Upper house

Seanad hears calls to stop imports of non-native bees

The threat of extinction facing the Irish honey bee will negatively affect biodiversity in Ireland unless the government introduces a ban on non-native bees, Seanad has heard.

Legislation that would stop the import of non-native bees is currently making its way into the Oireachtas.

Dozens of beekeepers demonstrated outside Leinster House today to urge politicians to back Ireland’s Bee Bill.

Aoife Nic Giolla Coda of the Native Irish Honey Bee Society said the number of non-native bees imported here tripled between 2019 and 2020 alone.

“If this trend continues year after year, this bee will disappear, she said.

This is due to the crossbreeding which campaigners say endangers an important “genetic resource” not found anywhere else in Europe in large numbers.

Legislation to protect this bee today won cross-party support in the Upper House of the Oireachtas.

It was introduced by Green Party Senator Vincent P Martin, who told the House that pollination underpins the Irish economy.

He called on the government to take a ‘total football’ approach to saving the Irish bee and not fear a legal challenge in its efforts to do so.

Although the Honey Bee Bill had broad support, Minister of State Pippa Hackett issued a warning as the government allowed the bill to proceed to the next stage.

The minister, who sits in cabinet, told the House the government was concerned about a legal ban on bee imports because it could be seen as a restriction on trade under EU regulations.

He is therefore taking legal advice on the bill’s compatibility with EU single market rules.

For the bill to become law, the government must demonstrate that it would not be possible to protect biodiversity and ecosystems without such a trade restriction.

It sounds like quite a challenge, but there is optimism among politicians and beekeepers tonight.

They believe that the bee described as docile, productive and able to survive a bad summer will soon have the protection of the law to help it survive in the long term.