There are tons of adorable daffodils outside my window, their heads swaying and shaking in the wind. We have a steep bank that surrounds our garden. Until now it was only good for weeds. Last September I bought several sacks of onions, distributed them in hopeful handfuls, and pressed them into the freshly mulched bank with the foot of my boot. Here I am five months later, looking at a row of yellow heads smiling at us with sunshine. Nature renews us and the turn to spring was more welcome than ever this year after a closed winter.
The growing days and spring sunshine got the bees out, a very welcome joy. Unfortunately, not all of my bees made it through winter. The weeks of horizontal February rain took away a colony of my bees. Once a beehive becomes damp and cold, the bees inside have little chance of survival. I blame myself. I should have taken her to a safe place. Either way, they’re gone. Their frozen little jellybean bodies, huddled together in their winter heap, cleared the beehive and were sobering. Learned a hard lesson. I’m going to start another beehive this summer and nestle it against the front fence between the bushes where it’s better sheltered from our horizontal Irish rain.
Every season of our weather can be brutal. We all know that. It takes a tough bee to survive. The Black Irish Honeybee has been carefully bred and curated by local artisanal beekeepers over generations to endure our poor climate. I lost a colony for the first time in four winters. They are tough and calm bees, and just as their name suggests, their bodies are pewter black. They are completely unique, an insect shape of half a liter of Guinness.
But a threat is coming. In our new post-Brexit world, bees can no longer be transported directly from the EU to mainland Britain, but a gap means they can come via Northern Ireland and be moved on from here. A bee equipment company is taking advantage of this situation and in a few weeks three shipments of bees are expected to arrive in County Down. Each shipment is said to contain more than 500 packages of honey bees from the Apulia region in southern Italy. This region of Italy recently saw devastating outbreaks of the Small Hive Beetle (SHB), a pest that is deadly to honeybees. A pest that is not yet present on the island of Ireland. The imported bees fly freely during the main mating season and the nectar flow months. This increases the risk of the spread of potential diseases like SHB, increases pressure on local flowers and fauna, and endangers the food source of local solitary bees and bumblebees. It will be an aggressive intrusion that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the conservation of our precious native black bee.
I wrote here before about the miracle that honeybees ignite in me. They defy the laws of gravity, endurance, and time. An insect that produces the sweetest natural liquid known to mankind, which in turn pollinates every third bite we eat. We need to protect and cherish our native honeybees because they are the only ones strong enough to withstand our inhospitable weather cycles. We have to protect them whenever and how we can. Life in the 21st century is tough enough for these ancient insects; The increased use of pesticides, a decline in wildflower feed and climate change are already making their lives a dangerous daily struggle.
Please help by signing the following petition to stop the transport of Italian honey bees to Northern Ireland.
The photo by Alexas_Fotos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
I am a nature lover, horse rider, beekeeper, screenwriter and fiction writer. I’m working on my third novel – ‘The Beekeeper’.