Beekeepers have called on farmers to check before they spray either insecticides or herbicides. Local beekeepers say that two beekeepers in the midlands had their whole apiary completely wiped out when bees went out to forage on dandelions that had been strayed with weed killer.
Most gardeners and farmers are aware that insecticides, even in microscopic residual amounts, will kill all insects, including the essential pollinators like bees. Weed killer chemicals also kills bees. The bees bring weed killer residues back to the hive and it also kills the immature and larva bees, wiping out entire hives.
One affected beekeeper from Roscommon said: “I had buckets full of dead bees in my hives, it was a complete catastrophe. It was heartbreaking to see so much needless death. If the farmer had sprayed on a cold day or sprayed before the dandelions flowered or told me he was about to spray, I could have taken action.
“That same farmer or a neighbouring farmer is depending on my bees to fertilise their crops or orchards, that fertilisation will not now happen so two families’ incomes have been destroyed as well as the death of thousands of bees. The farmer did not know there was a hive of bees nearby, but he should have known that a field full of dandelions in full flower would have attracted bees from up to two miles away”.
Commenting, Patrick Towers, the Chairperson of the Roscommon Beekeepers Association said: “There are two groups of people affected here: the beekeeper loses their hive and their honey crop, and a neighbouring farmer has a greatly reduced income if there are not enough pollinators left alive in that area. Strawberries, beans and peas, apples and pears, blackcurrants and tomatoes are just some of the local crops that will fail if there are no bees to pollinate them”.
He continued: “Many people need to take local honey to keep their allergies under control. Antihistamines simply don’t work for them, but honey from apiaries local to them does. If we lose the local beekeepers, we lose access to this local remedy that for many works better than steroids and other pharmaceuticals”.
Mr. Towers concluded: “Bees can be moved to a clean location or kept in their hive for a day or spraying can be done when the bees are not foraging. All the beekeepers are asking for is some forethought and planning by the farmers prior to spraying”.