italian bees are on their way to England via Northern Ireland have launched a post-Brexit campaign to create a hard border for the insects.

They want a ban on the foreign species as the Italian insects are "a horrendous pest" and will dilute the quality of native bees due to cross-breeding, according to a councillor.

Mid Ulster District Council is to support the campaign calling on the UK Government to stop the importation of the Italian honeybees to Britain via here.

Kent beekeeper Patrick Murfet wants to import the young insects for his business and to help farmers pollinate their crops.

He stands to lose nearly £100,000 if he is prevented from bringing them into England.

For decades bees have been imported to replenish stocks, strengthen breeding lines and as pollinators for fruit and honey farms. However, thanks to Brexit, only queens can be imported into Britain, not colonies or packs.

But confusion remains over importing them here.

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In a bid to avoid the ban and abide by the law, Mr Murfet has arranged for his usual importation of 15m bees to arrive in Northern Ireland this month before they travel to England.

At the council's monthly meeting, independent member Dan Kerr said he had been contacted by concerned beekeepers who had asked for help to block the insects' arrival.

"A few local beekeepers and members of the Low Country Native Irish Honeybee Association have requested council support its campaign to stop the import of 15m Italian bees into the UK via the north of Ireland," said Mr Kerr.

"The Italian bees have a notifiable disease, which can cause contamination to the native black Irish honeybees.

"It is a horrendous pest that eats everything in the colony.

"Our native bee is under threat due to cross-breeding, which will dilute what academic studies have designated the best strain of black bee in Europe.

"The native bee has adapted over thousands of years to Ireland's moist temperature and climate and it would be a shame to destroy our native bees' heritage."

Mr Kerr proposed the council support the campaign to prevent the importation of the Italian species.

Fellow independent Barry Monteith backed him.

He said: "This plan to import these bees could potentially have a very serious impact on the native Irish bee and I think we should do everything we can to resist all attempts to do so.

"This mistake can only be made once."

The SDLP's Malachy Quinn also supported the proposal and told the chamber it was important to protect native species.

"We all know the risk of invasive species to our native ones - just look at the grey squirrels and what has become of our red squirrels," he pointed out.

"I am very happy to support this proposal.

"It is not just us, a lot of people in England are unhappy about the import of these bees as well."

Belfast Telegraph


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