The Chairman of Somerset Beekeepers’ Association, Stewart Gould, is urging beekeepers to keep local honey bees and reject a campaign to overturn the recent ban on bee imports.
“Locally bred bees are perfectly adapted for the conditions; imported bees carry the risk of pests and diseases and are genetically better suited to the country of origin,” he said.
His comments follow media coverage of the new Brexit rules which have stopped the importation of honey bee colonies directly into the UK from the EU although queen bees are still allowed.
HMRC is aware that there may be attempts to get around the import rules by using Northern Ireland as a back door but anti-avoidance measures are in place.
“The importation ban is important and avoids the risk of bringing new problems to the UK’s bees. For example, bees in many areas of the country suffer from Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus which is associated with the importation of bees. And we are worried that the small hive beetle, which is in southern Italy, could come into the country and decimate our bees.”
Somerset Beekeepers’ Association runs courses to help members to rear their own queen bees from successful colonies which ensures they are adapted to the conditions in their own area.
Patrick Murfet from a beekeeping equipment company in Kent has started a petition calling on the government to reverse the new rules.
The number of beekeepers continues to rise in the UK; membership of the British Beekeepers’ Association stands at more than 28,000 while Somerset’s is topping a record 1,200.