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'We need bees' - Minister of State Shane McEntee TD opening of beekeepers' 51st Summer School

Shane McEntee TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine today opened the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Association's Summer School at Gormanston, in County Meath. The Summer School has been run each year for the past fifty-one years at Gormanston and attracts up to four hundred participants each day. The Minister of State praised the commitment and dedication of the volunteers involved in organising and lecturing at the week-long Summer School. 

While many people associate bees only with honey production, the Minister used his keynote address to emphasise that they have a much more significant role. The Minister of State said: "The real importance of bees lies in their role as pollinators. This makes it critically important for us all to play our part in maintaining and promoting healthy honeybee populations. With this in mind I welcome the huge interest in the issue of bees and bee health. The fact is, we need bees. The world would not exist in its current form without them." The Minister of State pointed out that honeybees are thought to be responsible for up to 80% of crop pollination internationally and are therefore of immense benefit to farmers.  

In recent years there has been an increased focus on the issue of bee health in light of significant colony losses in many countries worldwide often for no identifiable reason. This phenomenon, often termed Colony Collapse Disorder, has prompted researchers from over 50 countries, including Ireland, to come together to form the COLOSS Network. Under COLOSS researchers are working together with the common objective of identifying the factors that influence bee health and that may result in colony losses. The EU Commission has also reacted by recently appointing an EU Reference Laboratory focussed on the issue of bee health. This lab, based in France, is currently developing a protocol for a common EU-wide bee health surveillance programme. 

The Minister of State said that he was delighted earlier this year when he heard that FIBKA and the Ulster Beekeeper's Association had come together to declare 2011 as the Year of the Honeybee and to organise the inaugural Apimondia Bee Health Symposium that is due to take place in Dublin next March.  He said: "I know a lot of work has already gone into organising this symposium and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all those involved every success as they develop their plans over the coming months". 

The Minister concluded his address by stating he looked forward to working together with the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations "to achieve our common objectives."

 Note for editors:

There are estimated to be 2,200 beekeepers in Ireland maintaining approximately 24,000 hives. Due to the Irish climate, honey production can be strongly influenced by the weather. Irish honey production can be up to an estimated 250 tonnes per annum with an estimated farm gate value of €2.75 million.  Notwithstanding this Ireland is heavily reliant on imported honey to meet consumer demand. 

The State supports development of the Irish beekeeping/honey sector in two main ways:

  1. The National Apiculture Programme is a 3-year research programme, running to 2013, with a budget of €300,000. This is 50:50 co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the EU. Research under this programme is being carried out by the University of Limerick in conjunction with Teagasc and is largely focussed on the varroa mite which is the most significant pest affecting honeybees in Ireland. The programme has a very strong focus on dissemination of research findings to beekeepers in an effort to improve bee health.  
  2. Funding is also provided to the beekeeping sector under the Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector. This Scheme is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.  It's a competitive grant aid scheme that provides grant aid for approved capital investments in the commercial horticulture sector; this includes investments associated with bee breeding facilities and honey production.  

The Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Associations (FIBKA) is the representative group for the countries local beekeeping associations. 

FIBKA's Summer School runs to Friday of this week at the Franciscan College, Gormanston, Co. Meath.  Participants can attend for the entire week or just pay for a day at a time.  

Lectures, practicals and workshops cater for a wide range of abilities from beginner/intermediate to advanced. Various lectures, workshops and practicals run simultaneously giving participants the opportunity to attend the option that interests them most.   

Reflecting the increased interest in bees and beekeeping, FIBKA membership and attendance at the Summer School has increased significantly in recent years. This trend is expected to continue this year. 

For further details see:  http://www.irishbeekeeping.ie/gormanston/gormprog2011.html

Date Released: 24 July 2011