The 2019 AFBI honey bee husbandry survey was launched in March. There are estimated to be approximately 1,400 beekeepers in Northern Ireland, many of whom are members of two beekeeping associations; the Ulster Beekeepers Association – which contains 12 local affiliated associations – and the Institute of Northern Ireland Beekeepers.
Many of our food crops (including locally-grown apples, strawberries, raspberries and oilseed rape) along with approximately 80% of wildflower species, benefit from insect pollination and honey bees make a valuable contribution to this. However, bees and other pollinators are under considerable pressure from loss of suitable nectar / pollen sources, intensification of agriculture, along with recurrent and new pests and diseases.
The AFBI annual survey has been taking place since 2009. It is in the form of a questionnaire asking for information about beekeeping husbandry practices, colony losses and honey bee diseases and pests. The survey is available to beekeepers in the forms of paper copy and an online version at the AFBI website. From 2014 the AFBI survey has included standardised questions from COLOSS (Prevention of Honey Bee Colony Losses), a Europe-wide non-profit honey bee research organisation, which compares colony loss rates in 36 countries across the Northern hemisphere.
The survey’s results, together with the AFBI free of charge bee diseases diagnostic testing service, provide the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) with data that determines their policy on Northern Ireland beekeeping. It is therefore important that beekeepers contribute to this process to ensure that honeybee protection is given the priority it deserves.
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